‘Needs Improvment’ keeps audience in stitches

Ava Arcona, A&E Editor

Featuring several student-written skits as well as improvised material, the 2023 improv show “Gaslights, Camera, Action” had the audience, and sometimes the cast members themselves, rolling with laughter for the entire 90 minute running time.

This year’s cast was led by Biology teacher Brian Kelly and included a mixed distribution of all four grades, who rehearsed twice a week for just over a month prior to opening night. The show consisted of three original skits separated by several improv games involving five to six cast members at a time. Junior Adam Guggina, who was part of the program last year, finds that the improvisation aspect of the show adds a level of unpredictability and, consequently, excitement. 

“You’re just going up there, knowing nothing about what’s going to happen,” Guggina said. “You’re completely blind. It’s really terrifying, but I like it a lot more than normal theater…The adrenaline that you have when you’re right outside the stage doors, preparing to run in, is like nothing else.”

The opening sequence was hard to beat: 17 lively teenagers prancing throughout the aisles and dancing onstage to classics like “Hotel Room Service” by Pitbull and “Big Poppa” by The Notorious B.I.G was enough to entertain every audience member, ranging from younger siblings to grandparents and everything in between.

With improv, the crowd dictates everything because they decide the energy that they’re going to bring. If it’s high energy, then you know it’s going to be a good show because even if [a joke is] not funny, they’re going to laugh.

— Adam Guggina

The first sketch exposed a nefarious plot involving the technical issues that have recently plagued our school and the construction of Gonkplex, tied together by famed new janitor Hunter, played by junior Jon Loizeaux. Although a fair amount of parents and non-students may have been confused by the deeply woven Algonquin lore, this sketch stood out as incredibly well thought out and relevant.

Other skits included a parody of “Dance Moms,” with junior Drew Burzumato wigged up as a convincing Abby Lee Miller, and a story about a modern dysfunctional family with some elements of satirical social commentary slipped in. Subtle but effective costume changes throughout added a layer of absurdity to a priceless show.

Audience participation was not only encouraged but central to the performance: the student hosts of each mini-game turned to the audience for suggestions of people, places and relationships upon which to base the scene and ultimately set the tone of a show.

“With improv, the crowd dictates everything because they decide the energy that they’re going to bring,” Guggina said. “If it’s high energy, then you know it’s going to be a good show because even if [a joke is] not funny, they’re going to laugh.”

Overall, each member gave a stellar performance on the individual level while seamlessly bouncing comedic material off of each other as a whole. Despite some minor mishaps throughout, they were quick to adapt and maintain audience engagement; one of my favorite moments of the Friday show occurred when an innuendo involving fortune cookies and the Property Brothers left the actors gasping for air onstage, unable to continue while the audience roared with laughter. The authenticity and the cast’s comedic timing truly set this show apart, which Guggina attributes to the weeks of hard work as opposed to sheer natural talent.

“Improv is a skill you have to learn, too,” Guggina said. “It’s not something you just ‘do,’ you actually have to practice it, because there’s little tips and tricks that’ll make you [funnier].”

Behind the scenes, the tech crew did an amazing job of making sure the show went off without a hitch, from the laughably simple set proclaiming “This Is Not A Set” in large white letters to the head-bopping transition music that started an impromptu karaoke session from the audience between each scene.

By the time the cast was once again running through the aisles and dancing to “Time of Our Lives” by Pitbull as a farewell, my lungs hurt from laughing.

The outstandingly personable and talented cast, hilarious writing and engaging pace made this year’s production exceptional; whether you consider yourself to be a fan of theater or you’ve never set foot in an auditorium, these actors have exactly what you need.