Rampant alcohol abuse, closeted homosexuality and shrill Southern belles nervously walking the line between hysterical rage and catatonic collapse: This is Tennesee Williams territory and the folks at Impro Theatre traverse the Southern Gothic terrain with hilarious authenticity. No, it's not The Glass Menagerie
or A Streetcar Named Desire
, it's a spontaneously authored, full-length play crafted to capture the style, mood and thematic leanings of a given playwright. Last Saturday, that playwright was Williams (in rotating rep, William Shakespeare and Stephen Sondheim also get the improv treatment), and a boozy family saga emerged after audience members agreed upon two simple items to launch the story: A family heirloom (a vase with horses on it) and an animal (a Chihuahua). The particulars of the play are not important, because the troupe never replicates the same show. What is notable is their collective knack for creating characters and scenarios we recognize in an instant as quintessentially Williams. The vase is introduced as a wedding gift for an excitable June (Kari Coleman), who initially squeals with joy over the charmingly upbeat journey of the horses. By play's end, however, the horses race in a hopelessly circular trajectory that serves as a metaphor for the futility of marriage. Darnell (Stephen Kearn), June's teen brother, dreams of escaping on horseback from his sexual longings for his art teacher (Brian Lohmann, who also directs with a clear grasp of the requisite atmospheric touches) and his overbearing, hard-drinking father. Lisa Fredrickson's quick-witted portrayal of a matriarch bearing an uncanny resemblance to Amanda Wingfield was a delight. Textual mining and fast thinking marry with ease in the ensemble's hands. Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., W.L.A.; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru May 29; (310) 477-2055, odysseytheatre.com.
Wednesdays-Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 3 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: April 8. Continues through May 29, 2011