Expect the unexpected in Washington Improv Theater’s ‘Life and Death with WIT: Hellcat and iMusical’

Improvisational theater is comprised of different aspects of live performance genres, like stand-up comedy or fully scripted plays. But what defines improv, is how the actors use comments from the audience in order to determine the details and direction of the performance, and therefore no two shows are exactly alike.

Molly Murchie, Donna Steele, and Krystal Ramseur perform with Washington Improv Theater's Hellcat. Photo by Jeff Salmore.
Molly Murchie, Donna Steele, and Krystal Ramseur perform with Washington Improv Theater’s Hellcat. Photo by Jeff Salmore.

The style requires acting, thinking on your feet, and the ability to adapt, just to name a few. Washington Improv Theater takes their entire catalog of shows, classes, and events from this difficult form of art, and their most recent production is Life and Death with WIT, with performance ensembles varying nightly. The show I attended was Life and Death with WIT: Hellcat and iMusical.

The event was in two parts with Hellcat being the first improv group to go on. And then the iMusical troupe closed out the performance. The two shows are not connected and each stands as its own piece.

Hellcat is an all-female cast that focuses on individual human interaction and emotion, instead of a specific plotline. The actors entice the audience with 2 questions: The first being an offering of advice one would give, which resulted in “don’t eat the yellow snow.” And the second was to name a common expression, bringing “Oh no, she did not…” The cast then creates numerous scenarios and mini-scenes that use the audience’s answers as guides, while also creating characters that reappear in different scenes, ultimately tying everyone together and coming full circle with the advice and expression to conclude their “story.”

The Hellcats bring a pleasant mix of laughter and sighs, with skits about dysfunctional relationships, family, love, and whether or not a person actually should eat the yellow snow.

Next was the iMusical group, which I am sure you could tell is an improvisational musical group. They started with the audience prompt of naming a bucket list activity, resulting in hang gliding.

Mark Chalfant and Elaine Colwell perform with Washington Improv Theater's iMusical. Photo by Jeff Salmore.
Mark Chalfant and Elaine Colwell perform with Washington Improv Theater’s iMusical. Photo by Jeff Salmore.

iMusical does use a plotline and begins with a couple looking to spice up their life, through the excitement of (you guessed it) hang gliding. Then a series of misunderstandings, misfortunes, and rows with overbearing families provide excellent fodder for silly songs like “Experimental Psychology,” “I Don’t Want to Die,” and “This Song is Now Her Parents Fighting.”

The iMusical cast does a wonderful job weaving the premise with relevant lyrics to the songs and forming characters that the audience can genuinely care about and root for.

Washington Improv Theater’s production of Life and Death with WIT: Hellcat and iMusical is a light-hearted work that presents a lively and talented group of actors, in an intimate setting.

Improv shows can be inspiring, nerve-wracking, hilarious, and painfully awkward, but always entertaining. As Washington Improv Theater website suggests, “Expect fun and energetic shows. Expect smart improvisers to take the stage. Expect the unexpected.”

Running Time: Approximately one hour, with no intermission.

Life and Death with WIT: Hellcat and iMusical plays through November 15, 2019, at Washington Improv Theater, performing at Spooky Action Theater, 1810 16th St NW, Washington, DC. Purchase tickets online. The Life and Death with WIT series, with performers varying nightly, runs through November 23, 2019.

Hellcat Cast: Caroline Chen, Clare Mulligan, Donna Steele, Jenna Hall, Justine Hipsky, Kaelan Sullivan, Krystal Ramseur, Marissa Chaffee, Molly Murchie, Simone Webster

iMusical Director/Accompanist: Travis Charles Ploeger.

iMusical Cast: Beth Lyons, Cassie Barnum, Dan Milliken, Darnell Eaton, Elaine Colwell, Mark Chalfant, Matt Berman, Molly Graham, Patrick Fleury, Ryan Brookshire


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