Joey Slotnick and Lauren Katz come to Lookingglass Theatre on the trail of improv’s Great White Whale: a longform improv piece that eschews the traditional emphasis on comedy for deeper dramatic and thematic exploration. They bring some formidable resources with them on this quest. Both project recognizable and likable characters: Slotnick a version of the underachieving nice guy he’s been peddling on sitcoms over the last decade, Katz a sharply intelligent neurosis reminiscent of Gilda Radner. And with ten years of improv experience together as part of the Slotnick/Katz/Lehr trio, they have formidable reservoirs of trust. But opening night’s performance suggests that their elusive goal still haunts the high seas of improv untrammeled. To be sure, Slotnick and Katz’s achievement simply in sustaining an hour and ten minutes of long-form duet should not be belittled. The evening had several subtly brilliant moments: Slotnick’s mime creation of a Rube Goldberg order-taking system, or Katz’s slow modulations from happiness to desolation. But “Wants and Needs” felt fairly sluggish, impaired in part by the strictly realistic parameters within which the performers operated. The pair is particularly good at setting a scene’s premise with minimal information, as when Katz opened the show, after some strange warbling from Slotnick, with “Well, I guess that felt good.” This commitment to spareness led to as many traps as discoveries, though; several scenes meandered through mystifying repetitions before settling in. It’s palpable how sincerely Katz and Slotnick, along with director Jim Dennen, want this show to break new ground; they need to fine-tune it with greater specificity and differentiation of scenes, though. (John Beer)
This production is now closed.