In movies and in theater, showing generally trumps telling. “Our Feature Presentation” takes the opposite tack: In order to show, first you must to tell. In other words, the cast of this completely improvised movie—performed on stage, minus any video assists—holler out scene headings (“Cut to the car’s interior”) and camera directions (“Cut to a close up,” and, invariably, “Cut back to a wide shot”) in order to convey cinematic visual cues. And so, an actor moves downstage to approximate a close up. Or the entire group shifts one-eighty to accommodate a command for reverse perspective. So what? The joke is gassed after the first time you see it. Improv shows vary drastically from one night to the next; I can only speak to the performance I saw, which was scattershot and interminable. The show does have a director (Jason Chin), but functionally it lacks a clear leader on stage to act as writer, director and editor. Linear hiccups aside, the format seemed to frustrate even the actors, many of whom offered camera directions loaded with uh’s and um’s; it is rare to hear this much stammering and clutching for ideas at an improv show. It almost doesn’t seem fair. I’ve seen many these actors perform improv, and they know how to push a scene forward without stalling—but for some reason this particular setup undercuts their natural skills and talents. (The cast includes recent “Impress These Apes” winner Kristen Studard, who is always a welcome presence on stage, even when she is visibly exasperated by the show’s internal chaos.) On Tuesdays, the show is preceded by the improv team Cook County Social Club, a male foursome worth seeing for their ease and fast-moving amiability. For all the talk of “yes, and” in improv, the members of CCSC truly accept one another’s contributions with an okey-doke enthusiasm, and they are smart enough to make even the toughest non-sequiturs work. (Nina Metz)
At iO Cabaret Theater, 3541 N. Clark, (773)880-0199. This production is now closed.