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Review: “A Bedtime Gorey”

Staff Writer
Austin 360

If you’re dreading the onset of relentless holiday cheer for the next two months, the Hideout Theatre has something a bit more somber to offer you.

Extending the spirit of All Hallows Eve, The Hideout brings us a new improvised comedy show, “A Bedtime Gorey,” playing every Saturday night in November and December.

As you might guess from the title, the show channels the ominous Victorian aesthetics of illustrator Edward Gorey. And even if you’ve never picked up one of his books, you’ll likely recognize his work: black and white, vaguely British, and always a little bit creepy.

The Hideout team nicely captures Gorey’s monochromatic world with costumes and makeup that give all of the players a slightly sinister edge.

In addition, the program for the show is delightfully playful – offering possible character sketches and charming anagrammatic aliases for each of the performers. Granted, this atypical flourish led me to hope for a somewhat more cohesive long-form show (possibly involving a murder mystery), so I was somewhat disappointed by the mish-mash of parlor games and short stories that comprise the performance.

Creator and director Valerie Ward (member of the award-winning and hilarious improv group Parallelogramophonograph) nevertheless offers us a unique set of narrated shadow plays that are fun to experience. And while most of us generally might not prefer to be treated like children, with Kaci Beeler (also of P-graph) as our macabre governess for an hour or two, it’s guaranteed to be an adventure – even if it doesn’t always end up as funny as we might hope.

When improv is done well, it’s like a fine-tuned machine and beautiful to watch. The players can transition smoothly from big-ankled ballerinas hanging out in local cemeteries to habitually widowed sommoleirs hosting garden parties, and the audience doesn’t bat an eye. Or, if they do, it’s more like the squinty eyes caused by an onset of involuntary giggles. Good improv requires teamwork and the ability to listen and adapt. Good improv is magic – because everything really does appear out of thin air, right before your eyes. And, as you might imagine, good improv is really, really hard to do.

I’ve seen it at the Hideout before, and I’ve seen it from a number of the players involved in this production. And although I didn’t quite get to see it on opening night, I’m confident this show can get there.

“A Bedtime Gorey” continues 8 p.m. Saturdays through Dec. 28. Tickets $12. The Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress Ave. www.hideouttheatre.com