Now at the Daryl Roth Theatre after a 50 city tour, HYPROV is the latest form of theatrical entertainment to reach New York City. Subtitled “Improv Under Hypnosis,” led by Improv and Comedy Legend Colin Mochrie (a regular on Whose Line Is It Anyway?) and Master Hypnotist Asad Mecci, it is just that: 20 members of the theater audience volunteer to be hypnotized and then are asked to do improvisations while they are under the spell of hypnosis. Obviously, every show will be different as the audience changes nightly.
The show defines Hypnosis as “a trance-like state in which you have focus and suggestibility,” while Improv is defined as the “act of composing, uttering, executing anything without previous preparation.” First the audience is put through a series of simple exercises such as finger or arm workouts which demonstrate how suggestible we all are. Then audience members are asked to come up on stage and audition for the evening’s entertainment. Mecci reduces a nightly group of 20 down to four or five volunteers who are most suggestible. He looks for breathing, muscle, and eye changes while under hypnosis. Not everyone is a candidate for this.
While Colin and Asad choose four or five skits an evening, the list changes on a regular basis and is continually added to. On the evening under review, the Hyprovisers, once they were under, were all asked to search for their missing belly button. The fact that they all took this very seriously showed how deeply they had gone under. Then one hyproviser was assigned to fall madly in love with Colin, and then a second to be jealous. The audience was asked to suggest a location and job designations for the skit. Very engaging how the Hyprovisers made this believable. Next, all five volunteers were told that they are mourning the loss of their talented family pet, a hybrid of two animals suggested by the audience. Each then gave a eulogy for this unique, exotic pet.
This was followed by a session of It’s Your Life in which a well-known actor was brought up to that stage from the audience and the Hyprovisers became people in his life. This was followed by a musical episode in which Colin and a Hyproviser create a duet, reuniting after 20 years. All of the lyrics are created on the spot. For the finale, Colin set up a film noir radio play asking the audience for a verb, an occupation, and a new sponsor. While Colin plays the detective, one Hyproviser is required to play all the other characters, while another Hyproviser creates all of the sound effects, but not the one called for. This, of course, became a parody of the genre, both of film noir and radio plays.
Both Mochrie and Mecci are quite charming in this show created by them along with Jeff Andrews, and production consultant Bob Martin (author of The Drowsy Chaperone, The Prom, Elf). The original musical score has been written by Rufus Wainwright. Director Stan Zimmerman keeps the fun bubbling along. The scenic design is clever as well: set designer Jo Winiarski has created a huge iris within a large oval designating an eye. Jeff Croiter has lit this venue in soft restful shades of blue and purple, but also occasionally orange as if a sun had come up. Walter Trarbach is responsible for the suitable sound design.
Hyprov is a delightful and surprising evening as there is no telling how it will turn out. Will the Hyprovisers be good at their improvs? Will they stay in character? How will they deal with the somewhat preposterous suggestions by the audience or Colin’s instructions? Will the improvs make complete skits? Will the volunteers all remain on the same wavelength? One could see this show several times as both the improvs and the volunteers will vary from night to night. A clever evening is had by all with the charming Asad Mecci running the first half and Colin Mochrie organizing the second half.
HYPROV: Improv Under Hypnosis (through October 30, 2022)
Daryl Roth Theatre, 101 E. 15th Street at Union Square East, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit http://www.hyprov.com
Running time: one hour and 45 minutes without an intermission