Washington Improv Theatre presents Caveat

Fri., Jan. 18, 8 p.m.; Sat., Jan., 19, 10 p.m.; $12.50; Stars at the American;


Jokes are better when they’re true.

That’s the principle behind longform improv troupe Caveat, according to director Natasha Rothwell. And the truth, it turns out, is often hilarious.

Caveat begins each show like many groups, by asking the audience to pick a word, any word. From there, each member in the four-person cast launches into a brief “truth monologue” about their perception of the concept.

Then, the game is on.

“It’s punk improv,” laughs Rothwell.

Formed in 2005, Caveat considers itself a troupe of storytellers rather than comedians. As they wind from scene to scene, Caveat never shies away from the audience’s choice or tries to steer the performance in a specific direction.

They embrace and explore the word fully, probing its meaning.

Scene structure and length vary considerably, and the performers employ a number of different scene-switching methods called “edits” to signal each shift.

One such edit is a “swarm” in which cast members repeat certain words or phrases to mark the start of something new.

Another stage device Caveat excels at is the “split screen” in which two or more characters relate to each other and the audience as if they are not in fact on stage together, but instead playing roles that may be set miles or years apart.

As opposed to the short-form improv comedy associated with Whose Line Is It Anyway?, long-form improv takes spectators on a journey.

Caveat is “seeking truth” on stage through a “vulnerable connection,” Rothwell says, with audience members gradually allowing themselves to become emotionally invested in the performance. You’ll likely agree that taking a journey with Caveat is “about as much fun as you can have sober.”