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What is it? These 10 hard-core improvisers from the heart of Chicago are masters of the Harold, which is a long form improv show created from one audience suggestion. They’re lauded for their skill and chemistry as a group. And you can see them mesh before your very eyes right here in Charleston.

Why see it? These guys and gals are one of the teams at the renowned iO Theater in Chicago. In fact, they even stand out among the total of 27 teams at the theater, having been awarded their own solo slot. And it’s not for good behavior.

Who should go? Students of comedy and anyone else who likes to witness smart, funny, and creative brains at work.

PICCOLO SPOLETO • $15 • 1 hour • May 23 at
10 p.m.; May 24 at 9 p.m.; May 25 at 5 p.m.;
May 26 at 7:30 p.m. • Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. Downtown • (888) 374-2656

Take the Gun: Truth is funnier than fiction with The Reckoning

Ten comedians, one group, six years.

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That’s The Reckoning for you, a happy (and funny) collection of people who not only clearly love each other, but who also work so well together that they have enjoyed great success at one of Chicago’s best comedy theaters: the iO (formerly Improv Olympic).

Like the iO’s own brainchild, the Upright Citizens’ Brigade in New York City, the iO Theater is known for launching the careers of greats like Mike Myers and Chris Farley, for its top-notch comedy classes, and now, one might venture to say, for the comedic stylings of The Reckoning.

In an online search, they came up in reviews and comments as the best improv team at the iO many, many times. And it’s not like best out of three or four. There are 27 Harold teams at the theater.

Yes, there is a form of improv called the Harold, and The Reckoning happens to be really, really good at it. Del Close, the legendary comedy teacher from the 1950s and ’60s, originated the Harold.

“He came up with this form consisting of three scenes, and then a group game, then three scenes, and a group game. But these scenes aren’t just random,” says member Jet Eveleth. “You revisit the same characters or same themes.”

While this could seem restricting at first glance, it’s really the opposite. As Eveleth says, you get to invest in a story line, in a character, in a theme, and create truly three-dimensional situations. There’s incredible opportunity for creativity within this structure, and when it works, it makes for an awesome evening.

Another thing that you might notice in a performance by The Reckoning is the way that scenes and characters collide, not that that’s something specific only to their group. It’s one of the best things about improv — that moment when you realize that the woman who just can’t stop talking about her cats is the wife of the race car driver who is having an affair with the 19-year-old Valley girl.

While there are many funny troupes out there, there aren’t nearly as many who can truly act, who can fully maintain the integrity of their characters. You don’t have to worry about that with The Reckoning.

“We really pride ourselves on being good actors as well as comedians,” Eveleth says. “It’s something we constantly work on.”

She says they live by that old adage: If there’s a gun on the wall, it has to be fired.

“If you play to the truth of the moment — which is comic and tragic and artistic and more at the same time — people will find it funny. The more you play to the truth, the more you get into the three-dimensional characters, and there will always be something to laugh about.”