The Human Test Subjects

don't ride the reindeer productions · Ages 21+ · United States of America

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Review by ERIK BLAIR

June 04, 2016 certified reviewer
tagged as: fun · Engaging · comedy · Impro Theatre · Feminist · all-female

What I liked

  • The Cast: Very engaging, energetic, likable as a group. Clearly working to give the audience a great time.
  • The Pre-Planned Sketches/Stand-Up/Song: Nice to have a break for a few moments from just straight-forward improv games, especially in Los Angeles where it so often tends to be either one (all-improv) or the other (all-sketch).
  • Company purpose: I wholeheartedly applaud the company’s purpose in its creation and its goals. I cannot state that highly enough.

What I didn't like

  • Lack of Focus: The show felt a tad unfocused, as though it could perhaps have used a slightly stronger guiding voice to unify the order of scenes/games to create a more unified through-line for the event. Everything was fine but it felt a tad unfocused and the best shows feel as though they are always being guided—even if they’re being made up on the spot.

My overall impression

Improv is a staple of Los Angeles theater, so companies that can find a new way to approach it or a new wrinkle to the game are worth checking out. Enter The Human Test Subjects, an all-women improv group comprised of very talented ladies who all deal with some form of mental illness (from anxiety to depression to PTSD and so on).

Watching their preview performance, I was struck by many different reactions. First and foremost—they’re damn funny. As you want an improv group to be. In any improv situation, some jokes land better than others—but every single one of them had at least a few great moments that were worth watching, and that’s fantastic. Second, their stated purpose had its own impact on the show, both in some of the games and in some pre-planned sketches, songs and stand-up that were peppered throughout the production—moments that created a very different, thought-provoking response. I’m not entirely certain whether I should be laughing at mental health issues or not, engaging in the humor as they wanted me to be o whether they even wanted me to be every moment or if that was simply societal lack of comfort about mental issues popping up. Whatever the appropriate answer is—they had me contemplating the appropriate response to jokes about mental issues…and that certainly DOES seem appropriate.

If there was any flaw in this preview (and it’s one I expect will tighten up with further performances), it’s that it felt a little unfocused. Sometimes group performances can feel a little like they’re being directed by committee—and even groups like these still need someone to be the final arbiter, the final guiding hand to help shape, narrate, guide or steer the show into its final form. This particular performance felt a little rudderless still, and that led to some moments that felt a little unconnected or lost as it translated from game to game or moment to moment. This might well also just have been a one-night scenario and doesn’t diminish at all from the talent of the group as a whole.

I think they’re very worth seeing. If you enjoy talented comedic women, you will be very glad you check these ones out.

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