This post was written by John Conroy on Facebook on March 25th, 2015 after his show with Big Yellow Taxi. John Conroy is a Los Angeles-based writer, comedian, actor, producer, DJ and PR consultant.
Improvisers: Last night during the Big Yellow Taxi show at MSW: Long Hard Tuesdays something happened I’m still turning over in my mind, because it was extraordinary. Jeff Kriese was our guest driver, and Jodi Skeris entered the cab. Her movements were subtle and unnervingly precise. Her character was soft-spoken, and while she didn’t say much when she did her voice and body language were simultaneously mysterious and revealing. “Is she being sweet? Or creepy? Is she sad? Or is that… no, it’s… longing.” Those were the thoughts going through my mind.
Jeff’s initial reaction was classic straight-man but quickly evolved. His “confusion” gave way to amusing befuddlement, and then continued to evolve. He was allowing himself to be sincerely affected by Jodi and what she was putting out there.
They didn’t talk much, and when they did it was just simple, quiet bursts of words like any you would hear in any taxi. There were a few specifics to frame the scene, but neither of them felt the need to fill up the silence, or invent, or justify. Because when they did speak HOW they spoke said more than words. And the connection they made was absolutely electrifying.
I have never been more captivated by stillness. Never more engrossed by silence. You could cut the tension on stage – and the entire theatre – with a knife.
Still the relationship evolved, with minimal words, between two characters, one of which had his back to the other. No speaking, no physical contact, minimal eye contact for obvious reasons but when Jeff would turn around it was with purpose. Looking AWAY from each other was done with purpose. Natural, organic and honest.
Those of us on stage, and everyone in the audience, were experiencing one of the most charmingly awkward, alluring courtships I’ve ever seen improvised by anyone. And it was done with minimal dialogue.
Having arriving at her character’s destination (a bar), Jodi went to leave and Jeff stopped her. “If you need a ride home later, I… here’s my card. It has my cell number. It goes straight to my, um, cell.” Then he wiped a tear from his eye and played it off like it was nothing. (Whether the tear was real I couldn’t see, but jesus it felt real, and man was it powerful and the most perfectly appropriate choice he could have possibly made).
The scene ended. We, the players, as well as our audience, took a breath. And then I dragged Colin out for a dick joke.
I’m sharing this because 1) holy shit 2) Pack Theater and 3) if I – or any of us – needed a reminder: this art form is capable of doing far more than making people laugh. Sometimes we do our best work when we shut our gobs, drop the bits, stop thinking, trust each other fully, allow scenes to breathe, take inspiration from the ephemeral… and not be afraid to follow the electricity between you and your partner.