For Sale by The Moving Company at the Lab Theater

Image501“What would you call that?” my faithful theater mate asked.

“It’s an interactive, semi-improvisational comedy,” I answered, putting the words together slowly.

“Oh,” he said, “It’s sort of hard to describe, isn’t it? Really funny, though.”

And that’s it in a nutshell.

You might have seen interactive, improvisational shows, but The Moving Company’s new offering, “For Sale,” now playing at the Lab Theater, is by the pros: a skillful blend of scripted and improvised action, written by Steve Epp and Nathan Keepers, and directed by Keepers. It’s what The Moving Company folks do exceptionally well.

First, let me say that you will not be made to feel the least bit uncomfortable. They are, after all, trying to sell you the enormous warehouse space that you are touring. You will be treated with great deference.

We gather near the stairs where Dick Richards Realty will welcome us to his open house. Actually, Dick (Luverne Seifert) is late, but his cousin and employee, Margie, played by Sarah Agnew, carries on until he shows up. It’s the first of many snafus, but you, the potential buyer, couldn’t possibly fault them for trying.  They proceed to demonstrate all the possible uses for the building: a performing arts center (although they’re not that profitable …) a resort (I think) a nursing home, a ship building yard!

Furthermore, they enlist the assistance of a young woman they name “Paloma” (played by Keepers) who lives in the corner behind a blanketed partition. She doesn’t speak English. It’s apparent that she’ll go along with anything for fear of losing her squatter’s status.

The real story is all this in the one that we are not supposed to hear. Dick is a consummate loser with virtually nothing redeemable about him. Herein lies the challenge of this piece, and the device that keeps it from pure clowning. Seifert’s character soldiers on, climbing over the wreckage that is his life. I wondered early on how this, with such a simple premise, could possibly be sustained for an entire evening. Enter Keepers.

“Paloma” is not the only squatter. Margie’s nephew (Keepers again) hangs out there, too, and conveniently knows the history of the building—and then some. Turns out we can call ourselves Minnesotans instead of Canadians because we learned how to use bows and arrows from the indigenous people, which we help to re-enact, felling Margie in a suitably overblown demise.

These are the funniest and most engaging scenes—Keepers dishing out another charming and quirky persona, with only a loose attachment to the logic of the play. But we buy into it because he’s, well, charming, quirky, funny and engaging.

Bringing “someone from the audience” (Chrissy Taylor) on stage, who turns Seifert’s “Brotherhood of Man” into a flourish of tap dancing, is just as believable as anything else that happens. Who doesn’t like a little song and dance?

Yes, a failing realtor, saddled with an unsaleable behemoth may go to great lengths to dump the thing. The lengths to which they go is utter nonsense, wonderfully entertaining schtick coming at us from every direction in the space—literally. The laugh-out-loud light booth scenes run from silly to tragi-comic. And back.

That’s where Moving Company always takes us in the pieces they develop: to the edge where desperate-but-still-trying teeters. This show doesn’t work quite as well as others of theirs that I’ve seen, but I love that they never play it safe. Don’t you play safe, either. Go see it!

 

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