By Pamela A. Morton
What’s so funny about Buckhead? The Basement Theatre, for one thing.
Deep in the bowels of a Buckhead office building, the 6-year-old Basement Theatre Players perform improvisational comedy in a 48-seat theater the size of an average living room.
From the moment guests park in the rear of 175 West Wieuca Rd., navigate through a parking lot of rental limos, pass a welcoming, mustachioed mannequin, and head down narrow hallways into the dimly lit, intimate theater, it is apparent there is much ado about creativity here. Improv performers rely on their quick wits and even quicker tongues.
Founder and Artistic Director JStar and his cast of 10 offer equal parts “Saturday Night Live,” Chicago’s Second City, and the old Drew Carey television show, “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?”
Audience participation is a key component at the theater, which is one of several comedy performance spaces that operate along Roswell Road. Comedy shows also are regularly offered at the Landmark Diner in Buckhead and the Punch Line, a venerable comedy club in Sandy Springs.
Basement Players founder JStar is a Sandy Springs native who studied at Oglethorpe University. His first foray into improv was with Atlanta’s Laughing Matters Theatre.
“After my first class, I was hooked!” he said. “I knew this was it for me. … It was acting, it was drama, it was comedy, and it was immediate.”
He and a group of like-minded improvisers found an empty space in the basement of an office building off Roswell Road and began to rehearse. An audience followed, and, in April 2004, The Basement Theatre was born.
One of its more complex shows is “Much Ado About Shakespeare.” It’s a full-length, improvised Shakespearean production with costumes and lines delivered in rhyming iambic pentameter. Another show, “Coach: 3 People, 3 Suggestions, 1 Airplane,” provides a glimpse at how three strangers sitting next to each other on an airplane interact at 30,000 feet.
If you go
The Basement Theatre Players perform three or four nights a week. Standing shows are Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and Friday and Saturday nights at 8 and 10 p.m. The 8 p.m. Friday show is a “Family Night” show. Tickets costs $8 to $10, $5 for students.
All of the games are clever and fast –- sometimes moving so quickly that if you don’t pay close attention, you just might miss a skit where each sentence of the conversation begins with consecutive letters of the alphabet or another one where every sentence is a famous movie line.
Recently, the nonprofit group held its first Improv Marathon Fundraiser, 25 hours of continuous improvisation. Proceeds will go the second annual Spontaneous Combustion Festival, another JStar production, scheduled for early March.
“This year, we are expanding to be international,” JStar said. “We will have groups from Canada and possibly Norway and Mexico.”
The troupe also offers classes in improv comedy. For more information, see www.thebasementtheatrecom.