The Star Bar Players can’t be accused of playing it safe in their new production of “Scapin,” which opens Friday at the Lon Chaney Theatre. Director Mark Hennessy hired four members of The RiP, a local improv troupe, to spice up the production — which is already highly spiced with a new script.
A few years ago, superclown Bill Irwin and Mark O’Donnell adapted Moliere’s 340-year-old farce — featuring passionate young noblemen, beautiful but penniless beloveds, stern patriarchs and wiley servants — for contemporary audiences. “This is not your mother’s ‘Scapin,’” said Hennessy. “The outline of the story is there, but they completely updated the language. It comes from the theater of the clown.” “I’ve lost seven pounds since we started rehearsal,” said Kaleb Kohart, who plays the title role — one of the theater’s most famous scheming servants. “It’s a 90-minute cardio workout.” The RiP is entering its fourth year as a troupe, but it may be better known in Denver, where there’s a larger market for improv comedy. Kohart, who’s equally skilled as a scripted actor — for which he won a Pikes Peak Arts Council award — said the lure of improv is irresistible: “It’s much more risky.” Fellow RiP member Jordan Arrick, who plays Sylvestre, another servant who acts as Scapin’s henchman, said the biggest challenge here is melding improvisation with a scripted show. “In improv, you create your own universe,” said Arrick. “Here, the universe is given. You have to integrate it into your character.” The improv elements will take the form of short-form comedy games — the sort of things you might have seen on “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” — unexpectedly interspersed into the proceedings. “You’re following the script, and suddenly the emcee says, “‘OK, now do it again,’ or ‘play it backwards,’” said Kohart. Hennessy promises that the results won’t be too chaotic. “Even though we’re infusing improv, it’s a fairly tight script,” he said. Since Hennessy knows that there isn’t yet a large audience for improv in Colorado Springs, he’s sweetening the deal for those bold enough to attend “Scapin.” First, the evening performances will include a third, all-improvised set. Second, since the show will differ so much from night to night, Star Bar Players is encouraging people to return more than once with a novel pricing policy: Each time you see the show, the cost of the ticket will be half what it was the previous time. If you go three times, for instance, the the first ticket would cost $15, but the third only $3.75. Someone who attended all eight performances would pay only 12 cents for the final show. The Star Bar Players present “Scapin” When: Opens Friday; 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Feb. 1, 2, 15, and 16; 2 p.m. Sunday and Feb. 3 Where: Lon Chaney Theatre, City Auditorium, 221 E. Kiowa St. (through Feb. 3); Taylor Theatre, Colorado College, adjacent to Bemis Hall, 920 N. Cascade Ave. (Feb. 15 and 16) Tickets: $15; 573-7411