I went to see Lorna Landvik’s Party in the Rec Room this past weekend at the Bryant-Lake Bowl. It was the first comedy show I have ever seen. It was also my first time at the Bryant-Lake Bowl. I found the Bryant-Lake Bowl to be a fun, crowded, noisy experience and I definitely want to go back there and try the burgers and the bowling. And tucked in back by the furnace is a tiny little theater that hosts an incredibly eclectic collection of shows. That is where Lorna Landvik is hanging out for the month of January, hosting a New Year’s party.
I did not realize that Lorna Landvik came from a background of improvisational comedy that started in California (Comedy Store and The Improv) and continued here when she returned to her native Minnesota; she appeared at the Brave New Workshop in the 1980s. I suspect that I, like many of the other audience members, first heard of her through her books. Starting with Patty Jane’s House of Curls, Landvik has written eight books and has a loyal following of readers.
It is her roots in improv, though, that she showcases in her show, which advertises itself as “being different each night.” The bulk of the show consists of Landvik creating characters based on audience members’ spontaneous answers to three questions. For instance, using the themes of architect (what did you want to be when you grew up), pig Latin (what language did you want to learn), and welding (your least favorite subject in school), she came up with a little girl speaking pig latin in a tree house she had designed and built. During the course of the evening she created about ten of these characters using wigs and minimal costumes, and brought them on stage. She ended the show with an improvised story of her life, again led by words shouted out by the audience.
There were some entertaining moments, but overall I thought the evening was long and not too funny. My favorite part of the show was the opening, where Landvik came on stage dancing to party music, blending margaritas and joking with the audience. She threw out a joke about Edina and identified her county correction officer, who could not stop eating. Many comedy shows have taken advantage of the fact that Minnesotans do like to laugh at themselves, and there is a wealth of material Landvik could have tapped into. But she didn’t. There was not even a mention of the Vikings or the weather, although both would have been topical.
My daugher, who was with me, has seen more comedy shows than I have, and she agreed with me that Party in the Rec Room was disappointing. Anyway, if you would like to go and see for yourself, you are out of luck this year. As Landvik announced at the end of her show, “I would ask you to tell your friends to come see the show, but we are sold out.” Her shows also sold out in 2008 and 2009, so if you’d like to see Landvik’s schtick, plan early for next year. In the meantime, if you have not had an opportunity to experience the Bryant-Lake Bowl, visit their Web site and check out their other upcoming shows. There is definitely something there for everyone.