GENRE: Theater

GROUP: Tongue & Groove

ATTENDED: Sept. 12, 5:00 p.m., The Playground at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St.

CLOSES: Sept. 19

BRIEF SELF-DESCRIPTION: Inspired by your anonymous responses, actors and dancers instantly create hilarious and heartfelt scenes and monologues, funky music, and sultry dances.

WE THINK:  I have attended at least a dozen Tongue & Groove performances, and haven’t found that their constantly evolving improvisational formats – and consistently genuine performers – repetitive or complacent. Instead, my reaction, time and time again, has been amazement and satisfaction; I feel like I come away understanding not only more about theater – but also more about life and myself.

For this year’s Fringe, Artistic Director Bobbi Block asks audiences to describe a time when we felt really in the groove. We write a sentence or two on index cards and the cast uses them to create the show. The new GROOVE format adds a second musician (guitarist Ranka Kasparcava) with harmonica player Carol Moog, and dancers from Philly’s Awesome Blues Dancers.

Saturday’s cast – Block, Noah Herman, Matt Lydon, Ed Miller, Seth Reighgott, and Carrie Spalding – created relationships and situations inspired by our anonymous replies: A humorous situation with an uneasy high school principal and a wise janitor, two women assessing their relationship, three brothers tailgating at the Temple vs. Penn State football game.

Why am I explaining all this? The next show will be entirely different. But people should understand that this is a unique approach to improv, which is usually more focused on achieving laughs. Tongue & Groove are often funny – yet also more, much more.

Since blues dancing is improvisational, the dancers create on the same level as the actors. On Saturday, they often extended the idea or story of a situation. Block also gave them some of our cards, from which they created short dances to recorded music randomly selected.

One unexpected benefit of this new approach was seeing the actors and dancers watch each other perform. (Tongue & Groove actors don’t leave the stage, and are “off” in plain sight.) The delight and surprise on their faces confirmed that what we were seeing had never happened before, and will never happen again – and added a sincere feeling of joy.

This whole amazing creative process made me particularly annoyed by the woman in front of me who taped parts of the performance with her smart phone like a proud mommy at a kindergarten recital. The idea of theater, and especially improvisation, is that the performance is spontaneous and unique, shared in present time between live people. To record it instead of experiencing it (and to distract the people around her with screen light) is a sad reminder of what’s wrong with society’s dependence on modern technology – and today’s lack of manners.

Let’s go into that dark room to experience something real, in present tense – nothing recorded, and no recording. Let’s be in one place and one time – here and now – sharing something that never existed before and never will again. Don’t plan on watching it tomorrow on YouTube, watch it here and now. Put away the damn phones, people, and join the living world occasionally.

Tongue & Groove does it so well!