After three days in Chicago, my first time to actually see some improv was Friday night. Day two was spend hanging out riding bicycles in the glorious Chicago July weather with my brother-in-law and having some excellent beers and food at Emmetts on Thursday night. Nothing HIF blog-worthy, though Emmett’s Imerial Pilsner was definitely the most flavorful Pils I’ve ever had the pleasure to drink. Getting in to see shows at iO has been pretty tight with their place on Clark closing down this weekend. On the advice of my brother Tom, I opted to take the train in from Palatine and hopped a bus over to the theater just South of Wrigley field. Thank God I did. Billy Joel was in concert at Wrigley, so traffic was bumper to bumper. I ended up walking over from Ashland on Addision St. and I was passing cars the whole way. All the bars South of Wrigley were packed with wait times of well over an hour just to get in. I hummed a few bars of New York state of mind to piss off the locals and popped into a Mediterranean shop for a shawarma before heading to iO. I got to the theater about 7pm for the 8pm show and hung outside the door to the Del Close theater while I waited. Charna Halpern (the owner of iO) was in talking with a few folks and I was sorely tempted to step in and introduce myself. I managed to restrain my urges and chatted up the house manager instead. Charna headed backstage and they opened the house. I grabbed a Goose Island Ogden – a belgian tripel – and grabbed a seat on the third row next to a lovely brunette. She quickly informed me that the seat and the next 4 beside were all reserved. That ended up pushing me to center stage, so I wasn’t too disappointed. By showtime the house was packed – the show was sold out. The house manager added some seats on the sides, the music swelled and the 5 members of The Improvised Shakespeare Company took the stage. Blane Swen introduced the show and as part of his prologue he mentioned that the entire show was improvised. I yelled out incredulously “What?!?” and the entire theater was dead silent for a few moments. He asked if I’d had a few too many drinks, and since I was two beers in, one a tripel, I answered in the affirmative. He asked if I would prefer to be at the Billy Joel concert, and I said, “hell no.” Then he addressed the entire audience and said that any further interruptions would be sent over to see Billy Joel. It was really funny and in good humor. As a suggestion for the show, The Improvised Shakespeare Company takes a name of a Shakespearean play never before produced. Someone in the audience shouted out “A fistful of ducats,” and the show got rolling. As the first few scenes unfolded, star-crossed lovers Robert and Delilah lamented the unlikelyhood of their being wed due to Robert’s impoverished state. Delilah’s father, the Duke of Western England, was bent on arranging a profitable marriage to a man of means. Suddenly, a wealthy Spanish Lord stumbled onto the stage dying, gored by a boar. For the mere price of a 5 second kiss with Robert, he gave up his lavish clothes and considerable purse to the poor englishman. His son and wife soon followed, also gored by boar. His wife giving up a small spoon in return for a three-way kiss with the star-crossed lovers. This seemed to open up the way for Robert and Delilah to wed, but as the Duke of Western England announced his plans to host Murder Mystery party that evening, another suitor for Delilah entered the scene – the wicked Duke of Kent. We find out through the show that the Duke of Kent has married several times before, and skins his wives and stuffs them as literal trophy wives in his castle. He is to be betrothed to Delilah as Kent would extend the power and influence of the Duke of Western England into more of Eastern England. To complicate matters, we find out that the boar who slew the Spanish lord and his family was actually Simon, a well-known English assassin hired to kill them and retrieve the fabled Spanish spoon. The spoon apparently holds similar sway as Excalibur held in the days of King Arthur. He who holds the Spoon of Espania, is the rightful king of Spain. All this cast of characters end up at the Murder Mystery party of the Duke of Western England and hilarity ensues. Seven real murders occur at the party in addition to the ‘false’ murder as part of the Murder Mystery party. All seven committed by the bumbling Simon in his attempts to secure the Spoon of Espania for a jilted Spanish lord. At the end all things come right as the Duke of Kent is exposed, Simon dies on the tusks of the main course – a roasted boar – and Robert takes his rightful place at Delilah’s side as the new King of Espania! What was amazing about these improvisers was how they wrapped everything up. Nothing was dropped or forgotten. All the characters they created, all the subplots generated came together in the last few minutes to close out the show. And as an added bonus, the company offered an alternate ending calling up young Peter from the audience who then declared his love to a young lady and asked her hand in marriage – for reals. It was funny and sweet and capped off a great evening at iO.