D.C. Playback Theater


Editorial Review

Synergy in Action shows heart at monthly improv show in Silver Spring

Friday, February 12, 2010

Once a month, in a nondescript, multipurpose room in Silver Spring, something special happens in front of a simple, black curtain. More than 70 people cram into the small space to bare their souls, share their dreams and watch their commute acted out.

It is here that Synergy in Action: A Playback Theatre Company presents a night of improvisation. For about a year, the cast of six to eight actors has brought its show to Pyramid Atlantic Art Center. The show has grown in popularity; late-comers rarely get a seat. The theme of this month's show, which is Saturday at 7 p.m., is " When We are Granted Our Heart's Desires."

At the January show, Gregory Ford warmed up the crowd by asking who in the audience had traveled the farthest. As hands were raised, more questions were asked: What was the drive like?

A few details is all it takes for the cast to embellish the story, turning it into a comical vignette about a harried driver running late and searching for the directions that were lost in the car.

The front row is a mere six feet from the actors, giving the performance a comfortably intimate feeling. Combined with Ford's amiability, the audience (mostly artsy people age 30 and older) quickly becomes at ease enough to explore deeper topics.

The theme of January's show was "Martin Luther King Jr.: Variations on a Dream," and audience members shared their stories about race and hope. One man described his desire to help homeless people. Another woman recounted a difficult period in her life when she had a medical problem and was surprised to find support from people outside of her ethnicity. Both stories were acted out with only boxes and scarves as props.

While much of the show was poignant, there were also moments of humor. When Dayna Elefant tried to persuade her friends to share the story of their recent engagement, Ford told her that she had to share her own.

"What is your feeling when you are watching this relationship?" he asked.

"I'm next!" Elfant blurted enthusiastically.

Fellow audience members burst out laughing, and the cast went to work depicting its interpretation: Elefant learning to love herself before being open to a new relationship. The show also has an element of group therapy, with the audience supporting and encouraging each other. And who doesn't want that for Valentine's Day?