"You can be assured," reads local improvisation troupe Free Association's program notes, "that the performing you see tonight has not been set, choreographed, or jigsawed in anyway." You can say that again. Take Saturday night's performance: When Jack Guidone accidentally dropped Margaret Ramsey about two minutes into the program, the injury to her head and back proved so painful as to cause her to leave the stage for the duration of the evening. Rather than ending things right then and there, the three remaining Free Associaters -- Guidone, Barbara Mueller and Michael Kasper -- and their loyal, versatile musician friend David Freivogel, forged bravely ahead, even going so far as to use Ramsey's accident as theatrical material.

Without Ramsey's aggressive, zany presence, however, the troupe wilted fast. Though Guidone tried everything -- jokes, songs, dancing, monologues -- to revitalize his cohorts, they appeared too demoralized to reciprocate. At one point, Kasper connected with Guidone for a supple, athletic duet of rolls and lifts, but the fellow spent most of his time wandering distractedly about the stage.Mueller sank so low as to revert back to infancy; her primary activities consisted of drinking water from a baby bottle and calling for her mommy. Could Ramsey be the mother figure of the troupe?