Improv comedy and burlesque amiably coexist in “What’s in the Box?!” from Capital Fringe Festival alums Burlesque and Belly Laughs. The answer to the titular question is: A bunch of envelopes. And what are in the envelopes?! We find out when an audience member selects one from the bunch and finds a piece of paper that reads either vice, virtue or sin. The chosen word then prompts both the comedians and the dancers, who perform two sets a piece.
On opening night of the Fringe Festival, vice was the name of the game. For improv troupe the Begonias, that meant quips about gambling and sex, two vices that were chosen by theatergoers. The three burlesque dancers, meanwhile, stripped down to pasties to the tune of an old-timey ditty about booze and Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good,” among other selections. There was also an entertaining riff on “Miami Vice.”
Ushering us through the proceedings was the increasingly inebriated Rock Tender, a genial, sometimes hyper emcee with a huge wave of hair billowing from his head. At one point, he accosted a yawning audience member, and then brought her a glass of bourbon to remedy her drowsiness. (It worked.)
Don’t let one yawn fool you. The show might be a bit uneven, but it’s never boring. At its best, the seemingly impossible art of improv looks easy. The Begonias flitted in and out of that zone. If on-the-fly comedy is difficult, spontaneous striptease routines might be even more daunting. That helps explain why some of the dance numbers looked less than polished.
Even so, “What’s in the Box?!” made for a lively evening of laughs and whoops. Every show will be different, no doubt, but you might even get a free drink out of it.