Where can you find keto doggy biscuit burgers, a coven of sparkly, incestuous Twilight vampires and a sex-dungeon paint connoisseur? The answer is none other than the Without a Box Valentine’s improv show — Without a Box of Chocolates — on Feb. 11 at the Rose Hills Theater. Without a Box of Chocolates was the troupe’s first performance of the semester, a steamy, hilarious Valentine’s Day–inspired jaunt of an evening, treating the audience to improv involving love, sex and everything in between.
The evening began with a cabaret dance involving one-liners. But these weren’t ordinary one-liners: they were inspired by names of audience members and paired with dancing that took them to the next level.
This was a highlight for many, including audience member Eli Taub PO ’25.
“My favorite part of the show was the one where they built a cabaret number based on the names of the audience participants,” he said via email. “Something about the song, the dance and the jokes just worked great together, and I couldn’t stop laughing.”
In fact, a highlight of the evening was the element of audience participation. Whether as a guest on a dating show or as the inspiration for a new scenario, audience members engaged with performers throughout the show.
The audience’s level of involvement echoes the philosophy of team manager Lily Lucas SC ’22 when it comes to improv. She particularly values the community building that improv facilitates.
“It’s a really great space,” she said. “And of course getting laughs is part of why we do it, but it’s truly more about sharing laughs — just laughing in a room with people that you like.”
Community spirit resonated throughout the night, especially when the troupe played the game “Aside.” This led to a gripping scenario involving keto cooking, a frustrated couple and an angry boss, which showed off the group’s skill in creating comedy on the fly.
“The shows are based around games,” troupe co-president Zalia Maya SC ’22 said. “With those games, each practice we tell a completely different story. And then the one on stage is completely brand new. So even though we’re replaying and replaying the games, we do it in a way that ensures that each time there is a new character, a new story. It’s a new relationship.”
The night continued with a dating game, in which an audience member asked performers questions to ascertain who would be their one true love. But of course, it wouldn’t be a Without a Box show if they didn’t take things one step further. Performers answered questions in colorful characters constructed specifically for the game: the famous wax sculptor Madame Tussauds, the blacksmith Brucephalus who had a vendetta of revenge against his village’s resident drago; and Gabriel, otherwise known as Dark Painter, regular Joe by day, and connoisseur of paint, sex and blood, by night.
Throughout all of these games, the troupe’s sense of teamwork and coordination shone.
“Improv is really like a team sport,” Lucas said. “And really good improv is when you know and understand the strengths of your fellow teammates, and you know how to make space for one another. It can be really harmonious and in sync, which is really satisfying.”
Their clear confidence contributed to the audience’s enjoyment.
“It was a fun time!” Taub said. “I always really enjoy watching improv, and it was nice to have a laugh after a tough week of school!”
To end the evening, the troupe played “Numbers,” creating a delightfully tense fight among a polyamorous throuple, one of whom was feeling a little left out of their spooning practices. Then, they acted out a scene based around a cab driver, in which all the riders changed characters each time a new passenger got on: guests included robots, vampires and the mafia.
Finally, the troupe acted out a new and improved version of “Twilight,” complete with the Obama campaign, a communist conspiracy and a good sprinkling of love-starved vampires, who couldn’t stop themselves from making out with each other (disregarding incest). The troupe’s rendition of the film had the audience in stitches, and it was a spectacular way to close the show.
Even more impressive, most of the troupe’s members are brand new, a point of pride for returning members like Maya.
“For the new members, I wanted to see them flourish and become incredible as individual performers,” she said. “And I think they have, and I think they’ve definitely shown that progress.”
All in all, Without a Box thought outside the box to check all the boxes of a riveting improv performance.
For those who would like to get involved in the 5C improv scene, Without a Box is holding auditions Friday and Saturday.
“I think auditions are a great way to try it out,” Maya said. “We’re also planning on doing a lot of open practices this semester, so people who are not in improv and want to try it out — or [who] have done improv but haven’t had a chance to do it in college — are all welcome. And we’ll just play a bunch of games. I think improv is such a fun thing to practice and to work on.”
Follow Without a Box at @withoutaboximprov on Instagram, or on their Facebook page.