SALT LAKE CITY — There are two truths universally acknowledged by theatre makers: 1. You will always be fundraising. 2. Improv (improvised theatre) can be fun, but it is also really, really hard. I tip my hat to the producing team and cast of The Haunting Is You for their efforts to face these two truths head on.
Here, the cast of five friends improvise their way through a barely coherent plot that includes a gas leak at Panera, a cryptocurrency startup, and a grizzly production of Macbeth all under the guiding eye of RJ Walker. Tickets are free, but all who enter are encouraged to donate toward a split between the cast and a fundraiser for The Box performance space. Hearing that The Box hopes to start a free theatre program for youth experiencing homelessness this school year, I was motivated to make a donation. Spurring my motivation, was the chance to force the peppy on-stage villain, played by Patrick Smith, to eat a raw jalapeno. Someone in the audience really had it out for Smith, who was also forced to do at least 40 pushups throughout the show. Other characters were cursed with such indignities as ending each sentence with “Mommy” or interpretative dancing each line the spoke. Many in the gleeful audience seemed to be there to directly support their on-stage pals gamely giving it their all. Graciously, all curses were lifted after each 10 minute scene, when a fresh round of donations were taken in cash and over Venmo.
The gimmicks are short-lived enough not to get too annoying, and the energy of the actors is almost shocking, if a bit scattered. Particular enthusiasm is shown by Connor Bond as Daniel. A stronger character backstory for each of the players would be helpful to give the actors something to demonstrate their skills. It would also be helpful to have the “menu” of curses that have been ordered visible to the audience somehow. Perhaps the numbers could be written on the chalk wall and crossed out as they are completed. This would also allow for donations to be ranked by cost, which might help drive the performance and the fundraising more efficiently. But, all in all, with The Haunting Is You, audiences get more than they paid for.