Chris and Travis – Every Night a Different (Hilarious, High-Energy) Experience

My friend and I got the last two seats on Sunday night. We were barely seated when the whole room (the crowded, oxygen-deprived Carousel Theatre Studio A) started chanting: “CHURCH! CHURCH! CHURCH! CHURCH!”

Every night is different but I hadn't checked to find out I was about to attend an “improvised church service.” Not to be confused with Fringe regulars “Peter 'n' Chris” (Peter Carlone and Chris Wilson), this duo is new on the scene, at least in this configuration.

I'd taken the grand-kids to Unpossible, Travis Bernhardt's magic show. He's an amazing magician and I was disappointed that there weren't a few card tricks in this performance. He's a little cool and thoughtful as an improviser. Sometimes you can almost see the wheels turning in his mind as he slowly says, “Hmm. Tree? Yes, a tree is an object.”

Chris Ross, aka Chris Stache, is totally high energy and particularly skilled at spontaneous riffing and  inviting audience involvement. They work well as a team, possibly because of their different styles.

Their first night was a Kids' Birthday Party complete with party hats, which one person wore to Church!  

They quickly got us yelling out, “Amen” and “Hallelujah”. But there was dead silence when we were asked to, “Recite your favorite bible verse.” Oops! Afterwards, I wish I'd said: “Jesus wept,” the shortest bible verse.  

No problem, they were about to invent a new religion for us anyways. Starting with the audience prompt of “Tree”. Sinning against the Tree is using plastic. “Tree-men” to that, we chanted and several confessed to their sins.

Their contortions as they “became Tree” and spoke the ancient language of the Tree were quite remarkable. And they got us all to stand up and speak Tree too.  

I'm betting there weren't many of us there who'd actually attended church that morning. I suspect the two women who walked out were regular church goers.

Then there was my friend and I who are Unitarians. It's pretty hard to offend Unitarians. We poke fun at ourselves in fact. One joke goes: “Why do Unitarians sing so badly?” Answer:”They're reading ahead to see if they agree with the next line.”  So I was just amazed that Chris and Travis got us all singing gospel songs in 3-part harmony. We even clapped along (sometimes in unison, but always enthusiastically). We had communion on the way out with “apple juice” and chips.  No-one grabbed me on the way out to sign a social justice petition or join a committee meeting. Definitely not my regular Church.

After receiving communion, and handing in our plastic glass (Sin against the Tree), my friend and I wondered aloud: “Do you think we could start our services with everyone yelling out: CHURCH! CHURCH! CHURCH!?” We shook our heads, “Nah,” and headed to the Fringe Bar.

In case you want to be as prepared as you possibly can be, here's the lineup from here on in. It's fun. Go and have some fun.

Wed 16, 6pm, Improv in Total Darkness. Lights out, audio only. (Napping permitted.)

Fri 18, 11:45pm, Fringe Guests! We'll ask some Fringe performers to join us and we'll do a big group show.

Sat 19, 5:45pm, "Mystery Show" (i.e. we're not sure, yet).

Sun 20, 8:45pm, Fringe in Review. Improv inspired by stories and shows from this year's festival.

By Mary Bennett