tjandave.jpgThere’s a boldly imaginative high-wire act happening the first week of every month at Greenwich Village’s Barrow Street Theatre. After a twenty minute bombardment of the loudest, most dreadful pre-show music ever, two men finally appear on a bare stage with no script and, for the next 50 minutes, dive headlong into the unknown without a net. Less seasoned pros might run the risk of a theatrical crash landing, but TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi aren’t called the Wright Brothers of improv for nothing.

Their 50 minute long-form evening of improvisation, entitled simply TJ & Dave, begins with no suggestions from the audience or pre-arranged premise. The two men have the nerve to let nothing happen on stage until something, however slight, is coaxed out of their imaginations. On the night I saw the show – which is never remotely the same twice – it took a couple of minutes of Pasquesi sitting and Jagodowski standing for a scenario to organically emerge from the ether. Once it did, a madcap, multi-character, three act comedy was written, cast, opened and closed before our very eyes. It was one of the funniest little plays no one will ever see again.

Though to call it a play, as their publicity materials proclaim, is inaccurate; the narrative has no real arc and, though there is continuity to the characters, the scenario comes to an abrupt halt after 50 minutes with no tidy resolution. But when they’re firing with all cylinders, the show is as good as improv gets. Jagodowski and Pasquesi are both veterans of Chicago’s famous Second City and have cultivated the telepathic chemistry that comes from years of collaboration.

The story that took shape on the night I attended revolved around two urban sophisticates, probably gay, on vacation at a southern plantation turned B&B. A menagerie of eccentric characters – the red-neck manager of the establishment, his timid wife, their mentally-disabled servant – soon appeared to suck the city slickers into convoluted conversations about chewing tobacco and pollution.

TJ and Dave leap in and out of these various characters with exhilarating dexterity; it’s great fun to realize that you no longer perceive the duo as TJ and Dave but as the various people they’re momentarily embodying. And their talent at conjuring up a detailed imaginative world is rivaled only by their fine comic skills. These two are as smart as they are funny, and their vow to stay at the Barrow Street Theatre until they “take over the world” isn’t something to laugh off.

At the show’s end, the guys announce that discounted tickets can be bought in the lobby for anyone who wants to catch them again. Since you can never see the same TJ & Dave twice, there’s really no reason not to take the ride again, especially if you can time your arrival to miss the pre-show music. (Seriously: The Friday night performance I attended was scheduled for 11pm, but did not begin until 11:10pm.)

The next chance to catch TJ & Dave in town is March 1st – 4th: Thurs 10pm, Fri 11pm, Sat 11pm & Sun 9:30pm. Performances are at the Barrow Street Theatre, tickets cost $20.