Review of the Week: Honor Student Breakfast is HSBPD at de Maat Theatre
It’s never a promising start to a show when the lights go down and a voiceover comes on with “Mmmph ruhmuph puh meh hmnph? Mhph penuff.” The terms “technical failure” and “gimmick gone wrong” pop into mind, and one feels a bit like Charlie Brown listening to the trombone that is his teacher. After a good thirty seconds, however, it becomes quite funny: not so much the muffled voices but the way the seven lads of Honor Student Breakfast listen like ninjas, focusing intensely on what the audience can barely understand.
Those voices are coming from a bona fide police scanner attached to the sound system. The audience and cast are hearing for the first time the live-action dispatches that will act as the collective suggestion for the improvised Honor Student Breakfast is: HSBPD. Silently, we're hoping this doesn’t devolve into a Reno 911! fantasy audition or, far worse, a Police Academy rip-off.
Citizens everywhere will feel safe knowing HSBPD is neither of those things, and a good deal more. In a city where long-form improv sets occur about as often as petty thefts, HSB distinguish themselves by following through on their premise with cute quasi-costumes, solid commitment to theme--the show never leaves the cop universe and the 20% of the dispatch that is intelligible gets proper treatment--and, most importantly, top-notch scene work. Under the direction of Jared Jeffries, the actors cover each other like cops on a beat, arresting the audience with likeable characters, grounded scenes and animalistic listening skills.
Opening act Electric Lunchbox do a formidable job, but it might be worth it to let Honor Student Breakfast take the full hour and treat the audience to an even richer exploration of their fun world.
Honor Student Breakfast is: HSBPD runs Thursdays at 10:30 p.m. through July 21st at Second City’s de Maat Theatre in Piper’s Alley, 1608 N. Wells St., 3rd floor.