Around Town: Finding the fun side of Sin City

What happens in Vegas doesn’t necessarily stay in Vegas, as far as Sin City fans are concerned.

Social media lit up as brightly as the Strip since the launch of the weekly live improvised serial’s sixth season at Victoria Event Centre.

After coaxing laughs in locales from a Depression-era circus to outer space, its creators couldn’t resist setting it in the fabled town of the title this year.

The comic potential of Las Vegas during the Rat Pack era, with mobsters, showgirls, period jazz and martini-swigging gamblers, was obvious during Sin City’s 118th show last Tuesday.

The milieu seems appropriate, considering that performers being challenged to bring broadly sketched characters to life within an unscripted, unrehearsed story is a game of chance itself.

The anything-can-happen lunacy emerges at the Oasis Casino and Hotel, its attractions including three one-armed bandits created by set designer Joyce Kline, a blackjack table and the Camel’s Toe Show Lounge.

“The name of the show lounge actually came about onstage,” said director Ian Ferguson, who created the series with his wife, producer Kirsten Van Ritzen.

As narcissistic Hollywood actor Libby Montgomery, Van Ritzen, apparently channelling Catherine O’Hara at times, impulsively sang Fly Me to the Moon at one point.

“I love doing this. It’s my improv outlet,” said Morgan Cranny, the local comedian who plays casino boss Joey Calligari.

“I get to be the most powerful and misogynistic character, and people boo me, as they should.”

Other core players include Alan Penty as ex-boxer Rudy Bellini; Bill Nance as casino dealer Frankie Zane; Christine Upright as Irish gambler Fiona Olaconacher; Charlie DePape as casino accountant Bobby De Faro; Amy Culliford as starry-eyed small-town girl Peggy Sue McGee; and Robert Conway as lounge director Vincent Martino.

Tuesday’s cast also included Daniel Belkin as bellhop Jonsey Ford; Raylen Lanktree as junior showgirl Audrey; and Paul McKinnon as mentalist Confoundo.

“This is unlike any other kind of performing I’ve done. I love the nature of the long-form, playing the same character week after week,” said Conway.

DePape, a Victoria real-estate agent, said he enjoys the camaraderie and flexibility.

“I can’t really commit to any scripted work, but here if something comes up and I can’t show up, it’s fine,” he said.

Wearing a feathered headdress, Lanktree, 19, appeared to be having a ball as the scantily clad showgirl.

“It’s so over-the-top,” said Lanktree, who insists she did not watch Showgirls for inspiration.

“That would be uninspiring, I think,” quipped Cranny.

Other guest stars this season include drag queen Gouda Gabor, magician Shayne King, children’s entertainer Kathryn Popham and Karen Brelsford, the California-based Sin City alumnus who returned to play a showgirl during the Feb. 16-21 “prime time” preview week.

“We support and challenge each other in a good way when we have that element of trust,” said Van Ritzen.

“But when we have anyone as a guest we support them. We want them to shine.”

Adds Cranny: “We pull them out from under the bus.”

This year’s marathon previews — akin to binge-watching your favourite TV show — gave viewers who might not have seen Sin City Tuesday nights a chance to discover it, said Ferguson.

“And actors instead of having to wait a week between shows could develop their characters faster.”

Susan Traill, who learned about Sin City through her 19-year-old son Joseph, an improv performer himself inspired by Penty, his former Vic High drama teacher, is a diehard fan.

“It’s a place you can go and laugh once a week,” she said. “Laughter is the best medicine.”

For more information: sincityimprovserial.com

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mreid@timescolonist.com

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