The show must go on, even if there are only six people in the house. But, despite the old adage, one wonders how much can be expected of an improvisational performer with a half-dozen people with whom to work. Lisa Jolley, she of mega-watt toothy smile and copious, curly hair, has been performing improv for 12 years, and this spontaneous cabaret, with the immeasurable help of keyboardist Michael Pollack, has a fine approach to that unpredictable form: Have patrons fill out cards and then use that information, as well as one-on-one interviewing, to create performance situations.
Not only is there not enough electricity in an audience numbering a single digit, but the suggestions given may also be sketchy at best. Jolley, on the night in question, took this reviewer's bizarre story of a former student's embarrassment and the role of writing and teaching, mixed it with a platonic couple who had not seen each other in years and stumbled upon this show, and thus weaved a story about a blossoming relationship, threatened by a psychologically suspect teacher-writer. (One presumes Jolley did not know I was reviewing.) My depiction as a nut job was actually rather enjoyable, but Jolley, strong on story structure skills and gifted with a clear, flexible voice, does not generally exhibit aptitude in dialogue or song lyrics. The former often becomes banal or repetitive, and the later, while usually not even rhyming, often strains for cohesiveness.
Some concrete suggestions for Jolley include changing her voice to differentiate characters rather than relying on holding up personal belongings, which she often fumbled, from audience members. Also she takes far too long in interviewing those in the house for more information. A piece in which she sings in a variety of musical styles, based on admittedly bland suggestions from the lighting-booth operator, yielded some laughs, and Pollock shows a command of virtually any musical form, from pop to polka. On a different night, it will be a different show, but one last remark remains: When the house is paltry, don't keep reminding those who show.
"Jolley on the Spot," presented by and at the Hudson Avenue Theatre, 6537 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Fri. 8 p.m. Jan. 18-Feb. 15. $15. (323) 571-2835, ext. 3.