Theater Review - Talking During Movies

The vibe of a late-night rec room permeates the Basement Theatre, which perfectly suits its weekly improv show Cineprov! What better environment for a few hours of popcorn, beer and heckling bad movies?

Located on the bottom floor of an old office building near Chastain Park, the year-old Basement Theatre features straight-up improv comedy on Saturdays, but reserves Friday nights for movie mockery. The show’s three “cineprovisers” - Larry Johnson, Holly Loy and artistic director J* (pronounced “Jay Star” - really!) - offer running commentary on cinematic skunks, shown in their entirety on a wide-screen DVD projector.

Cineprov! mostly derides Grade Z films you’ve never heard of, such as Sisters of Death or Beneath the 12-Mile Reef. Currently the program also trashes box-office bombs connected to this summer’s blockbusters: Just days after the release of Batman Begins, Cineprov! skewered the chaotic camp of Batman & Robin with George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenegger. None of the film’s incessant phallic symbols or moments of homoerotic tension went unnoticed.

The performers don’t deny Cineprov’s similarity to the long-running, movie-spoofing TV show “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” but the live show fosters a slightly different feeling. The cable show’s cast rehearsed the jokes based on repeated viewings of the movies. Cineprov’s performers don’t see the film ahead of time, making the show truly improvised. If Cineprov’s jokes prove more hit-and-miss than on “MST3K,” its off-the-cuff spontaneity adds an extra charge.

Upcoming films on the chopping block include the 1977 Jaws rip-off Tentacles on June 24, and 1953’s The War of the Worlds (actually a pretty cool sci-fi flick) on July 1, to piggyback on the Spielberg/Cruise remake.

The Basement Theatre presents Cineprov! Fridays at 9 p.m. 175 W. Wieuca Road, Suite B3. $10. 404-277-3071.