THE WEDGE — The Minneapolis improv group M4W takes its name from the personal ad shorthand for “man seeking woman.”
Where are they looking? Often, these days, on Craigslist. The website’s Missed Connections page is where the lovelorn leave messages with subject lines like “Dreadlocks at 46th and Chicago bus stop — W4M” or “Cute blonde barrista — M4W” in hopes the stranger who is the object of their infatuation might recognize him or herself and respond.
Missed Connections postings usually contain all the essentials of an improv prompt: a sketch of the scene, physical descriptions of the main characters and the piquant blend of emotions — desire, hope, lust, desperation — that inspires that kind of shot-in-the-dark approach to dating.
“The best part is they [the audience] laugh before we even start doing anything because the missed connections tend to be just so … weird,” said Jordan Bainer, one member of the M4W.
The trio performs every Monday night in September at Bryant-Lake Bowl. It’s “Cheap Date Night” at the restaurant, when it offers a package deal for couples that includes food, wine and bowling.
M4W started out on the HUGE Theater stage, where in late 2011 Bainer, recently arrived from Chicago, found himself in an improv class with Casey Haeg. The two met local actor and improviser Joe Halvarson a few months later, and the three have performed together as M4W for about a year. They spent about half that time on HUGE’s rotating Wednesday night schedule before a promotion to Friday night this spring.
Every M4W performance begins with a randomly selected Missed Connections submission read aloud to the crowd. Bainer said not even the M4W players know what they’re in for; their improv coach forwards a few recent Craigslist postings to the theater tech ahead of time.
Bainer said he and his M4W partners are all fans of “really, really real improv,” and they use their 45–60 minute sets to explore who their characters are, what makes them tick and why, for instance, they might respond to a stranger’s internet posting.
“There are these really heartfelt moments that happen,” Bainer said. “I think our goal is, obviously, to make people to laugh, but also to get people to also say ‘aw’ or react emotionally, because that’s the fun part.
“I means, some of the best comedy is the stuff where you’re really sad and then you get that one … line or that one little thing that totally breaks the tension. And people go crazy because they care about the characters.”
M4W performs 7 p.m. every Monday night in September at Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St. Tickets are $5. Doors are at 6 p.m. 825-8949. bryantlakebowl.com