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Offhand Remark

The next level of improv classes began Tuesday. Faces known and unknown are there, talking a little too fast, a little too sharply. There are moments of eyes hunting, mental wheels turning as limits are sought, and then the jokes get easier and faster. Even the dull people are sharp here.

Class is snap fast: throw words, throw three words, walk opposite and turn. Deliver a scene in three lines: where, who, how, why? I don’t buy it; I’ll buy that. Is Timmy in a well? Timmy is the dog driving the spaceship, avoiding pirates. This all makes perfect sense.

The Center House echoes with municipal warmth, an elevator that doesn’t close, a wiry old black guy hauling a backpack and laughing with a cleaning lady. A sculpture has been rubbed to fine chocolate smoothness by every hand since 1975. Shouts and the sound of juggling pianos dropped comes from other improv rooms.

When class is over, a girl reveals where the stairway is. She asks me if I’m going to school, what I’m studying. I’m too shocked to be suave: how old does she think I am? I’m a longtime grownup, I say, got a job and everything. She laughs, a little.

Outside it is the close dark of the city and Christmas music still plays.

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