Stories of our lives
A long time ago, CBS had a prime time special called Everybody Has a Story. Host Steve Hartman would throw a dart at a map on a wall, and whatever town the dart hit, he and his crew would drive there, find a random name in a local phone book, and call that person to ask if he and his crew could come record that person’s story. It was a marvelous program because everyone he interviewed ended up having a remarkable story—from the illegal immigrant to the guy who kept a mummy in his garage.
Everyone has a story to tell, no matter how small, and some of them can be unexpectedly resonant, profound and downright hilarious. Ten years ago, local actor, director and playwright Bud Perry decided that everyone should have a chance to tell theirs. His idea became The Untamed, the sketch comedy show 10 years in the making that has finally made its way to the Brüka stage.
The nine-member cast helped to write the 99 total sketches that comprise The Untamed—as did Perry and a few other local theater talents. Some of the sketches last only a minute or less while others may last up to 10 minutes or more. They run the gamut from full-fledged plot to tiny vignette, and their content ranges from the comically absurd to the surprisingly frank and serious. Subjects may include Donald Trump (duh), dating, sex, religion, drug use, food porn, crazy work situations, aging parents and even the drinking laws in Utah.
For each show, 33 sketches are randomly selected and their titles put in a hat. Audience members are asked to draw from the hat, so the final arrangement of sketches is a mystery to all involved, creating the feeling that you’re watching improv comedy. Plus, the material is often self-referential, and the actors occasionally whisper asides to each other and audience members.
Directors Greg Klino and Stacy Johnson also perform in the sketches, and kudos must be paid to Johnson’s brave and somewhat brazen hot dog consumption. Local improv comedy masters Joseph Garton and Ian Sorensen of Utility Players fame are cast members as well, and Sorensen’s sketches “America’s Next Top Game Show Host” and “Criminal Crimes” were among my favorites of the show I saw. Also worthy of mention are Ryan Kelly, a longtime local actor/singer who can belt any line and create instant drama, and Riley McKinney, a relative newcomer whose soft voice and innocently wide eyes make her comedy all the funnier and more unexpected.
To be honest, the show felt long—33 sketches is a lot. And they’re not all winners, which is to be expected in a show such as this. Some felt like when you watch a Saturday Night Live skit that’s gotten away from the actors and isn’t working. Others simply spent too long getting philosophical and bummed me out.
Then, though, there were gems, these little two-minute wonders. And just consider the sheer talent of those nine people being able to dive, instantly, into any one of 99 sketches that could be randomly drawn from a hat and still getting most of the lines right and landing the jokes. That in and of itself is worth watching.