By Jael Wong
I headed down to Lunchbox Theatre, Mon., Sept. 8 for the very first time to catch The Wild Guys, the company’s latest production. In all my years in Calgary–14 and counting–I had never been to Lunchbox Theatre and, as I soon discovered, I’ve been missing out.
It’s interesting I had never been there before, especially since I was so familiar with the ads they’ve had in city buses. Those ads kept me entertained during many a bus ride. Sad but true.
I’ll never forget the ad listing various things that could happen in an hour, such as, "Technically, a man could make love eleven times in an hour," and "An hour in the oven won’t render a roast salmonella free." The punchline? An hour of your time is better spent watching a play at Lunchbox Theatre. Yes indeed.
At the forefront of my mind as I settled into my seat was how they were going to present a self-contained play in under an hour? How would they say everything that needed to be said? The lights dimmed, the play began and very quickly any doubts I may have had were dispelled. The play was not only funny, thanks to a clever script and superb performances, but also gave the audience some food for thought.
The opening scene features four characters talking on their phones in separate locations. Each explains to the person on the other end why he is going away for the weekend. Andy, a men’s movement advocate, is taking his men’s group away for a weekend of renewal. Randall, a cynical lawyer, says he should go because Andy is a big client of his. Rolling his eyes, he tells his girlfriend the trip is a men’s sensitivity weekend. Robin, an eager New Ager, is excited to be going on what he describes as a soul exploration weekend. Last but not least, Stewart, a grocer, thinks his boss wants to talk to him about a promotion. He thinks the weekend will consist of drinking beer and fishing.
Of course, the trip doesn’t turn out the way any of them expected. They lose their way and discover they don’t have any food with them. Lost and hungry, they begin to get on each other’s nerves.
I loved the way Randall (Robert Klein) rolled his eyes every time Robin went on about things like his talking crystal. Robin (Christian Goutsis) is probably a member of just about every self-discovery group there is. It was amusing to see him rave about all the fluffy stuff he’s involved in, and even more amusing to see the look on Randall’s face as he did so.
At one point, Robin describes a ritual he was a part of in which partakers erected a fifteen-foot penis-shaped totem pole and had a naming ceremony around it.
"Let me guess," responds Randall sarcastically. "You named it ‘Dick.’"
Stewart (Grant Linneberg) is funny simply because he doesn’t get anything. Andy (Tim Koetting) merely tries to keep the peace. I don’t think I can adequately describe how funny this play is,you just have to see it for yourself.
The Wild Guys is not all about laughs though, the play also gives the audience something to think about–everyone has a story. Even Andy, the anchor of the group, is not as together as he seems.
At one point, Robin tells the others he joined a men’s group to find out what it means to be a modern, responsible man, only to find himself labeled anti-feminist. While I appreciated the insights the play offered, I was grateful they weren’t dwelt upon. When the dialogue turned serious, something funny would happen to brighten things up again, so the overall mood was light.
The play was written by Andrew Wreggitt and Rebecca Shaw, a husband and wife writing team residing in Calgary. The Wild Guys won them the Solange Karsh Award for best play in the 1992 National Playwrighting Competition. It has since been made into a film. Look for it at this year’s Calgary International Film Festival.
The Wild Guys runs Monday to Saturday from 12:10 to 1:00 P.M. until Sat., Sept. 27.