Sunday, June 19, 2016

HFF: THUG TUNNEL is all kinds of Cazy Wonderful

The cast of Thug Tunnel. Photo by Matt Kamimura

Thug Tunnel’s improv roots serve it exceedingly well. Comedians – especially those skilled in improvisation – approach comedy and comic timing differently than other actors do. Here the technique results not only in a show that is smart but exceptionally appealing as well. It’s a great example of what wild imagination, a commitment to getting a little down and dirty, and reveling in the joy of the art itself, can do. If you want to understand the kind of funny becoming more and more in demand today or to attract a younger audience, this show is a great example of what works.

Produced by the musical improv group Robot Teammate & The Accidental Party, the production grew out of an improvised sketch they performed at iO West. An audience member called out the title and these comedy thugs took the idea and ran with it. Cut to three years later and it has now been turned it into a clever one-hour scripted musical with genuinely unexpected lyrics (Molly Dworsky) and a score (Sam Johnides, with additional composition by Branson NeJame) that may seem simple but is deceptively complex.

Photo by Chris Sousa
The story follows a set of unfortunate characters trapped underground for more than twenty years and an enterprising young woman (Kat Primeau as Petunia) who wants to return to the earth’s surface, aided by her bestie (Chris Bramante) [pictured right]. Standing in the way are a one-handed villain (Dave Reynolds) and a coloratura queen (Nikki Muller) who rule the tunnels with an iron fist, a girl who glows mysteriously from within (Molly Dworsky), and a blind seer (Miles Crosman) who may or may not be a friend.

Directors Dworsky and Reynolds set the tone in the very first comic ensemble number and then follow through over and over again. Primeau’s choreography is feisty and executed ferociously by the company who are, in total, a pretty irresistible bunch.

The whole show is a little absurd and kind of wrong but so completely hilarious that you’ll be hooked from the get-go. Its rough edges actually benefit the production and there is a certain guerrilla intensity to it all that I loved. An extension is most certainly in the works and, if that happens, book it immediately.

One other note: this show does something else I haven’t seen before at the Fringe that other companies may want to consider in the future. Fans love stuff and fans love to buy stuff. Thug Tunnel is capitalizing on its popularity by selling swag before the show at very reasonable prices. Signed posters, stickers, patches, and T-shirt sales are a smart move to add a few dollars to the bottom line.

Center L-R: Chris Bramante, Kat Primeau and Dave Reynolds with the cast
Photo by Matt Kamimura

L-R: Kat Primeau, Chris Bramante, Miles Crosman and Molly Dworsky
Photo by Matt Kamimura

Dave Reynolds and Nikki Muller. Photo by Matt Kamimura

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