Once again, off the WALL Productions and Carnegie Stage have succeeded in showcasing a performance unlike any other. This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, a one- woman show created and performed by Heidi Nagle, written by Nagle, Matt Butoryak and Virginia Wall Gruenert. This show, an hour long sketch comedy act, is a different kind of show for me. As I filed into my seat I was surprised by how full the theater was. I have seen some pretty incredible performances at this venue and Thursday was the first time I’ve ever seen the seats filled. The majority of people in the audience were young- late twenties, maybe early 30’s, which I love. A youthful audience makes me anticipate a show full of life.
As the stage lights dimmed the projection screen illuminated and we, the audience are suddenly at the bar, having a beer. Everything looks a little blurry, kinda sideways and swaying; Ha! We are drunk, no it’s Heidi Nagle. Then, Tech Crew member, Jenna Campbell insists Heidi hurries to the theater. We follow Heidi and Jenna down Main Street from Riley’s Pour House to Carnegie Stage. We stop in route to pet a cute dog, converse with a pervert, and pause on the bridge, overlooking the creek, and contemplate the jump down. Each time Heidi stops to mingle with various characters the audience cheers and laughs hysterically. I’m liking the use of mixed media and I think it’s a clever idea to film yourself stumbling drunkenly down Main Street, with an audience tagging along. It was funny when Nagle became so easily distracted by a cute puppy and when the creepy man in the car made reference to ‘Pokeballs’.
Once we ‘arrived’ at the theater we find out we are there for a viewing of Jurassic Park. Yes, I do mean the 1993 Steven Spielberg block buster film starring Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum. Nagle pulls up a chair in front of the screen, the film begins. She adds commentary and everyone in the audience laughs. She pops herself popcorn, the DVD skips and Nagle fills us in on what we missed; the audience laughs again. Nagle finally decides to stop playing the movie until the DVD player is fixed, henceforth the Interstitial Interviews begin. As the audience around me snorts with laughter I begin to wonder what I missed, did the joke go right over my head? Am I too old to ‘get it’? Then it hits me, the audience are Nagle’s friends, acquaintances and people familiar with her style of comedy, writing and quite possibly her background and this must be why everyone finds these stories so damn hysterical. I am not part of their circle therefore I am feeling a little lost.
Sometimes the interviews are funnier than the sketches that follow. I knew I was out of my element before the performance even began but by the time Nagle took her final bow and the audience was applauding uproariously, I had only one thought running through my head- what was that?
I admit I don’t love sketch comedy, generally speaking, but there have been times I’ve fallen to the floor from laughing so hard. Thursday night, not so much one of those floor hitting moments. All was not lost, the sketch with Billy the Puppet, Nagle telling us about her mom chaperoning her school trip to see Les Miserables on Broadway and the skit about hipsters were entertaining.
I’m disappointed I didn’t ‘get’ much of what was happening or find what everyone else was laughing uncontrollably over as funny. The meaning of the title, This Is Why We can’t Have Nice Things, never came into focus for me either. Though sketch comedy isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, I think we can all appreciate it when something other than just a play is brought to the stage.
Special thanks to off the WALL for complimentary press tickets. Unfortunately, This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things had its final performance last night. For more information about off the WALL Productions and what’s happening at Carnegie Stage, click here.