This particular show in the Twin Cities Horror Festival is a prime example of what they mean by the phrase “embarrassment of riches.” Gorilla Sandwich is a veritable who’s who of the local improv comedy scene. Jen Scott as Marie Curie, Nels Lennes as Ernest Shackleton, Levi Weinhagen as Harry Houdini, Joe Bozic and Dan Jaquette as Wilbur and Orville Wright, Fred Beukema as Rasputin, Dan Hetzel as Buffalo Bill, Jake Scott as Nikola Tesla, Samantha Baker Harris as Annie Oakley, and David Beukema as Daniel Pamberchot (butler for Shackleton with, as his name suggests, an uncomfortably enthusiastic relationship to chamberpots). If seeing all these names, and that weird grab bag of early 20th century personalities they represent, is all you need to know to convince yourself that you have to see this extremely odd comedy, then you don’t need to read the rest of the review, now do you?
“You have brought us all here to figure out what this pile of meat is?!”
If you’re curious what plot could possibly bring these disparate souls together, well, it has a similar knotty history. Gorilla Sandwich’s entry in the Twin Cities Horror Festival, Gentlemen, I Have Reason to Believe That One of Us is The Thing!, is (according to Fred Beukema’s blog on the subject) a 2014 parlor farce directed by Joe Bozic, written by Fred Beukema, Joe Bozic and Nels Lennes, based on a 2012 remark by Troy Zimmerman, which was based on the 1982 motion picture The Thing by John Carpenter, written by Bill Lancaster, remaking the 1951 motion picture The Thing From Another World by Christian Nyby but allegedly secretly by Howard Hawks, written by Charles Lederer, all of which had its genesis in the 1938 short story “Who Goes There” by John W. Campbell, Jr. Phew!
“The library. It locks from the outside, because I don’t trust books.”
So …The Thing kicks off when arctic explorer Shackleton brings back from Antarctica the mutant remains of some unknown life form. He invites that rogues gallery of historical figures to his parlor on his estate near Sheringham, Norfolk, UK, during a snowstorm in the Winter of 1910. Naturally both of these decisions go horribly wrong and The Thing begins taking over the bodies of its human hosts one at a time in order to kill off some of the other remaining humans. Fire (or the low tech wiggly banner of orange pieces of fabric that stands in for fire) is the creature’s only weakness. This of course also necessitates burning to death the unfortunate human who is the alien monster’s latest puppet of choice.
“I want you to science this.”
Also, everyone keeps accidentally shooting Rasputin, but not to worry, he keeps rising back up from the dead repeatedly until the end of the show. Other people don’t fare quite so well. In addition to Shackleton’s peculiar relationship with his manservant and chamberpots, everyone else also behaves with, shall we say, less historical accuracy than one might find on Wikipedia. Houdini loves to throw his voice and pop up unexpectedly in different places, annoying the hell out of everybody. Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley only feel comfortable if they can shoot at things. Nikola Tesla is extremely sensitive whenever anyone brings up Thomas Edison. Orville Wright is helpless without his brother Wilbur, to the point where he needs to be tucked in at night or he can’t go to sleep. Marie Curie has just as much trouble being taken seriously as any other professional woman in 1910. And so on… that, plus an alien infestation. Just another day on the Shackleton estate.
“I suggest we bide our time by praying for our souls.”
Now, all this is much more enjoyable, I’d wager, if you’ve actually seen The Thing From Another World or John Carpenter’s The Thing, but I can be your test case, since I must shamefacedly admit to having seen neither (I am an enormous scaredy cat, so I regularly stay away from horror movies like the plague). I still found it all strangely entertaining. It all felt a little loose and, well, improvisational but I’m fairly certain that was the point. Paradoxically, it also felt a little rushed, which I’m sure is a function of having to cram the sci fi plot and all ten actors and their various character quirks into a scenario that’s supposed to only last an hour. I got the distinct feeling that they were all quite relieved on opening night to have gotten all the way through it in front of an audience without stopping. There’s a lot of moving parts here and pulling it off I’m sure is no easy feat. Gentlemen! I Have Reason to Believe One of Us is The Thing! is a genial, amusing piece of entertainment. Just what you need to take the edge off after seeing some of the more traumatic pieces of theater in the festival.
3 Stars – Recommended
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