'Good Boy' is a tale of pro-wrestling, redemption, and slapstick humor

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Dennis Anthony Nelson

Joey Hamburger is setting himself up to be the David Zucker of the Twin Cities theater scene, and that’s something you may not know we need until you see The Good Boy and the Kid at Red Eye Theater.

David Zucker is the creator of Airplane! and The Naked Gun; Hamburger shares Zucker’s proclivity for visual humor and gratuitous wordplay. For example, if you tell someone in a Hamburger play to “put your money where your mouth is,” he’s apt to respond, “I don’t eat money because it doesn’t taste good!”

Groan, right? Well, if you didn’t laugh at that one, don’t worry, because another joke is just a few seconds away. Intentionally overloaded dialogue is a Hamburger hallmark, and this intensely energetic show — produced by Sheep Theater — won’t slow down to make sure you catch everything.

It’s not precisely a parody, but The Good Boy mixes Rocky and The Karate Kid, with an unexpected dash of Inside Out. Hamburger wrote the show and stars as Good Boy Mick Owens, a pro wrestler who’s unexpectedly defeated by the villainous Johnny Outlaw Johnson (Josiah Thompson, looking like Steven Tyler in yoga pants). Flash forward a dozen years, when tween Tilly (Emily Wrolson) comes knocking at the door of Good Boy’s decrepit gym, looking for some training so she can participate in a tournament that will climax in a match against the Outlaw himself. What could go wrong?

Sure enough, a training accident hospitalizes Tilly, forcing Good Boy to come out of retirement to fight for her honor (and medical expenses). While our hero makes his comeback, the comatose Tilly navigates a fantasy land within her mind, fighting her own superego (Anna Larranaga) for control of her destiny.

Along the way, we meet characters ranging from stock types like the trainer (Jacob Mobley, who amusingly turns out to still have a few body-slams in him) to bizarro creations like the heroic Trashman (Nick Saxton, whose last goodbye gives a new meaning to the term “throwaway line”).

The combination of minimalist production and maximalist writing is hard to sustain, and the extended interludes inside Tilly’s head meander dangerously far from the plot we thought we were following. Ultimately, though, The Good Boy and the Kid powers through with comic creativity and genuine heart.

By the show’s end, almost every member of the 14-person cast is part of an epic melee that makes Human Combat Chess look like Uncle Vanya. Director Michael Torsch and design director Iris Rose Page, aided by Jack Tillman’s lighting and John Hilsen’s original score, achieve a surprisingly majestic effect for Tilly’s climactic leap into the ring.

The Good Boy and the Kid is one of those shows where you want to be onstage instead of in the audience, because everyone up there just seems to be having so damn much fun. Every performance, however silly, is also completely assured. From the ferocious Wrolson on down, everyone’s committed to the bit — even when the bit, as in Hamburger’s case, turns out to be a ball gag.

IF YOU GO:

The Good Boy and the Kid
Red Eye Theater
$15; 8 p.m.
Through Saturday
Tickets here

 


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