REVIEW: SNAPSHOTS FROM ARMAGEDDON – Odd, Sometimes Uneven, But Definitely Entertaining

Published on March 27, 2013 by   ·   No Comments

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Snapshots from Armageddon, the Norwegian-style cabaret show featuring original work created in collaboration by the show’s cast and two directors Howie Korsmo and Matt Hegdahl, is a strange experience to be sure, but it’s the good kind of strange.  It’s like finding a really bizarre documentary on Netflix: at the end, you’ve laughed a bit, you’ve spent a few moments confused or disbelieving, there were certainly times when things fell a little flat, but as the credits roll you realize that you’ve generally enjoyed yourself and you don’t feel like the time you’ve spent was wasted.  It’s kind of like that, and it’s definitely not like other productions you’ve seen around town.

0000000000 Arm MainThe show features a series of sketches a la Saturday Night Live,many featuring recurring characters or storylines.  As the title suggests, many feature characters who are in a post-apocalyptic world (or a world facing the possibility of apocalypse), but other skits feature more mundane matters like a couple trying to have some “private time” amid constant interruptions, the type of entertainment that might be found in an oil patch bereft of women, a harmless game at a sleepover that goes terribly wrong, and the prejudices faced by a dentist in a world that glamorizes “real” doctors.

One of the strangest elements of the show, but also one of the most entertaining in its own quirky way, was the Minnkota Four, a barbershop quartet of older gentlemen who take the stage occasionally between skits to sing comedic songs with a Norwegian bent: one song about the “Hot Shot from Duluth” (pronounced “Dah-Lute” in a simultaneously cheesy and charming exaggeration of a Norwegian accent) spices up the traditional barbershop harmony, another song celebrates the odorous Norwegian specialty lutefisk, and a little ditty about a small town baseball team with players like Sven and Hilda and a “sweet young Swede named Sue.”  The quartet seems so out-of-place with the more modern and often edgier material of the skits and it’s not clear exactly how or why they fit (except that the show is billed as a “Norwegian-style” cabaret – what exactly that means or how it might be different from a typical sketch show is never explained – and their content brings an explicit tie to Norway to the show) but it hardly seems to matter – the four are downright adorable and it’s hard not to be taken in by their performances.

0000000000 Arm TrekWhile the show’s connection to Norwegian culture is pretty vague, it does sit pretty firmly rooted in another culture of sorts – that of science fiction aficionados.  Fans of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica will have the most “ins” to the show, but there are also several references to the original Star Trek and even a brief visual reference to Dr. Who that is all but buried in a skit about an infomercial attempting to cash in on the coming devastation.  Indeed, there may be additional references that I missed, since these three shows are my main touchstones for the sci fi genre.  My geek street cred was primarily earned through comic books and superhero stuff.  But I do have enough sci fi knowledge to “get” why Jane is so uncomfortable in a conversation about frakking in the oil fields that centers on deep penetration and the fluids involved; when a spaceship crew member shows up in a red shirt, I’m pretty sure I know what’s going to happen to him.  I was worried that the show would fall flat for people without this subculture’s insider knowledge, and it certainly provides another layer of meaning for those who are initiated, but there is enough there for the unenlightened to still get a good chuckle at many of the situations and characters.

0000000000 Arm FrakThere are some technical problems that make the transitions between many of the sketches feel clunkier and more drawn out than necessary, and the cast are certainly put through their paces with costume changes and juggling set pieces.  The moments when the barbershop quartet go up and down the two steps to the stage are slightly terrifying.  The writing could be tightened up and the show relies pretty heavily on sight gags and surface humor without any significant depth, but there is some cleverness to be found (the use of a Simon game through several sketches is pretty entertaining and builds nicely through the run of the show) and overall the whole experience is an entertaining one, even if you aren’t a hardcore sci fi junkie.  So say we all.

(Snapshots from Armageddon has another weekend of performances, Friday and Saturday April 5 and 6, at the Firehall Theatre.  The show starts at 9:30 pm and tickets are $8, available at the Theatre before the show.  This production is the third installment of the new “Late Night Theatre” series.)

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