Thursday, July 24, 2014

Jet City's 'Wise Guys' - Squeaky Clean Show with F-Bombs

It seems counter-intuitive for Jet City Improv, known for family-friendly fare, to present an F-bomb riddled production, but strangely, “Wise Guys” works. This isn’t to advocate bringing children to the Soprano-esq show which is currently running on Thursday and Friday nights through August 22nd. It's just to say that the presentation is a lot less distasteful than one would expect. At least it was the night I attended.

“Wise Guys” is the latest original feature-length improv comedy show where only the theme, fight scenes and story basics are scripted. Inspired mafia movies and TV shows like “The Godfather” and “The Sopranos,” “Wise Guys” follows the rise and fall of the next infamous mob boss, from the first carnation in his lapel to his final date with destiny and the audience is in on the creation too.  “Every audience at ‘Wise Guys’ will be responsible for deciding the how the family makes their money, who’s in charge, and who can’t be trusted. From there, the improvisers will take the family through a decades-long story of outrageous hit jobs, rival gangs, love and betrayal,” says Jet City.

Review of Jet City Improv's "Wise Guys."
The cast of "Wise Guys." (Jet City)
"I love the genre because the characters are so big and complicated,” says creator and director Jeremy Brown. “The genre gives permission to make a known criminal and murderer into a hero. There will be people in the audience wondering why they are pulling for a criminal, but they will still want to see him come out on top. I love that."

Due to the play’s theme, Jet City has allowed swearing to be part of the show, but ironically, the storyline was very tame. Does a theatre have to use foul language to get its point across? Probably not. Here, it is basically thrown in as a humor element as most mafia-themed movies and TV shows are filled with it. Some of the actors even appeared uncomfortable uttering so many f-words.

Review of Jet City Improv's "Wise Guys."
The standouts of the show: Jen Rizor, Joe Koenen and
Phill Arensberg.
As each show is made up on the spot, no two are completely alike, so giving a review can be mis-leading. However, compared to other shows I’ve seen at Jet City, “Wise Guys” ran just over one hour in length, which is much shorter than usual. And while the cast is usually great, this particular cast seemed to struggle keeping the story going. With that said, it still was a very enjoyable evening in the air-conditioned theatre in north Seattle. Highlight performers were Joe Koenen, Phill Arensberg and Jen Rizor, with Koenen owning every scene he appeared in. Koenen has the uncanny ability to change character personalities in seconds. The rest of the cast includes Mike Glissmeyer, Katy Nuttman, David Rollison, Destiny Sund, Kat Wertzler and Dan Zertuche.

“Wise Guys” runs Thursday and Friday nights from July 10 to August 22 at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 for general admission and $12 for students, seniors, and military personnel and TPS members (with ID). Tickets can be purchased online or at the door. The theater is located at 5510 University Way in Seattle.