Every year, Thrilling Adventure Hour is one of the events I most look forward to at SF Sketchfest. While this year was no exception, I did hit a most unfortunate snag that nearly ruined the event for me: Bay Area traffic. The early performance of the show started promptly at 7:00pm Saturday night at Marines’ Memorial Theatre, and usually it runs for about ninety minutes. Sadly, while I left with plenty of time to spare, an accident on I-80 backed up traffic from Berkeley all the way across the Bay Bridge, so by the time I parked, schlepped to the theatre, got my ticket and found my seat, I was a whopping forty-five minutes late. The first note I made: “I missed half!” Even worse, I was wrong. This year, for whatever reason, the show was shorter than normal.
I took my seat during one of the ‘commercial breaks’ between segments, which was probably for Workjuice Brand Coffee, but I didn’t catch it in time. I only know that it featured James Urbaniak and John DiMaggio and that the final punchline (for a joke I missed) was something about the Wright brothers. Okay, I thought, I missed a few bits. I should get the last two or three, and I’ll be fine. At least I didn’t miss the Doyles… (of “Beyond Belief,” my favorite of the sketches annually). Nearly immediately, the bittersweet news was announced: it was time for the final segment of the evening: “Beyond Belief.” With no time to get over the shorter-than-usual event and the fact that I’d missed everything but the finale, the sketch began with Frank (Paul F. Tompkins) and Sadie (Paget Brewster) Doyle relaxing in their country home. The episode was titled “Pray Lord to a Fish.”
“No one knows we’re here!”
“Let’s drink ourselves so silly that we don’t know it ourselves…”
Alas, there came a knock at the door. While they ignored it, it opened anyway: they’d forgotten they were in the country, where “nobody locks our door.” In came a damsel in distress, a mermaid named Pearl (Melanie Lynskey) requiring help for her boyfriend. Shocked that the help she needed was not of the supernatural sort, as is always the case when the pair are required at their city home, the Doyles reluctantly agreed to help her, following her outside. (Thus discovering the sun they quite likely hadn’t seen in quite some time, as well as a lake they seemingly didn’t know existed.) Discovering a “hideous lagoon-style creature” in the lake (Jason Ritter), they quickly learned that the creature in question is Pearl’s boyfriend, Edgar. As the story unfolded, an 11-person band of “woodland creatures” filed on stage to punctuate various moments with song. Perturbed by their staring, Sadie suggested they “probably want drinks!”
“They can’t have them,” Frank assured her. “They don’t have lips!”
Edgar’s plight was a strange one: he had once been a man who’d fallen for mermaid Pearl. When she’d kissed him, she’d transformed him to the lagoon creature so he could live with her in the lake. When Sadie tried to save him, her mouth-to-mouth transformed him back to a man – a naked man. “Edgar, you taste like a shrimp cocktail!” Apparently, Sadie’s “true love’s kiss” had the power to transform him, and though Edgar asked if her marriage to Frank was serious, telling her she was “very pretty,” Sadie shrugged off his advances. “Thank you. I already know!” The woodland creatures urge Edgar to go back to Pearl, insisting that they were very invested in the romance of the two. Their love story briefly explained, someone pointed out to Edgar that he was, in fact, still standing there stark naked. (A “woo!” from the crowd threatened to break Jason Ritter from character, cracking him up.)
One of the best things of the segment was the constant poking fun at Disney’s The Little Mermaid with the singing woodland creatures and especially Pearl’s suggestion that the word “fork” was always the word Edgar searched for whenever he momentarily trailed off. While Edgar lamented missing things like paper, the silence of air versus the constant sound of rushing water, as well as cake, sweaters, and stereos, none of which are the same when submerged in water, Pearl insisted she was “not a fan” of this air he missed so much. “We don’t have any paper,” Sadie admitted. “But have some of this: it’s called drinks!” Compared to his expectations and all he’d built it up to be, it wasn’t enough. Perhaps Edgar missed lake life after all? He turned to Pearl: “kiss me.”
“Your love is so…” she trailed off.
“That she knows!” When the woodland animals once again broke into song, their words made it clear that they would hurt Edgar if he didn’t go back to Pearl. “Apologize, Edgar.”
“And mean it!”
“Sincere is the easiest thing to be under duress!” Edgar admitted.
“Love means having to say you’re sorry,” Sadie agreed. While Pearl told Edgar he didn’t have to say he was sorry, he pledged his “true and pure and lazy” love to her anyway.
“Nearly there!” Sadie encouraged.
“Love is leaning into what’s comfortable, even after it’s not fun anymore.”
“Love is settling!” When the two kissed, Edgar was once again transformed back to his lake creature self. He picked up Pearl, saying she was “heavier out of the water.”
“Don’t talk,” she urged. And with a splash, they were gone. The woodland creatures again broke into song, creating enough of a diversion for the Doyles to sneak away back to the solace of their home. (“Run, Sadie!”) Next week’s episode: “Finding Screamo.”
While I hoped that somehow another segment would magically appear, instead it was only the curtain call for all the many talented funny people I’d already missed. I did notice, though, that there were far less players than I’m used to seeing, and this year, no Colin Hanks or Busy Philipps (among others). All in all, though, it was still worth getting myself to Marines’ Memorial just for the Doyles. For now, I’ll just have to settle for looking forward to the full-length show again next year.