SF Sketchfest Review: Workjuice Theatre with Paget Brewster, Craig Cackowski, Mark Gagliardi, Marc Evan Jackson, Hal Lublin, Busy Philipps, Paul F. Tompkins and more, 1/9/2016 at Brava Theater Center

by Stacy Scales on January 11, 2016

The Thrilling Adventure Hour reincarnated = Workjuice Theater

The Thrilling Adventure Hour reincarnated = Workjuice Theater. (Photo cred: thanks to Tommy Lau photography!)

This year would have been my fifth consecutive year watching The Thrilling Adventure Hour at SF Sketchfest. Sadly, it seems I must finally admit that I’m a terrible podcast fan. I adore this show, but I’m a little behind. Ok, a lot behind: what I mean is, I never listen to podcasts. Like, ever. So that’s how far behind I am. It’s always been enough for me to keep up with this show whenever I could catch it live (which, as it happened, was once annually here in the city at Sketchfest). So okay, I didn’t know that there were ashes from which something new could be reborn, but mercifully, I needn’t waste too many tears: Workjuice Theatre definitely scratches the itch withdrawals from TAH might have given me. (Am I making any sense? Translation: I didn’t know that one of my favorite shows had ended, but a similar show with even same bits and characters has taken its place, so yay! Anyway, the show may have a new name, but I was just as happy as always to find myself back in my usual seat at Brava Theater Center last Saturday night to watch Craig, Hal, Marc, Mark, Paget, Paul and the gang!

The night began (as will I) with what seemed unrelated, yet ultimately appropriate: guest performer Rhett Miller’s cover of David Bowie’s “Life on Mars.” The performance was lovely, provided you were able to block out the random laughter of the girl in the middle of the theatre who seemed to think it was some kind of joke rather than a tribute, and as a massive, lifelong fan of Ziggy Stardust, I soaked up every second of it. Like Miller himself, I had no way of knowing that his tribute would be so poignant by the time I wrote this review. Rest in peace, Mr. Jones, and thank you, Rhett Miller, for a lovely requiem.

IS there life on Mars? (Photo cred: thanks Tommy Lau photography!)

IS there life on Mars? (Photo cred: thanks Tommy Lau photography!)

The first sketch of the evening was an episode of Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars called “That’s No Honeymoon,” starring Marc Evan Jackson in the title role, as well as Mark Gagliardi as Croach, and Janet Varney as the new Mrs. Nevada (Ginny West). After the theme song, the episode revolved around a fight between the new Mr. and Mrs. over something she’d said just as they’d been married, and whether or not it indicated she might be a “Jupiter spy.” Adding to the scene were Felton (Craig Cackowski), the barkeep (Joshua Malina), and the Red Plains Rider (Busy Philipps). After a lot of misunderstandings and hurt feelings, everyone eventually left the Nevadas alone to enjoy their honeymoon, just in time for Ginny to confirm that she was, in fact, a Jupiter spy…

Up next was an episode of Colonel Tick Tock, starring Gagliardi and Hal Lublin. The storyline revolved around a missing child named Patrick and included Bob McCrumbs (Paul F. Tompkins) and “Springhill Union Jack the Ripper” (John Ross Bowie). Amidst much confusion, the poor child hasn’t yet been found, but the episode concluded with a suggestion that perhaps he has been “refurbished” into McCrumbs, or even the colonel… (I admit, I’ve maybe seen this particular sketch once before, and it doesn’t do much for me. It may be because I’m less familiar with it than with others, or it may just not be my bag, I don’t know. Either way, it was fine, but nowhere near as much fun as the ones I’ve really come to love over the years.)

Before the final sketch of the evening, John Roderick graced the stage to perform “In a Shanty in Old Shanty Town,” after which the beginning of the end was, as usual, an episode of Beyond Belief called “Straight on Till Morning,” featuring Frank (Tompkins) and Sadie Doyle (the marvelous Paget Brewster), whose evening of drinking was interrupted, this time by a Pan (Bowie), his “best friend” Corey Slightly III (Malina), and the Poppins (Philipps, whose Poppins is quite a bit more diabolical than Julie Andrews’, what with her penchant for consuming the full hearts of the children nearest her), to name a few. One of the highlights of this particular scene was Philipps’ lovely Poppins references, including to the way she feasts on children’s hearts “in the most delightful way,” her admission that she was “awfully fond of offal,” and “I kill them and devour their hearts!” (The latter made the crowd go quite nuts, really.) “Gruesome…but catchy!” Frank admitted, as Pan and Poppins fought over Slightly, who was a child when first he met Pan, but has become and adult unbeknownst to himself. Eventually, Slightly’s father appeared (Roderick) to add his two cents to the situation, insisting that his son should let his soul slowly die behind a desk somewhere, as most sensible, respectable, “successful” adults do. Slightly (the third) wanted to please them all, which was impossible: his father wanted to “leave him to a life of quiet desperation, like all other Slightlies,” while Pan wants his soul and Poppins wants to eat his heart. Eventually, Frank and Sadie decided they would have to “play the Solomon,” which backfired as all realized they could take what they wanted from Slightly and still be satisfied: he could live a sad, joyless life without need for his heart or his soul… The Doyles gave him a clock in the shape of a heart that they’d recently purchased at an auction, which they suggest he’ll be able to use in place of his actual ticker, thus satisfying everyone, including Slightly the Third, who really wants only to please his father and play with Pan. Finally, the Doyles were left alone in their hotel suite once again with their drinks, as they prefer to be…

As usual, the evening ending with a curtain call and a song, each player taking his or her bow. In addition to already mentioned players were Cayenne Chris Conroy, Jordan Katz & Philip Krohnengold, John Hodgman, and Adam Savage. The final song was “Love Ain’t No Billy Goat,” and was a fun, perfect ending to another lovely night with the WorkJuice players. The crowd clapped along as the players danced, Tompkins did the robot, and as always, I left looking forward to the next time I can watch.

Stacy Scales

California native. Word nerd. Music lover. Linguaphile. Amateur foodie. Basketball junkie. Travel enthusiast. Future therapist.

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