It all started with a cigarette. You never know what sort of wise guys you’ll meet at the Edinburgh Fringe, and in this case, last week I happened to bump into two promising New York comics sharing a smoke outside Stramash, who told me about their show at the Hill Street Theatre: Hey, That’s My Wife!.
The two leads, Matt and Joey, who I met, have been honing their craft in New York for a couple of years now. But this is their first Fringe, and so they wanted to do something that was representative of their particular comedic strain whilst also fitting into the stage show format, as opposed to just a regular stand-up set. Matt and Joey’s regular demeanour had an air of a comedy double act about it already, riffing off of each other naturally throughout our brief conversation, and so I figured their real-life chemistry would most likely translate onto the stage in the same way – I’m glad to say it does.
The pitch for Hey, That’s My Wife! is that it parodies those schlocky 1950’s American movies where the leading men are handsome yet brutish and the women are beautiful yet vapid, and the whole plot hinges around something to do with sex, capitalism and cigarettes – lots of cigarettes. Our two heroes are Charlie Moore and Roger Sloan, two advertising execs who both suspect the other is sleeping with their wife, leading to the usual over-the-top cliches that follow from such a tried and tested set of circumstances.
HTMW! is both a homage and a tongue-in-cheek takedown of what makes these movies tick, delivered with enough authenticity to carry it through the necessary plot points whilst also allowing room for ridiculous set pieces, like where Charlie and Roger shoot manically at a roach in their bosses office, complete with wild west ricochet sound effects.
It’s rather ironic in a way that the female characters are the weaker part of the production. The script of course demands this, the play itself trying to poke fun at the idea that women were never given particularly meaty roles in these productions, relegated to props with legs, put on the poster to sell tickets to perverts. There is a scene in HTMW! that attempts to remedy this, by having the wives (Hanes and Rivadeneira) discussing their favourite schools of philosophy with impressive depth, clearly meant to be a reversal from how these movies normally go. In a wider sense though, perhaps there was an opportunity missed here, to let the female performers shine even more, as they aren’t quite given as many comedic beats as the two leads or even the heroes boss (O’Toole) who makes Sloan and Moore look quite tame in their sensibilities.
HTMW! really gets into a good swing by the time it comes to an end, gaining a good amount of laughs from the audience that lasted even as we made our way out of the venue. There is, admittedly, a rather shaky start, but this is necessary I think to establish the ridiculousness of the world Sloan and Moore inhabit before this world is completely torn apart by their zany escapades.
The performers give off a sense that they love what they’re doing, and despite the fact they are thousands of miles from home, working with a limited budget, and playing to a smaller crowd than they really deserve, you can see the passion that they have for their craft, and it will definitely be interesting to see what Good Crack productions come up with next.
So next time you’re strutting along the mile, or 3 hours into a sweat session at Mash House, perhaps strike up a chat with the folks standing next to you – what else is the Fringe for if not meeting new people, and seeing some good entertainment?
Hey, That’s My Wife! is at Hill Street Theatre (Dunedin Theatre) August 14-28 at 17:50.
Image courtesy of Hey, That’s my Wife! , provided to The Student as press material.