Comedy is not all funny jokes and sitcom deals. The vast bulk of working, on the road comedians lead unstable, often bitter, and sometimes utterly depressing lives. Haven Productions explores this dark underbelly of the profession in their blazing good production of Thomas Ward’s International Falls at Water Tower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Fringe Festival.
Bradley Jones directs this engrossing two-actor peek into the lives of a “burned-out standup comedian and a hotel desk clerk.” Tim (Ward) and Dee (Sherry Jo Ward) are in the midst of an ill-advised one-night stand after Tim’s subpar show at a Holiday Inn in International Falls, Minnesota. They fall into bed with each other, but mostly into each other’s minds, as they riff on comedy, married life, religion, and parenthood.
Mr. Ward as a man who has been doing comedy “way too long” embodies the self-hating, beat down stylings of a Louis C.K. in the body of a doughy Jason Segel (he does the whole show in his Jockeys). It is as poignant, authentic, and lived-in a performance as one is likely to see. His routines, interspersed throughout the play, further the story, yet stand on their own as short bits of “bored and angry” hilarity.
Ms. Ward plays the hotel employee with her own aspirations to get in the business. She is just as funny and vulnerable (in her own way) as Tim is, and intriguing to boot.
This play tells the truth, in all of its stark ugliness, taking all of the best parts out of comedies of every form, and making a real piece of dramatic art in the process.