(l-r) Andy Geletka, Daniel Gaytan, Kevin Dolan, Mary Doctor (seated), Laura Bowers. Photo by Alex Perez.
By Jonald Jude Reyes
When problems grow weary on a person’s mind, sometimes the last string of hope is to just wish. “I wish I would win the lotto,” or “I wish the right person would come along,” or “I wish Kevin James would make another Mall Cop!” Maybe that last one is a bit far-fetched, but in the Comedy Clubhouse’s WISHIN’ CONTROL, it’s certainly a thought (for the sake of Kevin James). WISHIN’ CONTROL is a 90-minute performance presented in the style of improv but showcased in the form of a play. Tangentially told in a manner where each scene connects to the next, the audience will see solid scene work, innovative object work, and strong relationships. In the city where improv blood runs thick, WISHIN’ CONTROL shows how storytelling can carry the weight of a play without the bells & whistles of a major theater production.
Opening on a scene where Anna (Laura Bowers) and her grandmother, Nana (Nicole Perez), prepare for an interview in a car, we’re introduced to the style of this play when two supporting performers come out and object work their arms as windshield wipers to show that it’s raining outside. Transitioning from one scene to another, those same performers acting as windshield wipers then become the parents of a loser kid, Willy (Kyle Slagell). We follow Willy into the next scene where he’s picked on by a mean stranger, later revealed to be Dante (Daniel Gaytán), a mob boss. We’re shown a montage of scenes where Dante is a ‘bad boy’ (appropriately underscored by the theme song to the TV show “Cops”) — so bad that our next scene brings us to a courthouse where he’s being sent to jail. In jail, he meets an accountant (Andy Geletka) who reveals thru a flashback that he’s sent to jail due to his association with the mafia. Next, we’re brought to a water fountain which is embodied by two actors standing still like statues. Here, Nana & Anna are consoling each other on their continued hardships. After they walk off stage, Dante and the accountant enter to reveal that they’ve escaped from jail. After they converse over their next steps and exit, the fountain fixture comes alive to bring us to Wishin’ Control. Wishin’ Control is a secret headquarters location where all our wishes are brought to light and are either granted or denied. As the Wishin’ Control Chief (Billy Funk) makes each decision, he hears of a wish that could potentially alternate the future of the world. With only a cast of 8 and with this constant narrative laid out scene after scene, this spider web of a play keeps you guessing how everything connects.
When Wishin’ Control Chief explains this big impact of a wish to his boss, the Wish Master (Kevin Dolan), they know that the only person that can fix this problem is Agent W (Mary Doctor). We meet Agent W working undercover amongst terrorists. Here, Director Mike Abdelsayed uses slow motion and music to demonstrate how fast Agent W can kill. Her moves can’t be caught. Then Agent W is whisked away to the bigger mission in hand.
Abdelsayed has assembled a solid cast of performers with extensive experience in the sketch & improv community. Their commitment to object and character work makes the play easier to follow. With so many scenes and characters to pay attention to, the actors utilize different voices, physicalities, and mannerisms for the audience keep track.
A play like this can truly be a marathon of a performance for an actor but this one keeps it light with fun scenarios. If you’re from Chicago and have seen your fair share of improv & sketch, WISHIN’ CONTROL can bring you back to those roots of good object work and strong relationships. As theatergoers, we often expect so much of our experience with intricate technical design and lavish sets. The Comedy Clubhouse has presented a theatrical experience using nothing more than solid acting by skilled actors.