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  • Writer's pictureBen Kemper

Every Man Shift (for All the Rest)

A new work by Chad Ethan Shohet and Dakota Brown

Or: Like the Tempest, but with Weed, PBR, and (more) Phallus Jokes.

I have a new First to check off my list of audience experiences: getting “humped” by an actor in the midst of a performance. Granted, driven by the necessity of the plot, the cast was as stoned as a bunch of martyrs at the time, so there was no malicious intent and no offense taken. Indeed the creativeness of the psychoactive antics smoothed any feathers they might have ruffled. If you’re an Old Stick like myself, come prepared to park your scruples at the door and enjoy yourself watching some raucous creativity. If you’re not, just come and enjoy yourself.

Every Man Shift follows the last adventure of Miles (Dakota Brown), Dagg (Dylan Hughes), Eric (Luke Massengill) and “Fry” (Chad Shohet) on a backpacking trip through the northern Idaho wilderness before the long time friends are separated by Matrimony, Employment, Education, and, in Fry’s case, the lack of all these. While hashing through their various personal luggage they stumble across an old treasure map and are literally plunged into a struggle to survive against a trio of shape shifting Furies, (Jamie Nebeker, Svea VanAtter and Ellen Brisson-Capp), 19th century sorcerers, and a foul-mouthed wild woman (Anne McDonald).

Brown and Shohet’s play is sometimes cunning, sometimes vulgar but never flagging in its energy. There are no “hidden depths” to trick or challenge you with; their characters are always up in your face, (or in my case, lap), with some bizarre, but totally rational idea, gag or scream of terror. Yet as Free handed as both playwrights are, they keep the style of the show shifting through serious flashback, to comic representation of reality, to a parodies of “Lost” and back again. There’s always something to laugh at, some barb to wince over, and the liberal sprinkling of Shakespearian references more than make up for every time a character shows off “their new belt”.

Performed in The Red Room on Main Street, Home Grown Theater has had to squeeze a lot of antics into a very little space. They rely primarily on Projections, designed by Declan Kempe and Cody Gittings. These sometimes work very well, such as for highlighting out hero’s encounter with a bear, and sometimes very poorly, such as for a text message argument between Miles and Fry in a middle school memory. Far more effective, and far more gripping, is the live action work: including Kyle Johnson’s close quarters fight choreography, a rafting trip gone awry, and a truly side splitting scene involving some goats. In the theater, 3-D trumps 2-D anytime.

As for the performances themselves, each excel in a different aspect of Comedy. Seeing them work together is like watching a team of drunk, jovial superheroes, combining their powers for the greatest effect. Hughes is the Flash: he loves a punchline and makes Dagg a classic snarker. Massengill is Spider Man: he goes in for exaggerated expressions, a Hugh Laurie to Hughes’s Fry. Brown claims Superman: he outdoes himself in blown-up reaction, illustrating his feelings for all to see and gawk at . And Shohet takes up the cowl of Batman by virtue so ably making a fool of himself in truly generous terms, in little matters like pomposity (“sit for me”), to a diehard fastness to the Code of Bro’s. And to show their depth, each of our heroes can drop their tights and show us real men, waving goodbye to boyhood and grappling with serious issues of self.

Every Man Shift should be ventured into with caution. It’s a fast paced, live wire action at close quarters experience and you might catch a glimpse of more of the cast than you cared to see. The jokes are crude, the effects still tangled and the ending is a little slap dash. Yet for all that, it does have excellent comedy, great storytelling choices, innovative staging and trust set in an old classic. So I recommend you park your scruples and enjoy it (though if you’re sitting on the front row, a chastity belt may be a wise investment).

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