By: Michael Martin
Dystopia Gardens, the sketch comedy play by Will Nunziata and Jerry Miller, is a lunatic romp through the goofy conventions of neo-futuristic sci-fi. While structured episodically as individual sketches, recurring situations and characters are abound--all 20+ characters in the show are portrayed by the same two actors and they manage to keep each one distinct, despite the sometimes break-neck pace. The show has a thematic and dramatic continuity which rises above the usual expectations of sketch comedy to become, categorically, a play. It is all of a unified piece, carrying the action through to an inevitable conclusion.
The show opens with a glimpse of a supposedly better world and then, through the machinations of a scheming benevolent "Leader," the stage is set for the promised descent into an unpleasant future. This is seen in a series of sketches featuring people of all walks of life--from fast-food clerks and night watchmen, to an over-cloned Leader--a drooling imbecile played with pants-pooping malevolent glee by Nunziata.
Recurring video elements give us a peek of future newscasts. An early scene featuring a museum outing with a father and young son sees Miller playing the best 30-something 10-year-old you are likely ever to see. His spittle-flecked innocence is the set-up for a view of the dark edge which is ever present in this effectively frightening universe. The sketch between two night watchmen presents a tomorrow where privacy is long forgotten and it builds at an expertly controlled pace into some of the most hysterical bits in the entire piece. The show contains a bathroom joke to end all bathroom jokes and the whole thing wraps up with a Broadway song parody that not only brings back every character previously seen all in a four-minute blitz of comic virtuosity, it also maddeningly hints at a sequel which may either be joke in itself or the promise of more to come.
Most striking of all is that the play has genuine heart. Very little of beauty might grow in any dystopian garden but where it does, these writer/performers have cultivated it with great love. It is a rare thing to strike sentiment without sentimentality but here it is. You can do a heck of a lot worse with 10 dollars and an hour or so of your time, but if you like the sketch comedy form, or are a fan of dystopias, or want to see a comedy duo tailor-made to write and perform together, it'd be hard to do much better. Also, if you like bare ass. There is a little of that for you too.