Mario and Michael Bay: Like peanut butter and exploding chocolate

Categories: Theater
MBSMA Mario in Space.jpg
Image courtesy Comedy Suitcase
Mario, the mustached maverick who has bested gorillas, turtles, and all manner of mushroom-based foes, meets his greatest challenge this weekend at the Bryant-Lake Bowl: Filmmaker Michael Bay.

The folks at Comedy Suitcase gleefully jam genres together with Michael Bay's Super Mario Armageddon, a new piece written by Josh Carson (who also plays Mario) and directed by Tim Uren (who gets to play main foil Bowser). The cast also includes Andy Kraft, Emily Jabas, and Comedy Suitcase masterminds Joshua English Scrimshaw and Levi Weinhagen

For Carson, the idea has been brewing for a few years and was inspired, like so many great acts of creation, by the Wisconsin Dells.

Carson and Andy Kraft (who plays Mario's brother Luigi) spent a day at the Dells "decompressing" after the 2008 Fringe. While waiting in line for a ride, the two started thinking about a terrible show that could still be a Fringe hit.

"One of our 'jokes' that generated real excitement was Nintendo: The Musical. However, we were both a little tired of the Fringe cliche of having another Noun! The Musical title out there, and, more importantly, neither of us can sing, so we couldn't be in it," Carson says. "As we got closer and closer to the end of the line, the 'joke' became a concept which became an outline. By the time we got to the front of the line, we had most of the show mapped out, and several of the jokes and lines we came up with that day still remain in the show."

Research was tough, as it included a marathon of Michael Bay epics--and numerous rounds of Mario Kart--to help get the filmmaker's signature style down.

MBSMA Peach In Space.jpg

"They all eventually felt like the same movie," Carson says of watching the flicks back-to-back. "Bay's directing-style is finding whatever base emotion is at the core of the scene (Happy! Sad! Romantic! Angry!), cranking that to 11, and then trying to top yourself. We also like to imagine that he directs with a bull-horn, even when it's not needed, and tells everyone to say their lines as if it is going to end up in the trailer, because it probably will."

Princess Peach does get a bit of a lift. "We decided to give our Peach a military background, coupled with the buddy-cop dynamic from Bad Boys, except we made Martin Lawrence a girl so they could fall in love at the end," Carson says.

Of course the budget here isn't at Michael Bay levels, or typical Mario game levels, or probably even the amount of cash Atari would spend in the 1970s on an average cartridge. That offered challenges.

"My original instructions were to write anything I wanted, regardless of how it would fit in the BLB space, or any laws of physics that it may violate," Carson insists. "So, I accepted that challenge, and did indeed write several impossible scenarios, one of which includes Bowser's full-fledged invasion of New York with his airship and Koopa army, and proudly declared execution to be the director's problem."

Director Tim Uren was up to the task. Well, mostly.

"All of us working on the show have a lot of experience at putting the impossible onstage, and we took to the challenge eagerly," Uren says. "We try to keep everything moving at a break-neck speed, so the props and other technical elements come and go quickly. Our hope is that the audience will be so wowed by the sheer fun and audacity, they won't mind a bit of painted cardboard."

Super Mario Armageddon.jpg

More importantly, it's all about an innocent Italian plumber and his desire for a pest-free home.

"There's nobody quite like Mario for having his story told onstage. His history is so vast and bizarre. He was a golfer, a doctor, a boxing referee, and on and on and on. And, he's a real nice guy, deep down. He's easy to root for," Uren says.

And if Carson isn't careful, he could have a new version of Noun! The Musical on his hands.

"I keep joking that if this show is successful, we could start a whole series of various directors tackling various old-school Nintendo games. Because you'd totally go see James Cameron's Mega-Man or Christopher Nolan's Super Mario 2. I'm joking, of course, but we all know what happened the last time I made a joke like that."

Michael Bay's Super Mario Armageddon runs March 11 through 26 at the Bryant-Lake Bowl.

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