The Pump and Dump
A sense of humor is a very individual thing, and jokes can be pitched to pretty much any demographic. While most comedians aim for a wide range of material, many touring acts have found success in niche audiences. And considering the frequent absurdities of motherhood, it's not surprising that The Pump and Dump is one of them.
The show was created by Shayna Ferm and Tracey Tee—lifelong friends and mothers whose kids were born three weeks apart. After many play dates (and more children), the two formed an act to explore the "joys" of motherhood and the "fucked up and hilarious" aspects of parenting. It's an opportunity for hardworking moms of any age to take an evening off for once and enjoy the humorous side of cesarean-section scars, getting kids to eat their food, and the debate of whether or not the placenta is a delicacy.
The performance combines stand-up comedy, musical numbers, games with prizes and giveaways, open conversation and a chance to bond and commiserate. Where else are you going to find an acoustic musical number devoted to the medical procedure commonly referred to as the "husband stitch," or the pure bliss of having a hotel room to yourself? Topics that some people might be afraid to talk about—especially those of us without kids—roll out easily for Ferm and Tee, as they gleefully hack away at a lifelong job with few breaks, and even fewer moments of sanity. (Gavin Sheehan)
The Pump and Dump @ Wiseguys SLC, 194 S. 400 West, 801-532-5233, Sept. 22, 7:30 p.m., $25 regular, $75 VIP. ThePumpAndDumpShow.com, WiseguysComedy.com
Tumbleweeds Film Festival
Hollywood—and box office results—keep telling us that young people only want the simplest, glossiest entertainment from their movies. But every year, the Utah Film Center dedicates itself to the crazy notion that kids can handle stories from other countries, in other languages, about other worlds.
The sixth annual Tumbleweeds Film Festival once again showcases an international lineup of features and shorts, with adventures, dramas and comedies appropriate for a range of audiences from pre-school to middle school. Among the highlights: the delightful 2015 CGI-animated adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince (pictured), featuring the voices of Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams and Paul Rudd in the tale of a young girl pursuing the magical prince from the story. Other features bring narratives from South Korea (How to Steal a Dog), Germany (Help, I Shrunk My Teacher), Israel (Abulele), Australia (Blinky Bill: The Movie) and Estonia (Secret Society of Souptown). And in a centerpiece selection nod to the recent passing of actor Gene Wilder, there's a special 35-mm screening of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, including a themed goody-bag for attendees.
For those young folks who want to take their interest in film to the next level, Tumbleweeds also features workshops focusing on screenwriting, short filmmaking and even film criticism. A cinema-literate next generation: It's the best insurance policy for a next generation of movies that are worth getting excited about. (Scott Renshaw)
Tumbleweeds Film Festival @ Rose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, 801-355-2787, Sept. 23-25, $6 individual screenings, $40 for 10-film pass, full schedule at UtahFilmCenter.org/Twds2016
Salt Lake Acting Co.: Bull Shark Attack
It might not be possible to say it often enough, or strenuously enough: April Fossen is an absolute treasure of Salt Lake City theater.
She's only one part of a triptych of alternating monologues in Troy Deutsch's world-premiere play set around—and sometimes on the way to—the North Carolina oceanfront. Fossen's Connie is a recent widow who impetuously takes a Winnebago on the trip she never got to take with her husband; Tanya (Cassandra Stokes-Wylie) is a one-time high-school alpha-female returning to her hometown after attempting a modeling career; and Jeffie (Stefan Espinosa) is a native of that same town returning to recapture a moment from his own youth.
Deutsch weaves a compelling story of people trying to return to simpler, less-frightening moments in their lives, even as real terrors lie ahead of them. Sandra Shotwell's simple first-act staging—the characters initially isolated on platforms that become part of a pier for the second act, never interacting—allows for intense focus on the individual characters and the performances.
And, in a way, it's unfair that the play sets up Stokes-Wylie and Espinosa for comparison to Fossen in those isolated performances. While each actor creates a haunting portrait of a damaged, angry soul, Fossen tears into her role with a ferocity that bares all of Connie's emotional wounds. As the three protagonists step into a potentially dangerous ocean at the story's climax, it's Fossen who makes it easiest to believe that she's leaving her blood in the water. (SR)
Bull Shark Attack @ Salt Lake Acting Co., 801-363-7522, through Oct. 16, Wednesday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, 1 p.m. & 6 p.m., $15-$42. SaltLakeActingCompany.org
Reduced Shakespeare Co.: A Complete History of America (Abridged)
Reduced Shakespeare Co. is proving that it's not just today's politics and culture that can be ridiculous with their latest production, A Complete History of America (Abridged).
Using three actors, song and sketch comedy, the 90-minute show covers around 600 years of American wars, exploration and politics. This fast-paced, vaudeville-like performance finds and creates humor in everything from the European discovery of the continent to the trenches of World War I.
Sheri Jardine, spokesperson for UtahPresents, says the organization wanted the performance to coincide with the election season but avoid anything too serious and divisive. "I think it's important to have some comedy in our season, because sometimes we all need a reminder that it's OK to laugh and take things a little less seriously," she says. "Live performances have the power to unite us, regardless of topic or tone, but I think laughing together in a room of people is a good way to feel more united in our community, especially when the political dialogue is so divisive in tone."
A Complete History of America (Abridged) is the latest from the company, which has been touring since 1981. The group has performed everywhere from the Off Broadway to the White House, and has similarly skewered the history of Hollywood, the Bible and, of course, Shakespeare. This performance is the only comedy-focused act of UtahPresents' season until the Upright Citizens close it out in April. (Kylee Ehmann)
Reduced Shakespeare Co.: A Complete History of America (Abridged) @ Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. President's Circle, 801-581-7100, Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m., $5-$29. ReducedShakespeare.com, UtahPresents.org