There exists a stoner musical comedy adventure about two buddies traveling through time to save their friendship—and, ultimately, the world—from an apocalypse. It sounds kinda silly, and it certainly is! But it is also very smart, really sweet and a truly wild ride. It’s called Life in a Box and it’s currently playing at the Grand Canyon, presented by Bad Hats Theatre.
Co-creators Matthew Finlan (book) and Landon Doak (music and lyrics) play themselves. When a solar flare destroys the world and traps Matthew and Landon in their basement apartment, they create a time machine to set things right. It’s a ridiculous sketch comedy premise, but Finlan and Doak have crafted a solid story with endearing characterizations and clever, catchy tunes.
Presented as a live television show, the performance is framed by a giant illustrated TV set. The cartoonish reality extends to the action itself. Doak and Finlan seem to float in shifting space and, with thrilling dexterity, drop in and out of sight from all directions.
Without props or set pieces, this production maintains the minimalist aesthetic that defined the Fringe version. Director Fiona Sauder has taken it to the next level, though, with visuals—like more fully integrated and dynamic lighting—that feel iconic and pop with a comic book charm.
The show is fast, really fast. The giddy momentum will have you grasping for handholds that seem always just beyond reach. My guest felt she was missing a lot of gags during the rapid-fire delivery, and so it occurs to me that the relentless speed may not appeal to everyone. But if you’re down for a show that demands such heightened focus and attention, this experience will delight you.
The warmth and guileless optimism of Life in a Box is particularly heartwarming. There is no trace of the cynicism or meanness that characterizes so much comedy. Nobody here is required to be the butt of a joke. The humour comes, instead, from genuinely clever writing and a full commitment to the absurd reality of each situation.
The strong emotional core of Life in a Box is Matthew and Landon’s relationship. It is both funny and deeply touching that the high stakes of their journey aren’t tied so much to the reality of the world blowing up, but rather how it threatens their loving friendship. They have each other’s backs—one hundred percent—and even more lovely, the show itself has our backs!
Life in a Box was conceived as a continuing series. Come see these first three episodes of Matthew and Landon’s saga. Get high on the bizarro time-travel paradoxes and multi-dimensional conundrums. Groove to the awesome music that blends rap, folk and show tunes. Bring friends. You’ll have a blast.