By Rebecca Briesmoore
If you’re looking for laughs to get you through the dark, long nights of the Gunnison winter, get in your Tardis and head to the Gunnison Arts Center for the latest iteration of the annual community play, SonofaGunn. The 33rd annual production of the show, the play is a satirical look at the Gunnison Valley packed with inside jokes only those living in the valley will understand.
This year, SonofaGunn: 3001: A Space Odyssey, takes us to a galaxy far, far, away, where Gunnisonians are facing a daunting challenge: the Nothing. A threat with all-too familiar similarities to the current COVID virus, the Nothing must be destroyed before it can reach Gunnison, infect the residents, and inflict them with a crippling case of severe nihilism.
Faced with this little understood threat, Chancellor Jimoran (played by Mark Vanderveer) sends a team of four selected team members led by Captain Marge Walter, a spoof of Mark Walter, the Dodger’s owner and billionaire who caused a local stir by surreptitiously buying up a series of properties in Almont and Crested Butte.
In the play, Walter is portrayed by Western Master’s of Environmental Management (MEM) student Jenny Nitzky, whose role is to face down the Nothing and ultimately vanquish it. The ill-prepared team members struggle in their quest, and hilarity ensues, sprinkled with a few gut-wrenchingly funny musical numbers.
Even for someone who has only lived in the valley for just a few months, it’s easy to pick up on the stinging burns and oh-to-true laugh lines, although anyone who has resided in Gunnison for several years would likely pick up on the more subtle and intricate jokes. Western students: don’t you worry, there is no shortage of Mountaineer in-jokes throughout the production. The show, after all, is directed by Paul Giberson, Western’s Director of Student Retention and Completion.
From the ongoing housing crisis to the languishing water levels of Blue Mesa, the writers show little mercy in their satirical look at this place we call home. Western students may recognize a few characters in the production, including a beanie-clad G-man (Craig Beebe, Western’s Assistant Director of Career Services) and a martial arts obsessed scientist named Pat My Gi (Lindsey Durant). There’s even a cringeworthy robotic version of a certain local historian, known as Vandenbrain in the play.
Davis Clark, another Western MEM student, plays a character named Saul Gregsbury, a spoof of Western’s former President. Clark and former President Salsbury don’t bear much of a resemblance, as Clark readily admits.
“I’m the ensign of the ship, the lowly officer on the bridge,” says Clark, adding, “Basically, I’m just a doofus. I’m fumbling around…I shoot myself like five times with my phaser on stage, they just totally make me a buffoon, it’s fun to play,” says Clark. The original vision for Clark’s character was a Han Solo type, but Clark believes that he ended up looking more like Indiana Jones. The link, of course, being Harrison Ford.
The whole show wouldn’t be possible without its local sponsors and the writers cleverly inserted clips to bring attention to their local business donors. Based on space-themed movies ranging from E.T. to Interstellar, the show’s “advertisements” feature satirical movie segment crafted to make the audience laugh and honor the businesses’ support
It’s clear the production team doesn’t let the details slide. From the space-movie themed advertisement clips to the eccentric, sparkly, and out-of-this-world costumes, the show is sure to impress with the ability to transport you out of this world to a Gunnisonia far away.
Even the soundtrack will have you smiling as you sing along to “Rocket Man” and other space- themed tunes. So grab your lightsaber and make your way to the Black Box Theater, the historic section of the Gunnison Arts Center. Space may be dark, but the laughs at SonofaGunn will brighten up your day and “rocket” your world.
The show continues this week March 3, 4, and 5. Thursday night tickets are $20, Friday and Saturday night tickets are $25.
Tickets are available online or by calling the Gunnison Arts Center at 970-640-4029. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.For anyone uncomfortable attending events in person due to COVID, a Zoom option is available on Friday for $15.
All proceeds from the show benefit the Gunnison Arts Center.