There was a point early on in Big ‘Ole Show when I knew it would be receiving a big gold star from me. The two-person improv show starring Amber Nash and Matt Horgan opened in a peach plantation in the antebellum South. As a young woman coming of age, Nash’s character says she is fresh in from the fields after a day of milking peaches. Finished with her chores, she begs her father to allow her to go out on the town that evening, but he fears that his daughter will fall prey to the wiles of a male suitor set on stealing her virtue. Looking out onto some imagined skyline, he points out the vultures circling in wait for the next peach to drop. In town, there are similar scavengers, he warns his daughter — “Vultures of the male persuasion.”
That’s all I needed. I laughed. Sexual paranoia delivered in a Southern accent is funny to me. That’s why I love the movie Carrie, but there was more at play here.
I will be honest with you. I was tired when I arrived at the performance of Big ‘Ole Show — ready to be done with the evening and slink home until my daily obligations forced me from my bed once again. This is probably not the ideal mind set when reviewing a show, but it’s probably more in line with anyone else walking into a theater after a day in the office.
So I bought a beer, chatted with the wonderful people at Theatre 99, and took my seat. Taking a step further than just silencing my phone, I turned it off completely. I was just going to be about this show for the next hour without trying to keep track of everything else that was going on in the world. I am told this is how ancient audiences would enjoy the cinema or performances at the Globe. Then the show began, and I realized that I was smiling. Nash and Horgan went from the oddball plantation to a cobbler’s shop to an icy mountaintop, each time running to the corners of the stage to fetch a new wig. The best way to describe it would be enjoyable. Myself and the rest of the audience were having fun because the performers were having fun. Although it was completely improvised, there were never any breaks in the action or silent pauses that affected the rhythm of the show.
But Big ‘Ole Show is at its strongest when Nash and Horgan realize they’ve trapped themselves in a premise that is so over the top that they can’t help but laugh as they push forward. For the performance that I saw, this translated into drinking imaginary urine to test for diabetes and a romantic episode with an ice ape. Each scene followed the absurd logic of the universe they’ve created, but that led to some pretty strange places. An elderly woman was fitted with chicken feet. A zeppelin was involved in a murder. Peaches were milked. This all sounds like nonsense, but when you’re watching the show, you don’t question it. You can just sit back and enjoy the madness. And that’s why I left the theater feeling good after Big ‘Ole Show. It was funny enough and weird enough that it was impossible not to be swayed by Big ‘Ole Show’s charms. Like a young peach milker, fresh off the farm and looking for love, I fell for this show.