Thursday, August 25, through Saturday, September 3, 7:34 p.m.
The Mockingbird on Main, 320 North Main Street, Davenport IA
Running in downtown Davenport August 25 through September 3, the latest stage comedy by the Haus of Ruckus team of T. Green and Calvin Vo is Random Access Morons, and as those first two words and the title's acronym suggest, the show is technology-themed. But despite this latest Mockingbird on Main presentation reacquainting audiences with Green's and Vo's familiar and beloved characters Fungus and Johnny, the duo's third theatrical adventure since November doesn't find the goofball slackers playing video games. Not externally, at any rate.
“Random Access Morons,” explains Green, “is about Johnny and Fungus – our self-insert characters – ordering this fabled video game called Battle Mountain Brawlers: The Battle of Brawler Mountain, and they find themselves literally sucked into it. And it's not only an exploration into the world of the game, but also an exploration of the world behind the game – the programming and the code behind the video game is personified, and becomes its own little world. So Johnny and Fungus explore those different environments as they go through the world of the game, and they meet some wacky video-game characters.”
“There's a ton of space opera out there,” adds Vo, “a ton of superhero, a ton of future dystopia … . Tons of sci-fi. But very rarely do people ever go into the computer. I say that knowing that Wreck-It Ralph has two movies and Free Guy exists. I do. But really, the idea of being zapped into a virtual world isn't as explored as going into outer space. So when we were coming up with ideas for Johnny and Fungus, we thought, “Okay … what if they went into a computer?”
As fans of Haus of Ruckus' previous Mockingbird titles “Jacques”alope and “Pants” Labyrinth know, Green's and Vo's comedies are never merely about one thing – an encounter with a legendary half-jackrabbit/half-antelope, say, or the quest for a missing pair of slacks. So in addition to being about two dudes trapped inside a video game, Random Access Morons is also about puppets (Vo says, “We have puppets that light up … that was really hard to figure out …”), electronica, and the lure of acting out extreme-fighting scenarios.
Regarding the music, Vo says, “I'm a huge '80s-synth-pop/electro fan, and I like matching music with stories and vibes. So I think at the time we started working on the video-game idea I was listening to a lot of electro, and I thought, 'Why don't we put them together? Because they kind of have a similar feel. Like, the late-'70s and '80s was the advent of synthesizer music, and it has a sort of computer-y sound, so we kind of combined those elements. So you're going to hear some of that Kraftwerk/Wendy Carlos influence. But we wanted to steer away from anything incredibly recognizable. You'll hear music that sounds familiar, but you won't you go, 'I know that!'”
As for the fighting that makes its way into Random Access Morons, Green says, “Personally, one of my favorite things about it is the sound design for it. The fact that there are effects for every little thing, and the punches definitely have them … . It's been so fun to see stage combat, but especially combat made to look and sound like it was happening in a video game.”
“I don't get cast into a lot of shows that deal with stage combat,” says Vo. “But I have a decent amount of stage-combat experience and choreography experience, and I've done a lot of martial arts in the past, just on my own, outside of schooling. So when we took this show on, I was like, 'If I'm going to direct, I want there to be a decent amount of fights.' Because sometimes you'll go to a play that has stage combat and you'll see, like, 30 seconds to a minute of really good stage combat, and there's your combat. Which is great, but I wanted a show centered around fighting, with the fighting a part of the storytelling.
“And what was fun,” Vo continues, “is we've got different characters that appear at different levels, and each character has their own style of fighting. So everything is within the safety and choreography of stage combat, but still reminiscent of fighting you see in video games. So there's a boxer character, there's a Muay Thai character … . Things like that.”
Like “Jacues”alope and “Pants” Labyrinth, Random Access Morons boasts, in addition to Green and Vo, a topnotch ensemble of young area actors and comedians, with Bella Kuta and Emma Regnier making their Haus of Ruckus debuts, and the company's returning performers including Sarah Goodall, Jo Vasquez, David Weaver, Keenen Wilson, and Max Robnett, the latter squeezing this show in between his recent leading role in Genesius Guild's The Frogs – which Green and Vo co-wrote – and next month's leading role in the Spotlight Theatre's The Producers. (With Vo calling Robnett “a theatre superhero,” Green adds, “If there's anyone who could handle putting way too much on his plate, it's Max.”)
“It's been really cool,” says Green of the Haus of Ruckus casting, “with this being our third show, that every time we get people who are interested, they jump right in. It's been so nice that people are willing to take scripts that might be a little weird or silly and be like, 'Yeah, I can do this – this is fun.' And so far, every member of every cast we've had has been super-down to work within our style.”
Vo agrees. “I think a lot of people see our social media and think, 'Okay, these guys do comedy, and they do comedy about weird stuff … but what is the environment like?' And what's been really nice is that every single person who's popped into the rehearsal process with us has been flexible and silly and easy to work with, but also super-professional. I think what people don't know about the rehearsal space until they get in there is that while we like to go about things creatively, we also like to go about it efficiently, and we're pretty planned out.
“Like, we have a five, five-and-a-half week rehearsal process,” he continues, “depending on how things play out in pre-production. We won't stretch any farther than that, because we've found that if we do, the play will sort of eat itself. Any shorter than that, though, and you're just super-crunched for time and overworking everyone. So we do five, five-and-a-half weeks, and take everyone's schedules into account, and T does a ton of work behind the scenes with the stage managers to schedule the calendars. We're accommodating for other people's lives, and in turn, they try to do the same for us.”
With two Johnny-and-Fungus productions behind them and Random Access Morons on the way, some might wonder whether Green and Vo are finding it continually harder to come up with fresh material. Yet Green says, “I keep expecting it to be difficult, but I think it really has gotten easier for us to understand each other's style. More and more, as we do these shows, it's getting easier for Calvin to write Fungus and me to write Johnny.”
“And for us to write each other,” adds Vo. “What people may or may not know is that T. is all comedic stamina. T. will never run out of material.” So although November's scheduled Haus of Ruckus title Spooky Pete won't find Johnny and Fungus making appearances, don't think you've seen the end of those two desert/labyrinth/code-trekking slackers.
“The plan has been that we're going to make 162 plays with Johnny and Fungus,” says Green.
“And then there's going to be a world tour in there somewhere,” says Vo. “They're immortal.”
Random Access Morons runs in downtown Davenport August 25 through September 3, with performances Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:34 p.m. sharp, and admission is $10. For more information, visit TheMockingbirdOnMain.com and Haus of Ruckus on Facebook and Instagram, and reservations are available by e-mailing HausOfRuckusQC@gmail.com.