JACKSON, WY — Andrew Munz lied to me.
When we spoke in April about what to expect from his newest play “I Can Ski 4Ever,” playing now at the Pink Garter Theater, he assured me none of his jokes were personal. The play isn’t about anyone specifically, he said. It’s just a satirical, exaggerated reflection on Jackson ski culture as a whole.
Sure, the show’s recurring characters (there are no true protagonists, as the play is an assemblage of skits rather than a feature musical with a strong plot) are caricatures of Jackson personalities, based more on stereotypes than real humans. It does, however, take a few personal stabs. I recognized some very real names dropped in the script and even some guest appearances of real people playing… themselves. These are the moments the show completely obliterates the fourth wall. It takes place in a fictional future, but there’s no escaping the reality we’ve created for ourselves in good ol’ Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Also, I sure as hell felt personally attacked. I think everyone in the audience did. “Who do you identify with most?” I overheard someone ask during intermission. Truly everyone is the butt of a joke. No one — and I mean no one, from Wilson moms to artists to old “homesteaders” and even restauranteurs — is safe.
This is all exactly the point. Ski Forever has always been a “love story” to Jackson, Munz said, but love does not come without criticism. Perhaps the best comedy is brutally honest. In all of his plays, Munz forces everyone in the audience to take a good hard look at themselves. The stage is just a mirror, albeit a slightly distorted and exaggerated one.
ICS4 is not a one-man-show. On the contrary, part of what makes it so impressive and so believable is the cast. There are some career performers among them — Jess Camilla O’Neal has a voice and a stage presence that could shine on Broadway, which is no surprise considering her family history in theater (her family owns the Playhouse Theater, and her grandmother was, in fact, on Broadway). Singer-songwriter Aspen Dawn Jacquet’s near perfect voice commonly graces Jackson audiences, and easily grew big enough to fill the Pink Garter Theatre.
But plenty of the cast has little-to-no experience on stage, and because Ski Forever is about everybody and anybody in Jackson, almost anyone in Jackson is qualified to perform in it. That’s not to discount the true, raw talent Munz has pulled together. Lyhnida (Nida) Zgjani Riso’s faint (and authentic) Albanian accent fit her character perfectly, and she commanded the stage whenever she was on it. I don’t know for sure if Garret Edington is a ski bum in real life, but he sure looks like one. We’ve all met his character, Tuck Thacker, and some of us have even dated him, probably more times than we’re proud of. Belly the dog stole the show, though, in her adorable theatric debut.
Here’s the thing: if you haven’t seen at least one of the previous three Ski Forevers, you’ll miss some jokes. “Ski Forever” is more than a show — it’s an entire universe. Munz sprinkles references to previous shows throughout ICS4. Some are cleverly and subtly placed like Easter eggs, others are tossed into the audience’s face like a pie at a carnival.
The show is also long. Of course, there’s some brutal self-deprecating humor in that, too — a 15-minute intermission in Jackson time, and especially at The Rose, is closer to half an hour because everyone needs a refill on their IPA or Miller High Life (The Rose stopped serving Rainier, sorry bros). So you’re going to be in the theater longer than Munz’s promised two-hour run time. But, even and maybe especially in its fourth iteration, all two-plus hours are chock-full of surprises.
I’ve said this before, but the fortitude of Ski Forever is Munz’s ability to roast — er, critique — Jackson as only a true local can. Jackson is Munz’s home only “by accident,” he told me in April. He didn’t choose to grow up here (we have that in common). But his ability to observe, absorb and understand his hometown, and then translate it on stage, is what makes him an artist. The beautiful irony of Ski Forever is that Munz tried to leave home so many times — to Chicago, to San Francisco, even to Iceland — to nurture his creativity and find his creative outlet. But “home” was his creative outlet all along. Jackson Hole is Munz’s perfect muse. We’re all just performers in a satire about our own lives, waiting for Munz to notice us and put us on stage.
There are still three chances to see “I Can Ski 4Ever.” The show runs tonight through Saturday at the Pink Garter Theatre. Doors open at 7 p.m., show starts at 7:30 (get there early to get your drinks!). Get your tickets at PinkGarterTheatre.com.
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