The proceedings start simply. Ethereal music plays, familiar music that one might have seen in a blockbuster movie or three over time. Our minds imagine sweeping mountainsides, deep canyons, and ground-covering mists filled with secrets. Two hooded figures take the stage and narrate (with the aid of pictograms) the dark history of the rise and fall of an evil dragon and its wraith servants, trapped within the bowels of dark, chaotic temples, of legendary times when an ancient city was governed by corruption and desolation, and of the hundred year peace since those dark times.
Well, hundred-plus. The Cubs haven’t won a world championship since 1908, after all. That pesky dragon has been kept under wraps beneath U.S. Cellular Field, with the wraiths sealed inside a certain, demonic statue outside of Wrigley Field.
So goes the latest offering by the Chicago-based Nerdologues, The Lord of the Wrigley: Fellowship of the Cubs. Having opened at Public House Theatre on Friday, May 23rd, the long form sketch troupe has crafted a piece that brings together the separate worlds of Chicago baseball and Lord of the Rings-inspired nerdisms. Well, not so separate, theorizes Nerdologues founder/producer/actor Kevin Reader. “Think about it,” says Reader. “you and a bunch of friends get together and pick a band of fighters to fight each other week after week. Whoever has the most points, based on the players stats wins. Sounds a lot like some role playing games if you ask me.”
Director/actor Chris Geiger agrees, echoing many of the similarities between sports fans and nerd fans. He also points out that one of the guiding focuses of the Nerdologues is to “make people laugh and bring them together”, something which Lord of the Wrigley does with abandon.
The theatre space is small, holding at most 50 people, and on Friday night, it was completely packed. Such a tight space helps to build laughter amongst strangers, encouraged all the more by the shenanigans of the seven-person cast. To reveal too much of the plot would spoil some of the humor, so the basics will have to serve: a small band of adventurers are forced to venture from Wrigleyville to U.S. Cellular Field when the balance of power in Chicago baseball grows out-of-whack. Along the way, pop culture references are tossed about like breadcrumbs, ranging from Dungeons & Dragons to Labyrinth, from Geocities (anybody remember that?) to a certain impression by Will Ferrell regarding cannibalistic urges.
Reader originally created the Nerdologues somewhere around four years ago while working on a sketch project with friends. “I brought in some writing prompts,” he says. “People were writing and talking about their own lives and experiences. To me, it was just funnier than any of the other stuff we were doing. And it was honest, and real. It rooted us. A lot of us were Nerdy in our own ways. So, I was like, hey I want to do a show with some of my friends, talk about some real shit, and try to make each other laugh.”
Signature moments of the Nerdologues involve monologues by the individual members of the group, and two of these asides make it into Lord of the Wrigley. Completely unrelated to the plot of the show, they offer a moving insight into the performers behind the show, something completely unlike most other sketch comedy in the city. For a town with as rich a comedic tradition as Chicago, to be unique is all the more challenging.
The monologues allow the audience to “see the actor inside the process,” says Geiger. Earlier shows featured more monologues, and the actors performing them in the current show rotate, although priority is given to newer members. The Nerdologues also host a monthly event on every third Sunday entitled “Your Stories”, where they invite “friends and Nerds from the community to come and share their stories. Some people do stand-up, perform sketches, or sing songs; a lot of people share stories.” The resulting stories are then put on the internet in podcast form.
Reader describes the monologue process further. “We try to be honest. Welcome the audience into our personal lives for just a minute. To say, “Hey, we’re all just people. Now let’s laugh together for a little while.” I always try to think of it as experience over escapism. Let’s share in experiences together and laugh rather than run away from the things that challenge us.
Which isn’t to say that the rest of the show isn’t rewarding. As a combined Tolkein-ite/baseball columnist/practicing theatre artist, it felt almost as if the show was crafted specifically for me. That being said, I know I can’t be alone in this regard – there were at least 49 other people there laughing as hard as I was, enjoying every hilarious moment.
Both Reader and Geiger push the overall theme of coming together, finding common interests, and forging friendships. Reader elaborates that he feels “that if we work on something together, we can achieve greatness.”
Oh, and what would a good comedy show be without numerous dick jokes? (Lord of the Wrigley has an abundantly tasteful amount. I will say no more.)
Lord of the Wrigley: Fellowship of the Cubs runs at the Public House Theatre at 3914 North Clark Street through June 29th, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm.