Purgatory Lounge is an amazing bizarro lounge show put on from time to time at the FlyMo Theatre in Huntsville, with an even more amazing premise: The newly departed appear on stage in much the same shape as they left the world, and must sing their way out of Purgatory to whatever awaits them. Performances can turn from slapstick to sentimental to chilling in an instant.
This concept is the brainchild of Matt Bakula — of the Pine Hill Haints, The Counterclockwise, and Crash Boom Bang Theatre. Obviously a busy man. He became even busier this fall 2010 when four shows over a six-week span were scheduled. At 10-12 performers per show, this meant there was going to be a lot of material needed. I was assigned to be the “halftime” segment, and was generously given a blank check to fill it with whatever sketch ideas came to mind — usually at the last minute. Call it Just-In-Time comedy writing.
I tried to make it concise and weird, and I pretty much met those objectives. I also tried to make a connection of some kind to the setting of Purgatory. There was a clueless ghosthunter, whose noisemaking contraptions conjured up more interference with fast-food drive-thrus than ghosts. My favorite was ZOLTAR on the skids, trying to get his groove back. The Official Bookie of Purgatory not only took bets on various performers in the show, but introduced an unsuspecting audience to a next-world tale of none other than J. R. “Bob” Dobbs. Finally, a holiday sketch featuring Santa administering the infamous Milgram Obedience Experiment might have pushed the weirdness needle too far into the red, but it was worth trying anyway. A wise friend reminded me that 3 out of 4 makes a pretty good batting average.
This was a fun and exciting experience for me at a time when I desperately needed some distraction. Many thanks to Matt Bakula, the musicians of Purgatory’s Blue Light Band, and the members of Crash Boom Bang Theatre.