It’s a tale as old as 8-bit gaming itself: One person holds the high score, another one wants it. This struggle was captured in the 2007 cult-hit documentary, King of Kong—and it immediately spoke to Amber Ruffin and Lauren Van Kurin, creators of the hit comedy musical King of Kong: A Musical Parody,playing at the Onyx Theatre this weekend only.
“It’s a classic good-versus-evil story,” says Van Kurin, a Chicago-trained actor and writer who now lives in LA. “We both really just fell in love with the documentary and the quest that they were going on.”
“I couldn’t believe how cocky the bad guy was,” says Ruffin, another Chicago-trained actor, who writes for Late Night With Seth Meyers and has appeared on Key and Peele on Comedy Central. “He was so beautifully unchecked, he becomes an insane person.” And to Ruffin, beautifully unchecked good and evil lead to just one thing: musical parody. “In most musicals people sing because they cannot help themselves. Their feelings have reached an apex that normal words cannot describe, so they must sing. And if that is the rule for musicals—this had no choice but to be a musical.”
The two women put their improv training to work and started creating songs and scenes, but quickly found themselves on the outside of a story about two guys. Their solution was as simple as it was silly: play all the parts themselves. “We were having so much fun writing these songs and scenes I suggested we play all the parts, because I’m selfish and this is so much more fun,” Van Kurin says.
The result was a loopy little musical-comedy gem that was named Best Musical at both the New York and Hollywood Fringe Festivals, despite its creators’ unorthodox qualifications. “We dance as if no one ever told we should not be. It’s like we don’t know any better than to dance our little hearts out,” jokes Ruffin, who also stresses that the show is only an hour long—the perfect length for bringing along that special someone who might not be into video games (or musicals) as much as you are. “Every musical I’ve ever seen I could cut 20 minutes out of,” she laughs. “This has no such lags. You get there, you get put into the chamber and you get shot out.”
King of Kong October 9 & 10, 8 p.m.; October 11, 2 p.m.; $20. Onyx Theatre, 702-732-7225