‘Sober Cab’ is anything but dry

Onstage and backstage, actors and University alumni have fun with the serious craft of theater

Tatum Fjerstad

Being self-absorbed never looked as cool until Josh Carson tacked an honorable goal to it.

Carson, a University theater alumnus, started Mainly Me Productions in May 2004 with the help of his friend, Justin Zavadil, 25, also a University theater alumnus.

As the name suggests, Mainly Me Productions reflects Carson’s involvement in nearly every aspect of the production. He writes, produces and acts in all his shows.

The production company touts a goal – to “attract average moviegoers to the theater and give everyone a fun time,” Zavadil said.

“We’re theater people that hate theater people,” Carson said.

Backstage at the Old Arizona, prepping for their most recent show, “Sober Cab,” the 15-person cast exemplified that mentality.

For a warm-up, the cast formed a half-assed circle and – instead of joining hands and sharing words of inspiration while matching breathing – broke out into Will Smith’s eternally catchy “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” theme song.

And the cast loved it. Carson’s attitude clearly attracted a cast with similar sentiments about theater.

“Theater at the ‘U’ was a little too theatrical and black-boxy. And for rehearsals here we didn’t have to find our center or ball of energy,” said Tera Jansen, 23, who graduated from the University with a degree in theater in May 2004.

“Our biggest concern is that we are entertaining to the audience,” said John Haynes, 42, director of the show. “We are not about a big, deep message.”

“Sober Cab” is the compilation of a Friday night full of slightly unfortunate circumstances at Brothers Bar & Grill in

Minneapolis. Carson ended up playing sober cab for two female friends. Throughout the evening, he watched personality types reveal themselves. Then he did what any good writer does. He turned it into a story.

The cast rolls out four plots in a little more than two hours.

“Everybody knows someone like each character, and if you don’t recognize one of them – that’s probably because it’s you,” Carson said.

A few of the crazy antics in the show reflect actual occurrences at the bar, either the night he was there, other nights, or just stories he’s heard.

In the first half of the show, the four plotlines and the ensemble cast are introduced. There’s the 21st birthday, the awkward date where the friend comes along, the frat boy reunion and the story about hooking up with a random sleazy guy who a girl met at a gas station earlier that day.

Each party gets ready and goes out to Captain’s Bar with each of its worlds and issues separate.

During the second half of the show, everyone is bombed. They start to interact, involving one another in their drama.

The show is full of highly developed characters, flashbacks, dance breaks, montages and inner monologues.

Carson’s story makes light of love issues, self-confidence problems and coming to terms with homosexuality.

Ultimately, it tells the story of when “the lamest guy in the bar turns out to be nothing less than a hero.”