My friend would later empty the trash and spend the night going through everyone's secrets with a bottle of wine. At its best, the storytelling series Previously Secret Information gets to that level, and PSI has held itself to a high standard.
Its first anniversary show last night at Stage Werx was fairly low-key: no big name guests, no confessions of incest or murder, no cake. But it was a great show that demonstrated once again that there are two kinds of tales you get at a show where people share personal stories. The first is a secret inasmuch as it's never been shared onstage, and it's put out there for a laugh. And the second, well, it reaches the profound and terrifying.In the former category, nobody does this one better that PSI's creator, Joe Klocek. It takes real talent to make yet another story about airport security hassles seem interesting, let alone fresh -- but Klocek is a professional stand-up who has those kinds of chops. His story about how the federal government "got to second base" with him was both hilarious and insightful.
TSA pat-downs really must be a special kind of hell for people who make professional-caliber jokes whenever they get nervous. Klocek escaped our state security apparatus only after a guard recognized him from his stand-up act, realizing that the man cracking jokes actually did think he was a comedian.
"I realized that's how celebrities get out of shit," Klocek said. "One day an officer says, 'You're really cool, can I have an autograph?' and the next day you're Charlie Sheen."
But parts of that story have almost certainly ended up in his act. It's personal, but not that personal. Most of the other stories were similar.Bruce Patchman described how he got cast ... sorta, kinda ... in a Woody Allen movie. Apparently Woody was an actor's director: warm, gentle, and concerned. Who knew? Deb Durst described what it was like to be a young comic at the annual Soldiers of Fortune convention in 1980s Las Vegas. If you meet a guy the mercs call "Gary the CrazyMotherFucker," you should know he likes killing people, getting drunk, and making women cry -- but is always willing to stick a metal spike through his neck for his friends.
Glory Ludwig said that "I need to be way less shy in bed than I am. I don't even make sounds." These are the troubles of a mechanical engineer trying to find a simple formula to make her "marriageable" to her boyfriend of nine months. The result was a planned erotic cornucopia that turned into the Keystone Kops in high heels.
But fun as they are, in San Francisco these are the kinds of stories you share with your neighbors over absinthe and pie. There's another kind of personal story ... one so personal that every syllable feels like an intrusion.Meet Ericka Lutz. She described her husband's death in a voice of barely restrained emotion. Then moved on. "Being a widow is such hard work. There's so much shit to be done."
But, she said, she was in good shape: They'd had all joint accounts, and she knew all his passwords.
When she went into his laptop at the behest of one of his colleagues, she discovered a password-protected folder labeled "Personal," with a password she didn't know. A techie found a way to get it open and copy the files ... leaving her with a weekend to wonder what was inside.
All of her friends began to place their insecurities into this file. It had to be an affair, or a separate family, or a political murder (not as far fetched as you might think). With each turn of phrase, Lutz took us into the kind of fears about a marriage that few ever talk about, and however good it was, it felt like something we should not be listening to.
For a show like Previously Secret Information, that's the holy grail. It was a good night to cap off its first year.