BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

10/09/2019 - 14/09/2019

Production Details


A debut New Zealand solo show written by and starring young, igniting and gay performer Ethan Morse (THEREAFTER, Wellingtonians), Wise Guy directed by Keegan Bragg (Post-It-Notes, Shadow), opens at BATs Theatre 10th September, 6:30pm.

Anthony has done enough stand-up at the Fringe bar to know when the gig is up. Wise Guy is a mordant 60-minute story that explores the theme of processing trauma as a young, starving artist. Faced with a surreal-reality, he struggles to process the past and future as he tests positive for HIV, throwing his purpose, place and the punchline all into question.

Unopened power bills, the entire box collection of Seinfeld and a whole lotta RNZ Concert, Anthony’s life is probably better told through his art; his stand-up. When this cultivated lifestyle is interrupted by a staggering AIDs diagnosis, he is forced to confront the punch-drunk, sardonic nature of mortality, morality, and the fact: Jerry Seinfeld is coming to Wellington.

All in their early to mid-twenties, Soy People Productions are young and vigorous theatre-makers that actively produce art by young people, about young people, for young people. Whether it be for Fringe, 48HOUR or with Long Cloud; they have collaborated in a large assortment of Wellington shows for almost 3 years. Awards include nominations (Most Promising Emerging Company) for the works Some Sort of Boy, and Wellingtonians in the 2019 & 18 NZ Fringe Awards. Successfully received works in which they have recently collaborated include Dr. Faustus, THEREAFTER , Post-It-Notes, Thinking Dolphins, Trash!Glam!Drag!Slam! & Almost Sober.

Content Warning: This show depicts some of the realities of living with HIV AIDS; contains references and depictions of depression and suicide. 

BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace, Wellington
10-14th September at 6:30pm.
General Admission -$20, Concession- $15, Group 6+ -$15.
Tickets Available at the BATS website: https://bats.co.nz/whats-on/wise-guy/

Facebook event: Wise Guy 

Anthony – Ethan Morse
Jerry Seinfeld/Various Roles – Keegan Bragg
Radio Presenter – GypsyMae Harihona

Produced by GypsyMae Harihona
Production design by Anne-Lisa Noordover
Lighting Design by Becky Boyce

Theatre ,

1hr 15min

An inspired creative force

Review by John Smythe 13th Sep 2019

There is lots of intriguing detail to study in Anne-Lisa Noordover’s bed-sit set design: an unmade single bed, countless books, a picture of Jerry Seinfeld, a Foxton Fizz crate, a fridge, a microwave, an old school desk, a radio with blinking digital clock suggesting it hasn’t been reset since a power cut or something … And over the next 75 minutes, abetted by Bekky Boyce’s dynamic lighting design and operation, the set and what plays out within it will spring a number of dramatic surprises.

Stage left is a stand-up mic which is where playwright/ performer Ethan Morse opens as Anthony, the eponymous Wise Guy. Clearly good with words and extremely articulate with them, it is part of the point that Antony’s stories – including his ‘coming out’ experience – don’t neatly land as ‘jokes’. They make for impressive performance poetry in a later sequence, however. Meanwhile Anthony’s complex twenty-something ego is prone to burning more bridges than he builds.

Back in his room, his companions are a Concert programme announce (producer GypsyMae Harihona), the music of Mozart, a his mum via a phone call and a doomed Grindr date that costs him a potential introduction to Jerry Seinfeld himself, who is soon to play the Wellington Opera House. Antony’s fan-boy relationship with Jerry – impressively personified in fantasy by Keegan Bragg (the director) – and his quest to write a good joke, gives the play a bit of a through-line; a spine of sorts.

It’s in the next stand-up sequence that Anthony reveals his AIDS diagnosis (mentioned in publicity so it’s not a spoiler), provoking an insightful discourse on the history and nature of comedy, catharsis and existential dread. A range of classical artists, philosophers and writers are name-checked as a bridge to an even more subjective reality where red envelopes become a startling motif.

Audience members are involved in various (unthreatening) ways. In counterpoint to confronting the more mundane realities of his condition, Anthony channels Mozart’s Queen of the Night (from The Magic Flute) gloriously and pursues the elusive Jerry and even more elusive joke ignominiously.

My favourite moment involves Jerry/Jesus turning water into wine. Or is that infected blood …? Clearly Morse is an inspired creative force brimming with great ideas in cahoots with his directorial and design collaborators.

There is a feeling, however, that Wise Guy doesn’t know to end. Its energy and focus dissipates rather than coalesces into more than the sum of its parts. A ruthless willingness to dispense with some elements that don’t really ‘earn their keep’ could improve the play’s structure. On the other hand it does manifest Anthony’s reluctance to let go, in particular, and the age and stage of young ‘starving artists’ in general.  


Make a comment

An interesting playwriting debut

Review by Sonya Stewart 13th Sep 2019

An aspiring stand-up comedian, Anthony (played by writer Ethan Morse) loves Jerry Seinfeld and red wine. 

Living in a tiny bedsit he has created a shrine to his personal god. Across from this stands a microphone, and a stage door. Fans of Seinfeld out there will make the connection to both settings and the overall idea that this is a show about “nothing”. [More]


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council