Kristen Brumfield throws a fit during a scene in the sketch comedy show Blaines City which pokes fun at Haines on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in Haines, Alaska. (Rashah McChesney/Chilkat Valley News)

The sketch-comedy show Blaines City is set in a fictional town meant to parody life in Haines. And it is on point. 

The curtain opens on a family arriving in Haines after a long drive. They stop at a restaurant to eat but are stymied by a waitress, played by Susie McCartney, who cannot seem to produce anything on the menu. 

Kombucha? Never heard of it. Beer? No liquor license. Coke? Unfortunately a goat was spooked by a helicopter causing an avalanche across the road that stopped the delivery truck from getting to town. 

The dialogue is fast-paced and funny. 

Susie McCartney plays a waitress out of pretty much everything during a Blaines City skit on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in Haines, Alaska. (Rashah McChesney/Chilkat Valley News)

At one point, the daughter in the family – played by Mads McNeil – tries to order something vegetarian only to be routed first to the chicken, then the fish. Finally, exasperated, she asks for a quesadilla. 

“Oh I’m sorry we don’t do ethnic food here,” McCartney quips. “ It’s a real traditional, conservative town. We keep our menu here pretty traditional.” 

“How about some pasta then please?” McNeil responds. 

“Right, no ethnic food,” McCartney fires back.  

It’s the perfect introduction to a sketch-comedy show that looks at the good, the bad and the ugly of living in Haines. 

Authors Kyle Clayton and Lex Treinen are debuting it Friday, May 10 at the Chilkat Center for the Arts with the help of the Lynn Canal Community Players. 

Clayton, the former owner of the Chilkat Valley News and Treinen, the paper’s current editor, drew from personal experience covering politics and happenings about town to write, and they had plenty of material to work with. 

Still, Clayton said they didn’t write the show on their own. Instead, they showed up with basic scripts for each scene and let the actors  – all people who live in Haines – bring them to life. The result is several on-the-nose portrayals of people we’ve all known – or at some point been –  in this town. 

“As we’ve been here practicing, they’ve sort of woven into a complete story,” Clayton said. 

This is a show poking fun at the soul of Haines. That portrait is hilarious, unflinching and, at times, hard to watch. 

Members of the cast of Blaines City in rehearsal for a Scooby-Doo style skit about the town's former assessor on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in Haines, Alaska. (Rashah McChesney/Chilkat Valley News)
Members of the cast of Blaines City in rehearsal for a Scooby-Doo style skit about the town’s former assessor. (Rashah McChesney/Chilkat Valley News)

Like a scene parodying Scooby-Doo that includes the gang on the hunt for the town’s last contract tax assessor – who winds up having a heart attack. 

Clayton said he hoped the audience understood his target: the treatment of the contract assessor. 

“I’m not going to pull away from the fact that that dude came to Haines and within a short month or whatever after leaving, he had a heart attack,” Clayton said. “People should think about that and know about that. A lot of people don’t even know that that happened.” 

There’s a sharp edge to the criticism in some of Clayton’s scripts, similar to the sharp edges to the public discourse in Haines. 

“It’s metaphorical,” Clayton said. “We’re not really killing each other but we kind of are in the way that we treat each other. People in town who have known each other for decades still see each other as very flat people. That is almost a little death.”

There has been some catharsis for Clayton in writing this show. He said many of the editorials he wrote for the Chilkat Valley News were about themes that come up in Blaines City. 

“I’ve been really interested in polarization and the psychological effects of polarization,” he said. “I’ve read books about this stuff, it’s interesting to me how our brains operate under certain effects. Especially when it comes to, you know, these issues for people mean a lot to them. So that’s why they animate them so much but it also causes a certain amount of blindness.”

But it’s not all politics. Treinen injected a certain amount of absurdity into the sketches he wrote – including one with a pair of avocado smugglers trying to avoid the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. 

Susie McCartney and Lex Treinen as Royal Canadian Mounted Police during rehearsal for a Blaines City skit on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in Haines, Alaska. (Rashah McChesney/Chilkat Valley News)
Susie McCartney and Lex Treinen as Royal Canadian Mounted Police during rehearsal for a Blaines City skit. (Rashah McChesney/Chilkat Valley News)

“I guess for whatever reason I just, you know, didn’t want to have anymore of my mindspace thinking about city politics because I cover that as a reporter here,” Treinen said. “I think I went the absurdist route. Both of the things I wrote were about food, which I also think says something about what’s on my mind.” 

Treinen said the troupe worked together to shape the show and to find balance between making fun of people, but doing it in a respectful way.  Some things didn’t make the cut. 

“Sometimes the discussions were intense and heartfelt just about what sensitivities we should have,” Treinen said. “Hopefully we pull off that balance, but comedy is always a hard one to pull off. We probably will offend some people.”  

(left) Kyle Clayton, DeLise Keim, and Mads McNeil go rehearse for Blaines City, a sketch comedy show poking fun at Haines. (Rashah McChesney/Chilkat Valley News)

Clayton sees Blaines City as an ongoing project. A world they’ve created that they can keep inhabiting. 

“I have more ideas and I’ve already started writing more,” he said. 

Clayton said he is blown away at how many people dedicated so much time to the show and how “full of heart” it is. He said anyone who has been paying attention to happenings in Haines will be able to find something to laugh about. 

“Ultimately, I want us all to be able to take ourselves a little less seriously,” he said. “That, to me, is how you save yourself in this town if you’re invested in it.”