British spoof of the Gwyneth Paltrow ski trial crashes into Park City

People at the Egyptian Theatre reassured the play’s creators, ‘Of course we can get you skis.’

“Gwyneth Goes Skiing” is the most sparse of productions — the stage is pretty much bare — but the guys behind the spoof of the infamous Gwyneth Paltrow ski collision trial did express at least one concern about bringing it from London to Park City’s Egyptian Theatre.

“They asked us if we could get skis,” said Jen Silva, the Egyptian’s operations director. “We were, like, ‘Yes. Of course we can get you skis. Any mountain gear. Any ski gear. We have that.”

Clearly, Linus Karp and Joseph Martin – who constitute Awkward Productions — hadn’t done much research on Park City. But that’s in keeping with the production, which is a highly fictionalized retelling of the bizarre trial that pitted a retired Utah optometrist against a Hollywood star, both claiming the other caused a collision between the two on the slopes at Deer Valley.

Sanderson suffered broken bones and a major head injury, and sued for $3 million (later reduced to $300,000). Paltrow said she was left sore, and she missed a half a day of skiing. She countersued for $1 as a matter of principle, and she won.

“Like the rest of the world, we just thought it was very silly and ridiculous,” Karp told The New Yorker. “Like, how is this a real thing?” Yet he became obsessed with the case, watching the trial livestreamed from a Park City courtroom.

“Gwyneth Goes Skiing,” which opens Thursday at the Egyptian, is a stage production that’s sort of about that. Some of the material is drawn right from the court conflict; other parts are made up out of whole cloth. Here’s what it’s not:

It’s not like a Broadway musical • There are two cast members — Karp as Paltrow, and Martin as Sanderson.

It’s not a musical • There’s music, but there’s no band and no one actually sings. The music is all prerecorded, and Karp and Martin lip-sync. There is original music by Leland, the resident songwriter for “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Although there are umpteen stories online that refer to “Gwyneth Goes Skiing” as a musical, it’s not. Karp and Martin “really want to make that clear,” Silva said. “It’s a play with music.”

It’s not a passive experience • There’s audience participation at various times during the show, and audience members are expected to join in. “There’s a few scenes that they’ll be brought on stage to be a part of it,” Silva said. “They will pick some people from the audience and they’ll feed them some lines.” Audience members will play Paltrow’s husband and Sanderson’s girlfriend, among others.

It’s not nonpartisan • There will be a live vote at the end of each performance. Audience members can use their phones and QR code to vote for either Paltrow or Sanderson.

“It’s a fun, multimedia type show,” Silva said. “And they have some puppets as well. It’s going to be a blast.”

(Awkward Productions) Linus Karp plays Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Martin plays Terry Sanderson in "Gwyneth Goes Skiing."

It’s a spoof

The show (which runs about two hours, including an intermission) mocks the principals, but does not set out to skewer either the actress or the retired optometrist. “It’s very much like a loving story and a spoof,” Silva said. “They just wanted to write something silly.”

And silly it definitely is. Sanderson’s lawyer is played by a puppet. Paltrow’s daughter, Apple, is played by an apple on a stick.

“It’s fun. It’s really kitschy. It’s over the top,” Silva said. “It’s not meant to hurt anyone’s feelings or pick any sides, though the audience will take sides,” she said with a laugh. “But it’s all meant out of love.”

(Awkward Productions) Joseph Martin as Terry Sanderson and a puppet as one of Sanderson's lawyers in "Gwyneth Goes Skiing."

“It’s loose, deliberately half-arsed, cabaret-style stuff,” opined The Standard. And it’s aimed at “girls, gays and theys,” although anyone who paid any attention to the trial will get it.

That includes Silva, who was among the approximately 30 million people, according to Variety, who watched the trial. She didn’t want to express an opinion about the verdict, but did say she found it “very interesting how people can get wrapped up in … two versions of the same story.”

And, as strange as the trial turned out to be, she thinks locals can relate.

“Being a Park City resident and having skied, yeah, I’m always scared of other people that could hit me skiing,” she said. “In my mind, it felt relatable.” But at the same time, the presence of “this big star” made the whole thing kind of “weird.”

And some of the weirder lines in the production come straight from the trial transcript. Like when one of Sanderson’s lawyers asked Paltrow, “Are you good friends with Taylor Swift?”

(Jonny Ruff | Awkward Productions) Linus Karp as Gwyneth Paltrow in "Gwyneth Goes Skiing."

The whole thing is kind of ridiculous, which is the point.

“Exactly,” Silva said. “It is meant to be silly.”

Crossing the pond

After opening at the Pleasance Theatre (capacity: 230) in the Islington district of London back in December, “Gwyneth Goes Skiing” is traveling almost 5,000 miles to Park City. Which seems appropriate, given that the collision between Paltrow and Sanderson took place at Deer Valley and the trial unfolded in Park City itself.

And the folks at the Egyptian didn’t have to go after the show, the show came looking for them, sort of. Billionaire Matthew Prince, who recently bought the Park Record (and is embroiled in a legal dispute with hIs neighbors over his plans to build a mega-mansion in Park City) “reached out” to the staff at the Egyptian “and said, ‘Hey, this play got really great reviews. I would love to be able to bring that to you guys at the Egyptian Do you think that’s something we could do?’”

He was exaggerating about the reviews, which were sort of middling. But It wasn’t a tough decision. The answer was a quick yes.

“We just had to wrap our heads around it,” Silva said. “Of course we said yes. We have to do it in our theater in Park City. Full circle.”

(Awkward Productions) Linus Karp and Joseph Martin star in "Gwyneth Goes Skiing."

They did make one request — that the profits from the “Gwyneth Goes Skiing” performances would go to the Egyptian’s Tuition-Free YouTheatre Program

“We thought, ‘This is going to be a huge show. Can we use this as a fundraiser and help keep that free?’” Silva said.

Prince and the Park Record, which is sponsoring “Gwyneth Goes Skiing” at the Egyptian, agreed.

How to get tickets

Because of robust ticket sales, two additional performances — Saturday matinees — were added to the run. A few tickets remain for most of the scheduled performances, which begin Thursday and run through Sunday, May 26 (with the exception of Monday and Tuesday).

Tickets range from $39 to $65, and are available at tickets.egyptiantheatrecompany.org; at the theater’s box office at 328 Main Street in Park City; or by calling (855) 745-SHOW (7469).

“And even sold-out shows, you can get yourself on a waitlist and there’s always a chance that people will cancel or seats will open up,” Silva said.