Fringe day 6: Halfway home


Sometimes, the drama just plays right out in the lobby.

So, I'm in a line of about 20 or so folks waiting for the box office to open at HUGE Improv Theater before the 8:30 show (Sousepaw) when a woman walks in from outside and loudly proclaims that she is first in line. This continues to be her main line of argument, even as the house manager tries to point her to the back of the patiently waiting -- though suddenly rather quiet (we're theater-goers after all and know what to do when the show starts) -- group.

After reaching a fever pitch, and a claim that her ultra pass should get her some special favors (Note: This was a line for pass holders or those who had already paid online. And just to be clear, this was just to get tickets. There was another line to stand in to get into the theater itself) the harried house manager got her to the back of the line, and our little bit of street theater was done.

What happened inside? I'm glad you asked.

"I throw the ball like a monster."

In a dingy hotel room right out of a Sam Shepard play, a down-on-his-luck baseball player is waiting for what, he realizes on some deeper level, is his last chance. To pass the time, and to keep him away from the bottles of liquor that tempt him, he has invited the Reptile Girl from the local circus to spend the evening with him. Their conversations about their lives, their hopes, and losses, make up the bulk of Jonathan Goldberg's tremendous play, which comes to Fringe from New York by way of he Shelby Company.

The (real life -- he's in the Hall of Fame) pitcher, Rube Waddell, possess a cannon in his left arm, but his drinking and somewhat eccentric behavior leaves him at the bottom of the heap. The Reptile Girl has never even had a moment of glory; as a runaway in youth she has drifted through the seamy side of early 20th-century life, losing a piece of herself on each step along the way.

Over the evening and next day, the two talk about their pasts and possible futures, neither pleased with where they are now. That doesn't mean there isn't drama in that hot Texas hotel room, but you sense that most of it has already been played. The two performers, James B. Kennedy and Ariana Venturi, flesh out their characters in quick order, allowing us inside from the very beginning and guiding us as they peel away the layers in search of some truth at their characters' cores.

"Why can't I make love to you and do advanced mathematics?"

This awkwardly titled show is actually made up of two short one-acts, A.R. Gurney's The Problem and Alan Ball's Your Mother's Butt. The first, about the increasingly odd, secret lives of a married couple, is more successful than the second, where a particularly dull patient (his biggest obsession is buying a new pair of black shoes) tries to get to the heart of his emotional problems with his therapist. A trio of fine performers carry the action, with Ari Hoptman as the analytical husband, Nathaniel Nesheim-Case as the dull patient, and Amy Shomshak as both the wife and the therapist. Gurney seems more willing to dive into the growing absurdity of the situation, spinning enough of a convoluted plot for a two-act farce. The slightly more measured Ball piece weakens in comparison, but does get eventually to some high lunacy as well.

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