Blogging the Fringe

Saturday, 18 August 2007


‘Play on Words’ is often funny, occasionally frustratingly reductive, and always clever. This well-paced piece (a compliment that deserves its own sentence) follows playwright Fred and his goofball partner Eddie, as they recreate the episodic fragments of his relationship with a now missing Jen. The actors excel in a dramatic and professional performance, punctuated by the script’s ability to draw humor from the mundane in verbal tangents reminiscent of Abbott and Costello's “Who’s on first?” routine.

I really enjoyed the concept behind the flashback storytelling (literally unpacking memories like so many cardboard boxes), but wished that the resolution had been more of an expansion of Fred’s tunnel-vision, instead of just an unexpected twist (the classic “6th Sense” revelation). The momentum of every scene is deftly transitioned into the next; it is a commendably well-paced narrative.

Fred’s manic-depressive behavior drives away his two most important relationships, until he is alone, untethered in the spotlight on the expanse of the dark stage. It seems that at the center of the play is just a flawed, stressed, neurotic man apologizing for his variable behavior (mainly nervous breakdowns), vowing that things will be different, and hoping that they will actually go back to the way they were. Though this final imagery is indeed emotionally striking, it fails to deliver any resounding message or truth (perhaps this is where words, images, and script fail)? It is in this way that the play does not transmit the tenderness of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” which in contrast draws its strength from the relationship at its core and uses the dialogue as window dressing, not buttresses. Additionally, Fred’s ultimate regret is discredited by his need for a psychiatric intervention; I was unsure of whom to fault with his unraveling, but the lesson could not have been simply “chill out man and keep your girlfriend,” could it?

Thought it bears the connotation of a patronizing high-five (slugger), I mean it most sincerely when I call this young company both a recorded success and an overflow of potential. I am so impressed (read: jealous) by their drive, talent….and you should check them out yourselves here.


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