Fringe? Fringe? Man, this is the definition of Fringe:
The tiny Shop Theater in Fort Fringe is filled to the rafters. It is a hundred and four degrees. Maybe hotter. On stage, naked people, ostensibly drunk, sweating and covered with faux beer, are chasing each other. Then, just as we are about to hit the dramatic peak, some t-shirt from the Fringe (they don’t have suits) comes in and calls the play to a halt. The Naked Party has run out of time. It doesn’t matter. The crowd is ecstatic. The cast reappears to take a curtainless curtain call, and we all dissipate into the cool night air.
The show had ten minutes to go when the Fringe pulled the plug, but writer-director Jason Schlafstein was nonplussed. He averred that he had seen more than ten minutes he could excise without disturbing the story line, and he promised that the show would clock in at a svelte 75 minutes next time.
About that story line: Alex (Adam Winer), a college senior whose life could use some shaking up, decides to do so by throwing a party, the dress code for which is nothing. He recruits his hapless buddy Budman (A.J. Cooke), a guy with an incredible instinct for making bad choices. Alex’s inspired theme also occurs in the real world (Google it), and it may surprise you to learn that more than male computer science majors attend. Sometimes women, normally constrained in garments designed by men, find it empowering to wear a garment designed for their comfort by One who transcends gender.
They do in this play, too. Erin (Ann Fraistat), a tender soul fresh from the garden of lost love shows up, as does Vanessa (Katie Jeffries), who hopes that by revealing herself she can transform herself. Julie (Molly Scrivens), alive with the possibility of joy, arrives with her prudish boyfriend (John Hamilton). Jordan (Sarah Crumet), a nearly fearless old friend of Alex and Budman, comes with her company (Christian Sullivan), who turns out to be a quite unwelcome guest. Rob Shand, as a guitar-playing free spirit, completes the party.
And they take off their clothes – in a closet, which serves as a confessional. Like a penitent reciting his sins, they recite the reasons they hate their bodies – big feet, small breasts, small penis, large butt, and so on. Their nakedness is their absolution.
This isn’t Arthur Miller – in fact, one of the reasons no one was much upset when it closed early was that we could pretty much guess the ending – but it is honest, insightful and witty. The quality of the acting varies considerably, but Fraistat is terrific, radiating her character’s wide hopes and deep doubts every moment she is on stage. Sullivan is also excellent as the sort of guy who could give sex a bad name. And if you ever wanted to know what sort of man would protest when his beautiful girlfriend wants to go to a naked party, Hamilton captures him to the letter.
And the bodies: like everyone’s gross and perfect body, they are all beautiful, crafted by the same Artist who gave us the Grand Canyon, and Saturn. It’s nice to know that He, or She, has still got it.
- Running Time: 75 minutes (so far).
- Tickets: The Naked Party
- Remaining Shows: Sat, July 12 at 2:30 . Thurs, July 17 at 10:30 . Fri, July 25 at 10:30 . Sat, July 26 at 11 . Sun, July 27 at 2:30
- Where: Fort Fringe, 607 New York Avenue, NW