If you have already read a few reviews of this year’s Fringe, then you have heard this before: “The Shop,” where several of these plays take place, is a garage. A weird, dark, hot, hole in the ground that screams haunted house more than it does welcoming theater. So, if one decides to trek here on a hot day, the play better be well worth it. Long Beach ’44 may be worth the trip.
Set in the Summer of ’44, this play captures two cousins finding a buried Nazi uniform in the sand on Long Island. Together with their wounded G.I. uncle, they begin “sleuthing” to unravel the mystery of the buried items.
Now, the synopsis sounds interesting and it says it’s a true story (forgive me for not hearing of this story before), but one can easily get lost in the quickly narrated history, the fast-paced, back-and-forth lines, and the poor stage movement that makes you wonder if they are in the beach, in the bedroom, on the boardwalk, etc., etc.
My suggestion: slow down. This play is supposed to be an hour and half, but I was on my way home after an hour and ten. It is over before you know it and that is not a good thing. In about three sentences (literally), they cover the entire middle and end of the play. I was following along okay and then BAM – random storeowner shows up, the real tale of what happened is told (again, in three sentences), few smiles and pictures, play over. What? What? What? I left there confused and actually had to ask people “So, what happened?” When you leave a play having to ask that question, there is a problem.
Now, after that critique, one may wonder why I said “may be worth it” earlier. Well…I actually enjoyed watching all of the actors – not just one or two – but all of them. From the Jewish storeowner that made the word “schvitzing” funny every time, to the youngest cousin that had many of the funnier lines and delivered them splendidly, each actor brought their all to the play and that is something that makes you forget you are in a garage.
Also, and my absolute favorite parts, were the references to the time period – Rita Hayworth, Jack Benny and Nancy Drew made this a real 1944 production (and, yes, I can say that because as evidenced by other productions, playwrights are not always accurate with their history). Being that I grew up with Nancy Drew, I laughed at every reference to her blue roadster, her father and her best friends. These two young cousins wanted to be just like her, they read from her book and I believe the question that always came to mind was “What would Nancy do?” Well done.
There is one more qualm, however. As the disclaimer stated in the beginning, this is a “work in progress” and the playwright and others are watching this production to see how to change it, so scripts will be used and stage movement is not perfected. Excuse me? I just spent $18 to see this thing – get rid of the scripts. I don’t want people forgetting lines, but these actors had it pretty well memorized and those scripts were nothing more than a crutch that distracted the audience. Get rid of them and those actors will be 10 times better than they already are.
With all of that said, this may be the play for you. As for me, I would rather stay home, enjoy the Summer of ’08 and maybe, just maybe, pick up a Nancy Drew book.
- Running Time: 1:10 (approximately)
- Tickets: Long Beach ’44
- Remaining Shows: Fri, July 18 at 10 . Sat, July 19 at 1
- Where: The Shop at Fort Fringe. enter at 610 L Street NW