At least it’s a good premise – selling your soul to Satan – and it features young hipster roommates in the Internet age. And the writing has promise and potential despite the dual-author syndrome where portions of the play reflect the distinctly different styles of the two writers, Lee Alan Bleyer and Jessica Pearson. There’s just enough wit in the language and outlandish characters to make it worth a visit while being short (and cheap) enough to plod through some of the redundant and inert passages. The actors give their all and when everything hits just right, the piece exudes a crack-the-whip kind of humor eliciting unexpected bursts of laughter at the sheer zaniness of it.
Most committed to the insanity is Matt Dewberry as the “Cypher.” Give the guy his own sit-com already—he’s a Natural. He’s the first one you see even before the show begins, under covers oblivious to the sweltering heat, and the last one before the lights fade to black, face intently glued to the blue glowing screen of his laptop which is more of an appendage than an electronic device.
On a desperate mission to think of clever names for a rock band, because that’s what ultimately determines a band’s success, right?, he blurts out insane word combinations like his life depends on it and is really the heart of the play, so much so that I kept looking at my program to make sure I was in the right show, even after Anna Brungardt surfaced as Eleanor.
Her “tragical history” includes Maureen O’Rourke and Alison Talvacchio as roommates Christina and Virginia who banter about their lives with a real-time, realistic flow, while tossing out insane reflections as comfortably as if they were brushing and flossing. Nuggets include observations about watch-wearers—like, seriously, who needs to know the exact time that badly?—and why freak out about theft?, Nick, played by Jon Jon Johnson, enters with a cool detachment spouting philosophical propositions about life, happiness, and the ultimate choices. In one fascinating passage, he takes on Cypher offering him access to “the essence of true knowledge” in contrast to skimming the information surface of even the most sophisticated Internet search engines. The mood darkens along with the rudimentary though effective lighting when Nick casually offers each an opportunity to have their wildest dreams come true in exchange for their soul, which “seems like a big deal, huh?” asks one of the bewildered ones.
The Tragical History of Eleanor Bloom glimmers as a bright spot among the throng of Fringe offerings if for nothing else than to catch Dewberry personify the ultimate Cypher—not quite geek, not even an official roommate, he just showed up with his laptop and never left—totally disconnected from the world around him unless it involves the Internet. Now, That’s a Tragical History.
[Jessica Pearson and Anna Brungardt write for DC Theatre Scene. That has not affected the objectivity of this review.]
The Tragical History of Eleanor Bloom
Written By Lee Alan Bleyer and Jessica Pearson
Directed by Jessica Pearson
Produced by HoboJungle Theater Company
Reviewed by Debbie M. Jackson
Running Time: Nearly one hour
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?