The Golden Apple of Eternal Desire is presented as an exploration of desire and it’s archetypes through thematic improv comedy; the first scene is a scripted piece featuring actors Nancy Flores, Chris Whitney, and the show’s playwright Frank Mancino portraying archetypical characters hanging out on a park bench, occasionally feeding rum-laced popcorn to pigeons but mostly scouting craigslist ads for potential romantic partners.
In the subsequent two scenes lies the structured, thematic improv—audience members are asked to select from relationships (father/daughter, boss/employee) and desires (to get a backrub, to have a baby) that are listed in manifold in the program, and then give them to the actors—Whitney and Flores, in turn, do a series of improvised scenes based off the suggested relationships and desires.
Improv is hard. Thinking quickly on your feet, not editing what’s coming out of your mouth, engaging with your partner, all while a live audience sits in front of you, feeding you suggestions, can be downright difficult. Especially when the audience is composed entirely of one tightlipped Eastern European gal and a reviewer who laughs like a calf with a sinus infection.
The trio of actors give incredibly committed performances, although unfortunately even their dedicated performances cannot elevate what is kind of a cool concept into what would be kind of a good show. The first scene, which dabbles in mythical reference and has an absurdist feel, is compelling, but primarily due to the performances of the ensemble, and not due to its thematic content or message. Obfuscation and lackadaisical wordplay simply to demonstrate one’s ability to obfuscate and meander through concepts does not a deep, reflective, or evocative piece make—but rather creates a work that hints at interesting ideas but ends up being inchoate.
The structured improvs felt a bit over-rehearsed, something that improv should never palpably project. This might have been due in part to it’s structure—when you have a group of actors rehearsing with the same given scenarios and character pairings (Barack Obama and Sarah Palin go hunting—isn’t this humor a little one note?), it’s only natural that, as they become more comfortable with the material, they’ll begin to lose a bit of the crispness and freshness that is a large part of the appeal of watching improv.
Although this wasn’t the best piece of theater I’ve ever seen, there’s a tender place in my heart for it—it was definitely fringey. It took an untraditional approach and implemented classical themes to explore a pretty abstract concept—with vagueries such as that, it’s not too surprising that the final product wasn’t entirely successful, but the attempt in and of itself, the fact that there are works like this taking part of the festival, definitely wins The Golden Apple of Eternal Desire a nod, but unfortunately not much else.
The Golden Apple of Eternal Desire
Presented by Shoestring Theatre
Written and Directed by Frank Mancino
Running time: 60 minutes
Read all the reviews and check out the full Capital Fringe schedule here.
Did you see the show? What did you think?