The Beasts describes itself as “a dark comedy. With puppets.” I guess this is mostly right. It was not that dark, and it was fairly funny. And there were puppets.
The Beasts is written and performed by Ben Egerman, who created last year’s Do Not Kill Me, Killer Robots. In that show, he was staving off the hordes of attacking automatons. This year, he’s taking refuge from roving wolves. I’m starting to sense a pattern.
The Beasts is set in a world where human beings have lost control of the planet, which has now been taken over by the fauna. The last few humans are holed up in a skyscraper, debating whether or not to venture outside. They’ve decided to hold a town meeting to discuss the pros and cons. The play’s vignettes feature various citizens trying to convince us, the last humans on earth, to vote “yea” or “nay” on the plan to leave the building. Egerman’s characterizations are at times quite engaging and at other times a bit uninspired.
Definitely the puppets were the best part of this shows. Egerman presents four vignettes from the beast’s perspective, delivered by increasingly elaborate puppets. There were a few technical glitches with the snake but, other than that, I was impressed with both the design of the puppets and the actor’s performances with them. Egerman saves his best voices and personas for the puppets, allowing them to really engage the audience. These were the moments he seemed most enthusiastic. His energy was way up and he had me totally tuned in. I only wish he could have been this “on” for the whole show.
There were a few chortle moments, and I even laughed out loud once or twice. Egerman repeats a shtick he did in last year’s play where he presents humorous charts, hastily drawn on cardboard (I did not see the full show last year but I caught this bit at the Fringe Preview night), and this element is used again to good effect.
Ultimately, I felt this play to be a solidly middle-of-the-road Fringe show. There were a few brief moments of something excellent in an otherwise underwhelming show. In reviewing last year’s show, Jenn Larsen wrote, “when he’s on and the delivery is strong, it’s hysterical. When the energy falls flat, it’s painful.” For this year’s Fringe he has evened things out. The show has very few moments of agony, but also fewer moments of hysterics. What it does have is puppets.
The Beasts has 4 more performances at The Bedroom – Fort Fringe, 610 L Street NW, Washington, DC.
Josh rates this 3 out of 5
Click here for more Fringe reviews