Experimental theatre can be a tricky thing. There was a time when even now-famous works like Waiting for Godot were considered off-the-wall, but their themes have resonated with generations of audience members.
Though it ponders many weighty concepts, it’s not entirely clear that Caught in Dante’s Fifth: The Naked Truth of Kindred Spirits has the same weight. This hodgepodge of material has aesthetic value but leaves a resounding “Huh?” in regards to its plot.
The trio performance concerns one man who is reincarnated and regales the audience about his previous lives, whereas the other is his friend and enemy throughout various life cycles. The two square off as humans, bickering about many points relevant to both the human world and the wild.
The problem with these points is that it’s hard to see where they connect. Take any five minutes of Caught in Dante’s Fifth and you’ll be musing over some fascinating dialogue. But as a whole, it’s hard to see how misandry and frogs turn into guns and wildebeest.
It’s a treat if you enjoy surreal or absurd theatre, and this off-the-wall offering certainly has it’s merits. Most shows at Fringe don’t have nearly this much technical specification, with a full set and lighting ambiance. Projections were often used in the background, and the graphics were particularly helpful in explaining the plot. Even the music and effects were polished, immersing the audience into the bizarre world that the characters inhabit.
And the performers themselves were fairly skilled, especially at highlighting the tortured relationship between Jameson Freeman and Mediombo Fofana. The two banter back and forth, exchanging witty comments and insults that culminate in a complex dance. This is lovely to watch, and the two excel with both humor and confrontation. On the other hand, the purpose of Vonette Mewborn’s character is unclear, appearing for mere moments and diluting the intensity between the two men.
Though the high production values create an ethereal mood and the actors duel it out with passion, some of the structural elements in Caught in Dante’s Fifth: The Naked Truth of Kindred Spirits are incomprehensible — even in the mythical world of the play. This piece fits squarely in its surrealist genre, but the confusing mishmash of themes place it a cut below the others.
Caught in Dante’s Fifth has 3 more performances at the Warehouse, 645 New York Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.
Julia rates this 3 out of 5
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