As you enter Redrum at Fort Fringe to see 1UP Theatre’s Saving Private Poo—a violent smashing-together of the film Saving Private Ryan and A.A. Milne’s classic Winnie-the-Pooh characters—you’ll hear mash-ups of pop songs playing from the speakers. This will be your first clue that what you’re about to witness will be a production full of wit and humor that’s flecked with moments of surprisingly genuine emotion.
First, let’s set the scene: Captain Christopher Robinson leads a band of battle-ready stuffed animals through the Nazi-occupied One Hundred Acre Wood… France. Their mission is to rescue Poo Bear (yes, all of these names are wryly copyright-proofed), who got lost while navigating his hot air balloon through enemy territory. Along the way, they encounter Nazis, snipers, and their own in-group tensions.
Overall, the show itself is hilarious, especially when it’s most committed to its outlandish premise. There’s no irony or tongue-in-cheek breaking of the fourth wall here, which makes the experience of watching the piece more fun and immersive for the audience.
Some of the jokes are a little trite and predictable (generally surrounding the Nazi characters, whose version of speaking German includes saying words like “Autobahn” and “Volkswagen” repeatedly), but overall, the inherent humor of having well-known children’s figures react in their characteristic way to the horrors of WWII is enough to produce belly-laughs.
Saving Private Poo
by Steve Custer and Ian Hoch
at Redrum – Fort Fringe
610 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20001
Details and tickets[/wpcol_1quarter]The play’s strength really lies not in the script, but in the committed performances of the individual actors. Matt Baughman as Capt. Robinson—who switches back and forth from hardened military leader to lisping English schoolboy—Ian Hoch’s irrepressible Tiger, and Adam R. Adkins’ delightfully depressed Eeee-Ooorrr are true stand-outs in this regard.
To 1UP Theatre’s credit, the 50-minute production is kept from being totally one-note. Milne’s almost painfully earnest bon mots are quoted by Poo Bear (David Benji Weiner), and a particularly heart-breaking scene involving Kanga (Ashley Hall) and Rue (Melanie Kurstin) remind the audience that one half of the source material is actually a life-and-death wartime drama.
Saving Private Poo gleefully embraces the anything-goes ethos of the Fringe Festival, and if you’re looking for a lighthearted break from the stifling July heat (and the festival’s many Greek tragedy and Shakespeare reimaginings), there are few better ways to escape reality for nearly an hour.