Rick Santorum, the famous (infamous?) Senator turned Presidential-candidate turned whatever-he-is-now once said, “I’m living for donuts and venison, and that’s true. And specialty gopher meat.”
Ok, that wasn’t really him. What it was is a “Bad Lip Reading” of the candidate’s campaign video, and as I sat through Half Past What? at the Capital Fringe Festival, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the online nonsense meme, and how it maybe makes more sense than I realized.
Half Past What? opens with Tot (Kathleen Barth) waking up her friend and/or roommate Raf. Raf isn’t one to be woken, but as Tot begins to make breakfast the foundation of their relationship begins to become clear.
Ordinarily, this is the part of the review where I’d give a synopsis of the plot, a few key elements, and explain the dynamic between the characters, but Half Past What? is more a riddle than a story, and I can’t honestly say I have it figured out. There are a few things we know for sure, though:
Raf and Tot either can’t or won’t leave their apartment, but they’re definitely afraid of what’s outside.
They’re transfixed by something out their window – a ferris wheel, most likely, but the imagery changes from time to time.
Half Past What?
by Casey Bauer
Director: Jonathan Wong
Details and tickets
Something terrible happened inside the apartment, and it may or may not be related to their dog (which is, itself, most likely dead).
Confused? Fantastic. You’ve got plenty of company, but strap in: It’s a fun ride.
The only glimpse of the outside world – our moment of sanity inside the play – comes in the form of Rif (Charlie Cook). Rif arrives through the door with pomp and ceremony, announcing that he’s a dentist (of sorts) and performing a few simple tricks for the audience. I wouldn’t hire him to work on my teeth, but he might be great at a twisted children’s birthday party.
If you’re completely lost, part of the difficulty in understanding the play is that the dialogue is largely made up of high-minded nonsense talk. Think Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead mixed in with Dr. Seuss, but hit over the head with a frying pan.
A quick example: In the midst of a romantic encounter with Rif, Raf suggests that “we can play checkers on my bellybutton!” Noting that this is an absurdity, Charlie of course points out that “it’s only good for Scrabble.”
What’s great, however, is that for all the nonsense talk, you actually know exactly what the actors are trying to say. Through their actions and intonations, the words actually matter little at all. Instead, they provide a thick layer of madness that sets the tone for the play and drags the audience along for the ride.
That’s a credit to the actors, who are able to speak without speaking (in English, anyway) for a full 60 minutes.
Sure, I never knew exactly what the play was trying to say. Is it a commentary on depression? A Tyler Durden-esque bout of schizophrenia?
I had no clue, but the play is intriguing enough that I very much wanted to figure it out. In fact, I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Not knowing what to say about it myself, I took some time to interview other Fringe goers who’d seen it about their thoughts.
As one individual put it, “I have no idea why I liked it. But I liked it.”
Sounds about right, and if that isn’t the spirit of the Fringe Festival wrapped up in a ball, I’m not sure what is.
What I will say is that this is a play to take with you into a dark place where you can quietly roll it around in your mind. If you’ve had a few adult beverages at the tent and are looking for something silly and light, this may not be the ticket.
So there it is. If your mimosa is over-boiled, maybe walk your cat around the Volkswagen instead. But if your rubber spaceship is revved up and ready for flight, then have a gumdrop. You’ll be glad you did.