22 Boom! sounded like a sure Fringe favorite. Advertising that it does 23 plays in 70 minutes, it promised something like a Fringe buffet. Light, clever, crisp entertainment, and funny, right? Sadly, it felt like reading the comic strips with the punch lines cut out.
The premise is that a playwright, suffering writer’s block, was searching for “the perfect play.” The character becomes both a kind of emcee and narrator. Joined by 7 other actors on stage, she announces scene titles served up by the other performers. They act out these “playlets,” which are little more than set ups with a combination of dialogue and stop-action pantomime that reminded me of the popular theatre improv game based on frozen statues.
“Adult Children in the Kitchen,” “How to Hide an Aging Neck” “A Lacrosse Game” and “I Love You More than the Dogs.” If the banality of the titles was not annoying enough, the tech problems, which had started even before the show began, created an imbalance so the actors had to mostly shout over their own soundtrack. Our narrator, with the softest voice in the cast, couldn’t compete. The most experienced troupe member bellowed her way through and by show’s end was hoarse. All too often I felt as if I were watching a foreign film with a very loud score and no subtitles.
Written by Miranda Rose Hall
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As someone who has taken a lot of improv classes and watched even more of it, I usually find the moment-to-moment discoveries between actors really exciting. In this case, I saw talent bubbling up here and there. One actor played a dog who was sitting at a table in conversation with a middle aged woman whose teenage daughter wouldn’t talk to her so she resorted to relating to a canine. “The dog” made some wonderful physical choices and the whole scene offered good possibilities.
Like all the scenes, it broke off before any interesting development and ended in a banal, so-called “happy ending.” Am I missing something here?
There were other memorable moments, but as the actors were not identified other than as a team of names in the program, I’m left to coax up my own banal generalities as in “You know the moment in the traffic jam when there was a gridlock ballet?” Now that was funny. I laughed also at the set up of a young girl torn between yoga and the bar culture, another scene where an actress made an amusing Mary Poppins figure, arriving complete with umbrella and capacious bag, and the “woman in labor” presentation where having been coached by someone screaming into a megaphone, the baby pops out and is seemingly caught by and viewed inside the cone of the megaphone.
The one truly impromptu scene was offered by an audience member before the show, written by a playwright-in-residence for the evening during the rest of the performance, and then presented at the end. It involved two people and a third character named “Heat” who breathed heavily onto the people. These actors stayed focused and in the moment and all the others not in the scene watched from the sides and were laughing. That’s the electric current we had been waiting for all evening.
But mostly, the constructed set ups (hardly “plays”) were taken at breakneck speed and abounded in silly trite choices, clichéd foreign accents, lots of posing, and broad hammy reactions. Everything grayed out. Instead of being lost in a garden of delights, I was just lost.
22 Boom! Written by Miranda Rose Hall. Directed by Renana Fox. Produced by Nu Sass. Featuring Tori Boutin, Cate Brewer, Darnell Eaton, Dannielle Hutchinson, Lily Kerrigan, Ben Lauer, Aubri O’Connnor, and John Stange. Reviewed by Susan Galbraith.