If you’ve ever picked up a roommate from an online ad, you know that living with strangers can be, well, strange. In a world premiere from outer space-oriented Nu Puppis collective, that strangeness becomes literally alien as four extraterrestrials are inexplicably thrown together by the roommate roulette of the internet. Here’s the catch, none of them knows the others are from out of this world.
This new play is titled One in Four, most likely referencing the commonly quoted statistic that one in four people believe aliens have landed on Earth. In Portland, Oregon, where this play is set, the colourful locals might make you think that probability is even more likely. But the title might also be referencing the humor of the show, which lands approximately one laugh every four seconds.
One in Four beams a tightly-written comedy into the equally tight Shopkeepers basement Fringe space. But Levi Meerovich’s raucous script relies heavily on four actors’ extraordinary commitment to physical comedy and classical farce to keep the laughs rolling.
We focus on Sid, played with strangely adorable nebbishness by Dixon Cashwell. Sid’s mission to Earth isn’t clear to us (or, much to his dismay, to him), but he writes his report nonetheless as he’s introduced to his ostensibly human roommates one by one. Cashwell’s physicality gives the audience a great picture of someone one might think was an alien. His back curves tensely over his ragged beard and loud Hawaiian shirt, but he shows technical comedic brilliance in moments of unexpected explosion out of his constriction.
One in Four
closes July 23, 2017
Details and tickets
The next introduced alien (Matt Mitchell) picks a very different tack in his attempt to appear human as Lou from Louisiana (so named “because it would be easier to remember”). Lou and Sid share a tension but Lou’s tightness is all straight back and stiff limbs. His discipline leaves him with a straight face while the other actors abuse him with impunity. In other words, Mitchell plays the perfect bumbler.
Jess Rawls and Rachel Hindman cap off the group, with Rawls playing a feisty alien Scout posing as a nurse and Hindman as a specimen collector pretending to be a musician. Both enter the play as typical stock characters (Rawls as the straight man and Hindman as the goofy wildcard), but their ongoing choices make them something more than that. As the play develops, both women start to go against type, with the straight man becoming looser and looser while Hindman’s fool builds a sense of rage that boils over as the play goes on.
Surprises like these are what makes One in Four a Practically Perfect Fringe play. Wacky antics, like these characters twisting themselves into knots to prove their humanity or the incredible mess that they make with foodstuffs, are the reason that I go to Fringe in the first place. But those kind of laughs aren’t hard to come by on Fringe stages. What makes One in Four special is these comedians’ ability to take an interesting premise and keep it from wearing too thin by subverting expectations.
If you come to Fringe for quirky comedy with the ability to make fun of itself while holding your attention, you should go to One in Four. If your Fringe menu mainly consists of heavy pieces, I might suggest that you should go to One in Four to give your brain a break. If you are human, you should go to One in Four to laugh at your own humanity. If you are an alien, you should go to One in Four to see what not to do. What I’m saying is, you should go to One in Four.