In The First Five Minutes Are Slow, a Fringe show created and performed by Kathryn Jorgenson, Brant Miller, and Mark Rehani, Jorgenson’s character is sent on an Alice-like odyssey through an amorphous wonderland, and there are no words, equations, or dance moves adequate for me to communicate just how much more I enjoyed this little Fringe show than Tim Burton’s $250 million Alice movie. That’s not very high praise; for the high praise, read on.
Daily Planet bloggers Wendy Gennaula and Kate Hoff both published brief reviews of First Five Minutes before I saw the show Tuesday night; both bloggers basically said that the show indeed starts intentionally slow, and then it gets weird and awesome. I can’t disagree, except that the first five minutes aren’t actually even slow—in my experience, only Monica Thomas can get as much comic mileage out of sitting silently downstage and making funny faces as Jorgenson can.
Then, indeed, things get weirder and awesomer. The show is a nonstop hailstorm of bits of physical and verbal comedy that’s very funny—the large audience laughed its way through the entire show—without relying on rimshot punch lines. It’s brainy and allusive without a trace of snobbery, and it involves the kind of inventive use of props that makes me want to scream when big productions like The 101 Dalmatians Musical or The Wizard of Oz get lazy with set design. Those shows, to me, are like parents who spend the entire summer entertainment budget on a trip to Disney World and then, out of money, lock the kids in the closet until school starts again. If Jorgenson, Miller, and Rehani can create a giant sea monster with only two desk lamps and an overhead projector, productions that tour in multiple buses and trailers can damn well figure out how to give us the other 88 Dalmatians and an entire hot air balloon instead of just a basket.
Throughout The First Five Minutes, Jorgenson, Miller, and Rehani interact with great chemistry, camaraderie, and timing—all hallmarks of Four Humors Theater, a company Miller and artistic consultant Matt Spring were among the co-founders of. I’m not sure if Jorgenson, Miller, and Rehani would really want to be given a $52 million budget to create a Broadway production of Spider-Man (and that is indeed the relevant figure for the forthcoming show, with songs written by U2’s Bono and the Edge), but they’ve got this Fringe thing signed, sealed, and delivered. The First Five Minutes Are Slow is a fizzy confection of a show that makes no grand statements about human nature, except to say that it’s awfully fun to be alive.