by Matthew A. Everett | 8/1/09 • It All Comes Together
“Sorry. I was picturing you without a head.”
With this Fringe show, writer-director Mic Weinblatt finally pulls it all together and gets the mix just right. In the past, he’s always worked with great actors. In the past, many of his scripts have been good, even inspired. But the productions of those scripts and the use of those actors wasn’t always in sync with the plays’ strongest qualities. The 2008 Fringe production of Hey, I’m Talking Murder Here! is a good example. Though Rhino Productions is a returning favorite of mine, sometimes it seems hard for the production to get out of the script’s way and allow it to live up to its full potential. Mic’s a friend of mine. I’ve seen many of his scripts in development and watched them grow. But sometimes as a director, I don’t think he’s always served his own stories well. In the past, there’s been a tendency to play for the big punchline, and the subtler moments of character development got lost in the shuffle. Here, though, in Needs Wants Desires, I really do think he gets it right. Everybody – the script, the actors, the audience – wins.
|single white fringe geek is the blog of matthew a. everett. in addition to being one of seven bloggers covering the minnesota fringe festival for the daily planet, he blogs throughout the year about theater and culture.|
Needs Wants Desires is a collection of three short plays on the subject of, well… needs, wants, and desires.
A slinky woman (Renee Werbowski) goes to a plastic surgeon in the quest to make herself even more perfect. But is the plastic surgeon the man she first meets in the office (Jack C. Kloppenborg), or someone else (Andrew Sass)? Here, we get a bawdy sex farce for three.
A well-to-do, but slightly repressed, suburban couple (Werbowski and Sass) get a housewarming gift from their new neighbors. The unseen gift prompts a stream of sexual innuendo which gets progressively more unhinged and hilarious.
To close the show, Kloppenborg and Sass are a May-September gay couple not-quite-celebrating their three month anniversary. The younger man feels like he’s playing second fiddle to the older man’s career, and he’s probably right. There’s real affection here, but Sass’ character is obviously torn in a few different directions. He tries his best, but his best is still coming up short. Kloppenborg latches onto a woman (Werbowski) who comes to the house with a petition for some worthy environmental cause. He’s looking for company, but she may have more of a connection to Sass than either of them realizes.
The actors here are great, and Weinblatt uses them well. The first two shorts each call for a different sort of over-the-top bravado, and these three swing for the rafters. It’s great fun.
The last piece could have been pushed too far, but here, Weinblatt and his actors wisely don’t overplay their hand. These characters are allowed to become fully real, rather than just cartoons, and it’s the right choice. The script calls out for it, and it gives the actors a chance to show another side of their talents. The exact nature of the relationship between Sass’ and Werbowski’s characters in the last piece is the one place where things are a little fuzzy. I understand that the script is deliberately not spelling it all out for us. It may be that in contrast to the first two pieces which laid it all right out there on the table, this last one seems a bit more withholding than it actually is. Maybe I, as an audience member should have been able to switch gears just a little quicker – since the all out farce of script one, led to the wild but a bit more controlled comedy of script two, paving the way for the subtler shades of script three. Everything’s leading me in the right direction. I just feel like I didn’t quite get there. It’s a tricky balance – the right amount of abmiguity. Still, all three scripts are nicely done.
In addition to being a friend of the playwright, I should admit that I’m a big fan of Renee Werbowski’s work, as she’s acted in no less than four productions of my own plays, including my first in the Fringe. Jack Kloppenborg won me over in a big way with his work on Angels In America recently, so it’s nice to see him bringing his talents to Fringe as well. I wasn’t familiar with Andrew Sass’ work before now, but after this Fringe show, I’ll look forward to more.
This is a great meeting of script and actors. Very funny, with a surprising amount of heart under all the laughs.
Very Highly Recommended.
Fringe 2009 – 5:30 Friday – show #5
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