Walking Shadow Theatre Company’s Fringe show, See You Next Tuesday, is a sleek machine with a heart of battery acid. Steve Moulds’s new play packs an entire yearlong relationship efficiently into its short Fringe spot, padding it with lots of big laughs. The problem is that the relationship happens to be between two of the most off-putting characters you’re likely to encounter in this year’s Fringe Festival.
The company is no stranger to unappealing characters: its 2009 production of Neil LaBute’s Some Girl(s) (directed, like See You Next Tuesday, by Brian Balcom) centered on a man who’s breathtakingly brutal to the four ex-girlfriends he meets over the course of the play. LaBute, though, uses his protagonist’s outrageous behavior to bring our own—hopefully more modest—failings into relief. Though you may never have said as much to him or her out loud, chances are you’ve watched an ex-partner become exactly what you thought he or she would become and thought, “Yep, called that one.” Chances are much more slim that you’ve ever repeatedly used a sexist slur immediately after your beloved partner told you not to, or that you interrupted your first dinner with a partner’s brother and sister-in-law to explain just how stereotypical the gendered nature of their relationship is.
Each half of the central couple in See You Next Tuesday is responsible for one of those whoopsies, as well as multiple others. They’re judgmental and unforgiving of one another, and the inexplicablity of their callousness is accentuated by the fact that their fights tend to begin just as they’re starting to make out. I’ve been in good relationships and bad relationships, but I’ve never picked a fight just as a girlfriend was unbuckling my belt. Does that make me shallow?
See You Next Tuesday is still an easily recommendable show, though, because those two cads are lucky enough to be played by Sid Solomon and Christine Weber; even better, they get to hang out with Shad Cooper and Leigha Horton as Solomon’s brother and sister-in-law. The perfectly-cast quartet have crackerjack comic timing, and they romp through the play’s lighter scenes like bears jumping in puddles of honey. Moulds has an acute sense for the little burrs that get in people’s saddles, including the one that inspired the play’s title (see note below), and Balcom keeps the show light on its feet—the punch lines are all the funnier because they’re delivered as lines, not punches.
In addition to his winning way with repartee, Moulds gives the play a sound structure, seesawing back and forth through time quickly but lucidly. I was impressed when the play glided to its conclusion with a scene that was smartly judged and perfectly timed—but given the off-putting prickliness of the characters involved, the impression that effective conclusion made was more intellectual than emotional. “This is the part,” I thought, “where I’m supposed to care.”
Note: The word that brings about the end of the central relationship in See You Next Tuesday (as we learn near the play’s outset) was a savvy choice to build a play around. The word seems to be at an interesting point in its history: still shocking, but increasingly encountered in a variety of circumstances. Daily Planet advice columnists Cyn Collins and Nicky Stein-Grohs both wrote about the word, and in discussing their columns with others, I noticed a clear generational difference: Baby Boomers were appalled by any use of the word, Gen-Xers were merely wary, and 20-somethings just shrugged. The other day I heard a teenage boy casually toss the word out among a mixed-sex group of his peers, and everyone laughed. Then, yesterday, British singer-songwriter Kate Nash used the word in a tweet to apply critically to a man she saw as sexist. It’s definitely a fighting word.
Photo: Christine Weber and Sid Solomon in See You Next Tuesday, courtesy Minnesota Fringe Festival