You don’t expect much of a Fringe show titled The Folly of Crowds: A Heterosexual Buttsex Play. But you’re not going to not see it, right? Well, not if you’re me, and it’s 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, and the production team is this talented. The play turned out to be the biggest surprise of my first two days of Fringing: a show that’s funny, suspenseful, charming, and—believe it or not—actually moving.
The plot has Caleb Carlson’s character trying to convince his girlfriend, played by Molly Pan, to—well, choose your euphemism. She’s understandably reluctant, and writes to the advice columnist (Gretchen Grunzke) at their college paper in search of guidance. Unbeknownst to Pan, however, Grunzke dated and was dumped by Carlson, and she holds a grudge. As revenge, Grunzke decides to publish the letter with the real names of Carlson’s and Pan’s characters—on the day of graduation, when Pan’s father (Billy “Blaze” Borea) is sure to read the paper and learn about Carlson’s designs on his daughter’s virgin anus. Awkward!
The whole thing could be played for shallow yuks, but Mat Smart’s script deftly keeps it real, traipsing the shrinking territory of 21st century taboo. Carlson and Pan have a warm, believable relationship, and even Grunzke’s bad-girl character is treated empathetically. There’s a scene where she wickedly tries to seduce Carlson into cheating on Pan; the reaction Grunzke has immediately afterwards is unexpected, and a surprisingly powerful as a piece of acting.
The script gets a little rocky—with characters abruptly changing their stripes—as the (so to speak) action hits its (so to speak) climax, and a pause for a musical performance is unnecessary, but then the show concludes in a scene shared between Carlson and Pan that’s gratifyingly tender, gracefully staged by director Brian Balcom. This is a refreshing and entertaining show, so surprisingly sweet and sincere that you might find yourself warming up the lube when you get home, and feeling very romantic about it.