If a worldwide pandemic of sanity and accord suddenly swept across the continent, we’d not only have to deal without trashy novels and soap operas but also without a follow-up to this year’s 4th Annual Fledgling Festival (through August 17) at Perishable Theatre. Produced by performing artist Peter Deffet, the varying evenings of short theater pieces throb with yearn-ing. Most do so comically, which underscores any poignancy in the accompanying movement pieces. Most of the performers will be presenting different works on the concluding weekend and, judging from opening night, that’s something to look forward to.
Don’t expect a laff riot — the entertainment is grounded solidly in reality, so our laughs are likely to come through winces of recognition. A good example was Marco Polo, performed by Nicole Maynard and Alanna Sousa-Pullan and written by them and Nik Swinden-Duty. That piece took a familiar story and rescued it from triteness through good acting and convincing writing. What opening could be more done-to-death than a pickup in a bar, after all, with a greeting misunderstood because the music is too loud? Actually, Sousa-Pullan’s character was too unsure of herself to compliment Maynard’s “top” as a double entendre (she meant “T-shirt”). But they joked and got along, and you can guess which one got smitten, throwing the relationship off balance. Both actors did well, but the push/pull-back tension that Sousa-Pullan created made for a compelling performance.
The Post Logic Collective’s Mike Eng’s Cat Bang told the same basic yearning and, ironically, humanized it further by shifting species. Moira Brady and Daniel DiBattista were cats, complete with greasepaint noses and whiskers and long, thin balloons for tails. Brady was hilarious with the murderous, foul-mouthed rage she built up as a neglected house cat. Her housewife owner, that “mumu-covered nightmare” mesmerized by the TV screen, neglected her litter box and other responsibilities as a petter. DiBattista was an alley cat whose high point of the day was discovering three chicken McNuggets and whose indignities included clinging for three days to a tree limb, not even daring to lick his mange. Separated by win-dow glass, the two are desperate for a door to be left unlatched. That old yarn.
Phil Goldman told a tale called Surrogate Story, Step One, about when he was a 22-year-old virgin and how he put a stop to that with the help of a surrogate sex therapist. Actually, that cure was step two, and the account he related was of the dodgy psychologist, dressed like Hugh Hefner, who prepared him for that event. With the visual aid of a realistic model of male genitals, Goldman first was given elaborate instructions on how to masturbate. In the final week, he’ll tell a story called Taste the Tuna Fish Ice Cream. If you miss it, perhaps Goldman will accept money to just sketch the scenario if you ask him; for curiosity closure that’s certainly worth a few bucks.
The very funny opener, again with a poignant subtext, was Leigh Hendrix’s How to Be a Lesbian in 10 Days or Less. It was performed in two parts, with a serious movement piece intervening, which gave a humorous air of desperation-to-communicate when she returned. In a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, Hendrix hit the stage running in the first part, as intense as the motiva-tional speakers she was parodying. Part two — which started as though in the middle of a monologue — became a send-up of pretentious performance art. Her character was nervous, shy about partially disrobing, and eventually was very upset when no audience members stepped up to write on her as requested with the distributed Magic Markers.