A Lovely Surprise
Lies, Phalluses, and Fairytales
KC Fringe Festival
Don't let the spontaneous and laissez-faire nature of "Lies, Phalluses, and Fairytales" fool you; these guys know what they're doing, and it's well-rehearsed. Walking into the theatre full of cast members still setting props and wandering the stage barefoot (greeting audience members as they go), the automatic assumption is that this will be chaotic and amateur. What a lovely surprise it was to be completely wrong. This play was a series of 1-to-5 minute sketches, or scenes, that incorporated props and a selected-number of actors. And this was no upset to me; with as much success as Red Theatre had doing these short scenes, it's a wonder why so many productions last 2 hours. Why say in 2 hours what can be said in 2 minutes?
First of all, WOW what an immense amount of energy this cast had -- almost intrusively so. Seriously, I was accosted…..by hand sanitizer. Every single one of these actors completely understood the feel they were going for -- almost like they had the same plan or idea about their show…weird. And what a great little convention it was to grab the next scene (taped on numbered sheets of paper) and read it downstage with everyone standing around rearing to get started. So that was the cast…and though not all of the pieces worked as well as they could have, at least the audience got to see a cohesive and energetic unit of what I'm assuming were friends.
The sound, the lights, the props, and the costumes were all effective, well-planned, and helpful. Some dance pieces used CD tracks, lights were used when necessary to further the effectiveness of scenes (like in "I would have married you"), and the lighting took into account that the performers visited the audience several times. Not only were the actors prepared; the tech crew was, too.
The first couple of pieces were just alright…or maybe even satisfactory to my initial low expectations, but as soon as "Definition of Man" (forgive the lack of playwright for this and any other specific piece mentioned in this review) hit the stage, the game was changed and the quality of the show was doubled immediately. The realization that this cast and group of writers is capable of producing touching and meaningful pieces in addition to shrug-your-shoulders-why-do-I-care pieces was one that made the audience members sit a little straighter in their chairs. Some pieces didn't make a whole lot of sense ("In This Room," for example, was not incredibly clear), but other pieces managed to be symbolic or metaphorical and still make sense by the end of it: "This is What it Feels Like: Part 2" is a great example of that. Favorite pieces include these: (Mentioned above, as well as…) "My Worst Nightmare," "Opposites Attract," "God's a Dick," "Fat," "Germation Nation," and "Sex and Candy." (An additional credit to these pieces is that I enjoyed them so much that I'm having to remember them - I accidentally left my program at the theatre).
I have to make a note about the dancing pieces: though these performers were clearly not trained dancers to any large extent, I found myself really not caring (which pretty-well never happens). There was little flexibility and no technique, but I wound up caring about neither of those things, but instead about the fact that there were people moving onstage -- and that they had a reason to do so. I am speaking mostly about "Opposites Attract" because it was the most focused dance piece. Dancers have a way of performing choreography that sucks all the vulnerable human movement out the body and leaves nothing but choreography (that being said, let me also point out that I DID like the choreography) But in this instance, with semi-untrained dancers, one quality is undeniable: there is a man up there feeling something…and he happens to be dancing. It was lovely.
About half way through this show, I thought "I am so happy I came to see this." About three-quarters of the way through, I felt exhausted (empathy pains…I'm sure they were exhausted as well). Shortly after that, I wound up with tears trying their darndest to escape my eyes (after the piece that was spontaneously added on Friday). Though that piece was really nothing spectacular, it was told by a girl who cared so much about it but had very little time to rehearse it - so she couldn't help but be vulnerable and honest. In this instance, lack of rehearsal was the absolute best thing. But let me warn you about this show; if something really gets to you, you have about 30 seconds to deal with the emotions; right after it hits you…in the face…with a steel shovel… it's immediately "Yell out a number" and on to the next piece (which, as luck would have it, will be funny - so you're laughing while you're crying now, and you feel that much more like a 5-year-old with a skinned knee while you're dad is trying to cheer you up with jokes). It made me slightly uncomfortable, but that's no fault of the cast.
There's no reason why this show shouldn't sell out every time. It's fun. It's funny. It's touching. It's full of talented performers. And many of the pieces were well-thought-out and interesting. Put "Lies, Phalluses, and Fairytales" at the Unicorn Theatre on your schedule this year; you won't get many chances to see them in the near future; they ARE from Omaha, Nebraska, you know.