An amusing, if problematic, farce
KC Fringe Festival
One of the things I like about the Fringe is the propensity for productions that take things further than one would normally go. This is the time to explore uncharted waters, to bring up unexpected topics, to take things just thta little extra step further. Skillet Tag, currently presenting at the Unicorn Theatre, takes the concept to its extreme, so far that, unfortunately, it even left this viewer behind.
The story takes place at the house of Jeff (Matt Leonard), who has summoned his employees to a "team building exercise"--actually, a setup to fire one of them. First in the crosshairs is Becky (Kenna Marie Hall), his personal secretary. She's a bit on edge in the best of times, but (as we are told early on) she is skating the very edge of mania at the moment because she's "on the rag". This reviewer can't remember the last time this was a major plot point in a play she saw. Could be there's a reason for that.
Anyway. The other employees arrive: Jennifer (Laura Jacobs), who spends her days getting thoroughly drunk, longtime employee and all-around cynic Neal (Phillip Shinn); Katie, the new girl from Legal (Aurelie Roque), and finally Greg the I.T. guy (J. WIll Fritz), skidding in at the last minute. Jeff announces they'll be playing a little game of Skillet Tag: just like regular tag, but with various cast iron skillets to whack each other on the head with.
You can see where this is going, can't you?
Well, suffice to say the bodies stack up pretty swiftly, and by various means. As the day progresses, more and more ugly secrets are revealed, and the stage slowly fills with bodies, blackmail photos, and various other things I shall not mention here. And this, I think, is the problem: there is always room in humor for the outrageous, the shock laugh. But sometimes it seems that a writer will in their quest for the outrageous forgo actual humor. By the time bodies were dropping regularly, we'd seen...well, menstrual devices hurled through the air, watched people beaten with rubber phalluses, heard a character accused of being a 'tranny' (a remark which this reviewer *really* didn't find amusing), and on and on and on. After a while, it seemed any actual comedy was merely a secondary consideration.
In the end, the cops come, and the lone survivor staggers off home with an exceptionally heavy briefcase and a new promotion. The audience enjoyed the production for the most part, even if the pacing was a bit rushed from time to time. Still, the performers generally did a good job with the material and were clearly enjoying themselves. It's not a bad play, it's not an irreparable play. It has its flaws, as I have detailed here. But overall it is an interesting modern addition to the farce canon. Perhaps, in these days of Tom Green and Farrelly Brothers anything-goes humor, we must expect this sort of thing. But as for me, I'll take funny over daring any time.