Monday, July 27, 2015

Fringe Preview - Bras and Bros

Looking for Fun(Bags) presented by Up Top Theatre

Brandon and Shirley desperately want to reconnect, but when he asks her for "mammary intercourse" things quickly go awry in this bawdy farce about lovers, friends and the misplaced faith we can have in them.

Love and Persuasion presented by New Endeavors

We challenge you to consider how far you would go to get what you want in this tragic revenge play about two lovers, and a man who always knows just what to say.

Me, You, and Steve presented by Green Sea Productions

It's romance vs. bromance in this comedic depiction of the ultimate third wheel. Can Erin find a way to put a bit more distance between her fiance and his best friend Steve, without ruining the wedding?

Bras are all over the Fringe website this year.  Bras both empty and quite fullBras of many shapes, sizes and colors.  And, judging by the content of the first night of previews, there’s a lot of bros as well.  I’m not entirely sure how I feel about any of that.  On the one hand, “yay! the human body!  not a shameful thing, let’s enjoy it.”  On the other hand, all three of the above shows were written by men.  Also fairly safe to assume, straight, white men. 

So are the characters in these plays treating women as objects or as people?  In all three cases, it’s honestly hard to tell.  In Me, You and Steve - the Me is a woman (or at least that’s what the show description leads you to believe), and she’s trying to navigate the tricky waters of wanting some alone time with her fiancĂ© without the added bonus company of his best friend, who is far too invested - and in the middle of - their relationship.  You don’t want to make a person choose between their best friend and the new love of their life, but there have to be some boundaries, right? 

In Looking for Fun(bags), it’s all about the breasts - or rather guys’ obsession with them.  We’ll just let the phrase “mammary intercourse” sit there and marinate, shall we? 

Those two play for laughs, while it seems like Love and Persuasion is playing for keeps.  When a show describes itself as a tragic revenge play, there are two lovers, and another guy whispering in the man’s ear about his unbroken winning track record with women, things can’t end well.

My challenge in watching these is that they all feature actors, whether I knew them before or not, that I like, and whose performances I enjoyed, even if the subject matter was borderline.  In two of the previews, it was only guys onstage talking about women, the women never appeared.  Granted, it’s a three minute preview, you have to go with your best material, it can’t always include all the characters.  Me You and Steve at least had the titular female Me on stage, but the air in the scene, as in the burgeoning relationship between man and woman, is being sucked up by the oppressive attention of the best friend. 

Should I hope for the best - well-written, fully realized female characters portrayed by strong actresses that influence the outcome of the three stories rather that just being incidental to them?  Or should I expect more of the usual, that being the opposite?  Are the plays commenting critically, actively satirizing gender inequity?  Or are they merely reinforcing it? 

There’s plenty of ill-fated heterosexual romance on display at this year’s Fringe, as there is every year.  Should any of these shows be on my schedule?  I’m genuinely torn.  The fact that the performances are making me reconsider productions I could just as easily have written off is a point in their favor.  And it could be more than enough to justify the entertainment of folks looking for exactly what these plays appear to be offering.  I am, I will admit, in the minority here (both literally and figuratively).

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