Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fringe 2009 - FFA 1 - Visions of Johanna

"If the cancer doesn't kill you, I will."

Pont Media (aka, Cole T. Walsh)

Visions of Johanna

Two strangers have a romantic encounter. A cancerous lump is discovered. What happens next? Explore the complexities of unexpected relationships and the challenges of a disease with drama, humor and innovation.

Someone laughed at the mention of "cancerous lump" in the introduction. The hell?

Oh my. I fear for this show. And it's because I actually love this script. I've seen it in various stages of development and it's probably one of the best scripts written for the Fringe this year. It's understated, tender, romantic, and sad - all in none of the ways you'd expect from a script dealing with a subject matter like this.

The challenge? The playwright Cole T. Walsh came shyly out on stage and proclaimed that he would be playing Johanna, as well as the male character in this two person drama, himself. As a one man show. At first I thought he was joking. Then I prayed he was joking. Then I realized he wasn't joking.

Oh my.

It's not that Cole isn't a good actor. He seemed a little nervous, but he pulled off a monologue from each character just fine. He even got done early enough, by the yellow light, that he thought he'd do an audience poll ("Should I shave one half of my face - you know, shaven Johanna, unshaven the guy?")

For the record, no. No you shouldn't.

Any improv comedian can tell you if you're convincing enough emotionally, the audience'll go with you and buy you as a woman, even if you look like a lumberjack or Rip Van Winkle. Facial hair isn't your hurdle here. He got some laughs, mostly pop-culture references (Skittles, the Bionic Woman, swine flu). It's the subtleties I'm concerned about getting through.

The thing I love about this script is the interaction between the two characters. The things that transpire between them that are unspoken. The things not even fully revealed in the words of the dialogue or stage directions.

And I'm not sure one person, no matter how good they are, can do that on their own.

I assumed Cole and his counterparts were going to go out, find an actor and actress, maybe even a director, and just let them dig into this rich little script. And it would be a real gem in this year's festival.

Now? I'm still going. And I'd still recommend you go.

The nervousness of Fringe-For-All is its own peculiar beast. In performance, Cole could knock it right out of the park.

That's what I'm hoping for. Because his script deserves it.

But I fear for this show.

His show page

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