Great Physical Work In A Quirky New Play
"I need to get back to my own universe for lunch."
These folks landed on my Top 10 list this year due to an oddball script and a lot of enthusiasm. The production of Applesauce Fiction came through with both the oddness and enthusiasm on full display. A friend of mine who got a chance to see it before I did described it as "very Fringey." I'll second that, it's very Fringey indeed.
The script by Maggie Williams deals with the issues of conspicuous consumption, limited resources and the uses and abuses of power by twisting them all around a wacky science fiction premise. The characters use the notion of alternate universes to give themselves unlimited goods. They clear out their own world and just import everything from their otherworldly doppelgangers in the next universe over. Controlling the traffic between universes is where the real struggle for power plays itself out.
Francoise (Margaret Williams - perhaps also the playwright Maggie? coincidence? alternate universe?) and Henri (John Potter) are convinced by the Haberdasher (Nicholas Marcoullier) and le Comte de la Rochefocauld (William Mullaney, with an understudy assist by Kalen Keir) to divest themselves of their belongings and to live off the largesse sent by their other selves in the alternate universe via a sort of intergalactic, transdimensional postal service. (And you thought our stamps were pricey.) Francoise and Henri's alter egos get a little carried away with their absolute power over the "new-niverse" where they live, and the original Francoise and Henri head over to the alternate universe to try and set things right. Francoise and Henri's new-niverse slave Lebouef (Madelyne Riley) isn't sure how she feels about the power plays going on around her, but she wouldn't mind not having to dust and clean up after her masters so much. Double-crosses and assumed identities abound but it all makes it's own goofy kind of sense. Oh, and there's a guy (Ilya Garelik) in a giant apple costume sitting in the corner playing a mandolin and occasionally tossing out some narration. Again, in the context of this play, it all makes sense.
The physical movement work in this production is first rate. These are a bunch of limber young actors back-flipping, somersaulting, crawling and flying about and making it look like it's the simplest thing in the world to do. Far from it. The amount of control these performers have over their bodies, and the things they can make them do, adds another layer of otherworldliness to proceedings.
There's also puppetry to be had, and slights of hand screwing with audience perception of space and time. Hands holding candlesticks (candle holders) emerge from the sides of the wall. A worm sock puppet pops out of an apple tree and tosses and apple out to someone. A feather duster makes a journey so far away from a person's head on the other side of a set that that hand can't possibly attached to her body, can it? The costumes are sharp, and just weird enough in combination to make you look at these people and think, hmmmm, not from around here, are they? The sets are delightfully ramshackle affairs involving a lot of cardboard, not all of which stays upright as required at all times.
The only drawback is some of the voice work. While the actors all go in for radically different sorts of modulation in their voices to again seem out of the ordinary and a bit over the top, sometimes the change in volume or tone doesn't always gibe with the words being spoken. The delivery detracts from the sense of the dialogue, and here the dialogue, though nonsensical, needs to make as much of its own sort of sense as possible. The audience needs to be able to follow along clearly and cleanly, even if the journey itself is unlike how and where they're used to traveling. It's a small problem, easily fixed. And it wouldn't be occurring if they weren't be adventuresome and trying something new. You have to laud the intent, if not the execution.
Overall, however, the script and performances and visual landscape are very engaging and a lot of fun. So Applesauce Fiction comes...
Very Highly Recommended
Their show page
Their Fringe-For-All preview
Their video trailer
Fringe 2009 - 1:00 Sunday - show #16