Monday, June 15, 2009

Of comedy and kitch

Performance: Fever Dream
Theater
: Woolly Mammoth Theater, 641 D St, NW
Metro
: Gallery Place-green/red or Archives/Navy Memorial-Green. Directions here.
Genre
: Comedy
Cost
: from $15 for people under 25. $15 rush seats sold 2 hours before curtain.
Dates
: Through June 28
Rating
: 4/5 Starving Artists

Some days, I’m just looking for a simple meal. An appetizer or two, or a fun salad will do. Other days I’m looking for something with a little more meat on the bones. I’ll need a steak or a burger to fill me up. But if I’m craving that salad, then that salad can be amazing. Fever Dream is a salad, but it’s a delicious one. It’s not very heavy, it doesn’t have many calories or anything, but I left the theater feeling full and happy. And if that’s how you should leave a ‘meal’, then Woolly has done it again. Fever Dream is kitchy and silly, and at times over the top, but always with intentionality and grace. It took me a few minutes to adjust, because I usually expect something a little deeper from Woolly, but once I accepted my salad, I was thrilled with the result. The show is a lot of fun, and what else does it need to be?

The play is an update of the 17th century masterpiece Life is a Dream by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. While much energy is spent (perhaps too much) updating the Calderón’s contemporary, William Shakespare, the work of the Spanish golden age is too often left in cobwebs. But why not set this story of hidden princes and Kings (essentially prince and pauper story) in corporate America. Why not take the main character out of his dungeon and chain him in customer service. Why not make the foolish, arrogant king into a CEO (it would certainly be believable). These changes seemed relatively minor, and made for a fun bit of fancy.

Do the messages hold up? That’s hard to say. Wikipedia describes Life is a Dream as a philosophical allegory. The Woolly didn’t feel so much philosophical or allegorical. But it seems that the production team didn’t see a need in being burdened by hitting us over the head with meaning. Instead they focused on comedy, of which there is lots. We see slapstick and parody, innuendo and irony. The production has a playful simplicity to it, featuring intentionally cheap set pieces and over the top choreography. It is a modern morality play, its simplicity seems intentional. If you’re in the mood for the theater equivalent of a cup of ice cream with sprinkles, see this play. If you’re looking for a fillet, see something else.

1 comment:

  1. Also, just got an email from Woolly's listserv that tickets are $25 for all performances except Saturday night. looks like all seats are $25 - usually the cheapest (besides students and rush) are $38

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