Fringe 2011: hookups

I’m reviewing seven plays over the course of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, in collaboration with DC Theatre Scene. Get your Fringe button and join me!

hookups is about as naked as it can get at Fringe. A quintet of engaging actors make use of an air mattress and the barest essentials to create a series of vignettes covering every imaginable hookup through history and literature, all with a wry wink and a twist. It’s both cute and crass, like that girl dancing on the pool table you just can’t help but smile at even though you think she’s a drunken idiot. She is, but so are you, so get it on.

Starting off with the classic creeping-out-at-dawn hookup, writer Alexandra Petri’s scenes all have an undercurrent of dissatisfaction – there’s always one partner who either needs or wants to get disentangled quickly and painlessly. Even the Virgin Mary isn’t too thrilled with her situation, in one of the more subversive and very funny scenes led by director Laura Hirschberg.

The couplings get more bizarre as the play progresses, from the Frog Prince to an Arthurian menage a trois, even jumping into the Lincoln: Gay or Straight? debate. But it’s the pandas that steal the show, of course, in a hysterical scene detailing their woeful attempts to get the mechanics of sex right while being cheered on by obnoxious onlookers.

The cast are all game – James Bascomb, Kevin Bunge, Arielle Hader, Rachel Pfennigwerth, and Leigh Steiner – with a sweetly engaging earnestness and strong comic timing. Projection is a bit of a problem in the Wonderbox, so sometimes lines are lost, but for the most part it’s fine and the opening night audience was laughing all the way through. It does have a false ending issue, with one scene too many, and ending with an engagement seemed a little too conventional after all the twists. All in all, there’s a lot of promise here from Petri and her crew, and I look forward to seeing if the Ad Hoc Players continue honing their comedy after Fringe.

Until then, it’s going to take a lot to get that image of Lincoln as “The Long Sucker” out of my head. Hilarious.

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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