Fringeworthy

Hip Shot: ‘The Golden Apple of Eternal Desire’

The Golden Apple of Eternal Desire
(a thematic improv comedy)

The Bedroom – at Fort Fringe

Remaining Performances:
Sunday, July 11, at 8 p.m.
Thursday, July 15, at 10 p.m.
Saturday, July 17, at 3 p.m.
Saturday, July 24, at 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 25, at 2 p.m.

They Say: "Which thrills most: the chase or the finish? Old Salt instructs young Alpa in the art of pursuit. The quarry are no lame deer: Myra, Lyla and Nona prefer to play Artemis to their vision of Venus. Whose illusions win?"

Trey's Take: They also say this, on the Shoestring Theatre website: "We believe that, like Duke Ellington's maxim about music, there are two kinds of theater, good and bad." Really? You're just gonna tee it up like that?

In a D.C. park, an older gent (writer-director Frank Mancino) coaches a younger fellow (Chris Whitney) in the fine art of deceiving the ladies. They respond to 'I Saw You' ads — hey, thanks for the shout-out! — though they know quite well they're not the men wanted; they rent strollers, complete with infants, to help start conversations and slip past defenses. Old Salt's argument: The hunt is where the real passion is. Everything that comes after the pursued slows and signals interest is just another step toward the end of the affair.

Fine, if you're cynical like that, but give me a whit more character. Mancino wedges three short variations on his theme into the first act, which doesn't leave much room for anyone to develop either personality or narrative momentum, then shifts gears to solicit audience input for two more sections, these more explicitly improvised. (The whole thing adds up to just an hour.) Nancy Flores, who plays all the female parts during the park-bench shenanigans, returns with Whitney to inhabit such picked-from-a-hat scenarios as "You're porn stars shooting a movie; he wants to break up, she wants to be admired" and "You're Mitch McConnell and Michelle Obama, meeting at the Congressional Country Club; he wants to get high, she wants her feet tickled." This is where I should stress that I am not making any of this up, and that at the performance I saw Saturday, Whitney and Flores did in fact try to make both of those scenes work.

They did not enjoy a roaring success. Perhaps that was because an audience of five is always going to laugh less than a full house.  Or perhaps it was because the graceful, resourceful Flores seemed to be shouldering most of the work of nudging the scenes toward their stated goals, while a hapless Whitney faffed about saying things like "Really?" and "Oh, well then, let's do that." But mostly, I think, it was because this curiously disjointed exercise  isn't quite sure whether it wants to be 20 minutes of jaundiced satire or half an hour of lighthearted improv. It's trying to be both — and we can all guess what Duke Ellington would have said about that.

See It If: You're really, really, really fond of improv. Or of apples.

Skip It If: You have a feeling you know what kind of theater this is.

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