Fringeworthy

Hip Shot: i-Lust For G-Love: An Auto-Ethnography

Goethe Institut- Main Stage

Remaining Performances:

Thursday, July 18, 9:30 p.m.

Sunday, July 21, 1:30 p.m.

Wednesday, July 24, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday, July 27, 1:45 p.m.

They Say: "Romance and relationships in the age of iPhones and Google. WTF? tryst by text, bare our souls on chat. With so many ways to (mis)communicate, to search for our soulmate, will our love lives ever make sense?"

Ben's Take:

Ever have that feeling everyone is in on a joke but you?  For instance, somebody mentions that they enjoy avocados, a rather ordinary statement with seemingly no comic undertones, but suddenly you're surrounded by laughter. Goethe Insitut’s main stage was clearly a friendly house for opening night of iLust for G-Love: An Auto-Ethnography as evidenced by the number of people who jumped to their feet and brought flowers for their loved ones after the show. 

Perhaps if you know Emily Crockett, her various characters’ obsessions with avocados will strike you as funny, but I was just confused.  I gleaned from the program that Phillip Chang is an accomplished dancer, so his spontaneous routine to “Suit and Tie” thrown into the final scene surely holds a special charm for those who know him, but in the context of trying to wrap up a theatrical performance it contributed little.

When the jokes weren't inside, they were all too often of the lazy, greeting-card variety.  If you would find it funny to see an image of a 1950’s father figure scratching his head trying to figure out what it means to “delete cookies” while envisioning an empty plate with crumbs, then iLust has plenty to offer you.  If not, it’s going to be a long evening.

Throughout the show, the cast often seemed as disinterested in their characters’ various cliché-ridden circumstances as I was.  Whether parroting the cadence and humor of Seinfeld in a segment about not being the "haha" girl, or borrowing whole-cloth from Wedding Crashers in conversations about "clingers," the punchlines revealed themselves ages before they were ready to land.  Scenes are built around old stereotypes and tropes such as "men and women are different" or "long-distance relationships are hard" and make just the faintest of attempts to search for any deeper meaning.  Only the exuberant Chang and the cruelly underutilized Karen Lawrence seemed to approach the material with any sort of enthusiasm.

Lawrence doesn’t appear until the fourth of the evening's six stories, playing Eliza Little in a strange scene in which all of the characters' names are riffs off of My Fair Lady for some reason and a woman inexplicably makes guacamole on stage.  After nearly thirty minutes of languid pacing, dropped lines and half-hearted joke delivery, Lawrence’s presence lands as a welcome respite.  She oozes confidence, wringing a few laughs out of the otherwise tired jokes she is given.  Her second starring appearance is in a scene called “Silence,” and while the conceit is the most fascinating and well-executed of the evening, it felt like a mean trick to play on the audience to rob the show’s best performer of her finest tool.

The evening was not completely without laughs for those of us not intimately connected with the performers.  Unfortunately, most of these moments came in the interludes between vignettes rather than in the scenes themselves.  A short animation showing how men respond to women in online forums called “Pre-datr” was discomfortingly hilarious. 

The heartiest been-there-done-that guffaws of the night were for the clever zingers that made up Crockett’s musical interlude, “Damn You, Autocorrect.”  No writing credits for the song are listed in the program, so I’m not sure where recognition is due, but a quick Google search shows that the company is not alone in performing a similar gag, even if they wrote it themselves.  Still, it was the best example all night of the show's goal of skewering and attempting to make sense of intimate communication in an online age.

See it if: You find comic gold in the series Two and a Half Men.

Skip it if: Internet abbrevs don’t make you LOL.

  • Andrew

    So I didn't see the show, but came to this through the DCist review. I don't think it's cool to personally attack the reviewer. It may have been that there wouldn't be a City Paper review at all if he didn't review it. (I don't know, I don't know anybody involved.) And I'm pretty sure his plan wasn't to get famous by writing a negative review. That's a pretty ludicrous argument.

    And just because, Margarita and Kristine, he didn't catch the things you wanted him to catch, it doesn't mean he's a bad reviewer necessarily. Maybe they just didn't resonate with him. Everybody experiences things differently. I bet you love movies and music and shows other people hate, and vice versa.

    That said I'd like to catch this play. Sounds interesting.

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  • Susan Wright

    Full disclosure: I'm a veteran Fringer and not associated with anyone in this performance.

    I was delighted by this play! The plays' seamless use of various media was effective and broadened the experience of the audience far beyond the stage, taking us to Mars, an intimate bedroom scene, and first person views from the actors' perspective. Overall the plays were compelling, dark, and funny.

    That being said this review is inaccurate and sophomoric. But, as they say, everyone's a critic, and this particular critic focused on fleeting minutiae of the plays and failed to grasp their true meaning.

    Being a critic is easy, but being an insightful and effective one is not. For example: Ben Cattell Noll is a 26-year-old living in a basement in Capitol Hill and diving into Fringe for the first time. He compensates for his lack of experience, success, and credibility by passing swift and harsh judgment on the accomplishments of others in order to make a name for himself.

  • http://www.facebook.com/CityLightsProductions Kristine Quinio

    Ben -- You are on point about some things:

    1) Karen Lawrence is spectacular, and if iLust reincarnates beyond 2013 Capital Fringe, I will undoubtedly heed your advice about utilizing her talents as much as possible. (As someone who has never produced/written/directed for theater in her adult life, casting and working with such a talented group of people was a huge learning experience for me/the whole company).

    2) Phillip Chang is a terrific actor and dancer (he plays the guitar too).

    3) We had a friendly house on opening night.

    I appreciate that you evaluated the show with a critical eye towards the writing (comedic and not-so-comedic), the acting, and the overall production. The tireless efforts of my cast and crew deserves that. However, your dismissal of the show is truly puzzling.

    Inside avocado jokes? Audience members bringing flowers for friends who have been working their butts off on this production? Why in the world do you choose to take issue with this?

    Your third paragraph dismisses the "image [in a slideshow on screen] of a 1950’s father figure scratching his head trying to figure out what it means to “delete cookies” while envisioning an empty plate with crumbs" -- but you fail to mention that these slides appear during the intervals when the stage is being reset between acts. In other words, what you refer to as "lazy jokes" was garnish, and not at all part of the main course. We wanted to keep the audience entertained every single minute of our performance and to make the most of our venue (a movie theater).

    You wonder about inside jokes, but you don't seem to make any effort to ponder the privacy issues highlighted in the third act ("Glasshole"). This was a lot to tackle in a 10-minute vignette, and perhaps exploring privacy challenges should be a show on its own? I'm truly curious about your thoughts on this.

    With two other members of my company already weighing in, it's obvious we are passionate about this project. Every cast and crew member approached the material with great enthusiasm. Each person had a great deal to contribute.

    The show applies the academic meaning of ethnography very, very loosely -- but we were utterly sincere and committed to exploring and cogently depicting current communication technology and dating life/relationship phenomena.

    We might be guilty of trying to cram too much in; and yes, when your show is about technology's role in our (love) lives, there is plenty of room for cliche. However, we are not guilty of making "just the faintest of attempts to search for any deeper meaning."

    If you didn't see our efforts to explore deeper meanings, maybe it's because you were busy laughing? (Along with the other strangers in the audience.)

    Of course there were many familiar faces in the seats on opening night. We made a lot of new friends, too.

    You were right about one other thing -- I love avocados and guacamole. I like mango salsa too, and you can bet it will be in my next show.

  • Emily Crockett

    6) Margarita, by the way, wrote "Silence," the one vignette you really liked. (Justifiably! It was great!)

    7) She also points out one thing I completely forgot to clarify—which is that you completely forgot to get the point. You were mystified that a vignette about communication foibles would have any parallels to "My Fair Lady"? You think a scene involving a bisexual man in a stable relationship with a woman is "stereotypical"? You thought the big takeaway from "Dark Side of Love," with its meditations on isolation and our oddly anthropomorphic relationship to technology, was "long-distance relationships are hard"?

    LOL.

  • Margarita Rayzberg

    Full disclosure: I am a writer of one of the vignettes, so yes, I am biased.

    That being said, I would like to point out some of the show's attributes that this review omitted in favor of devoting what amounts to several paragraphs to a discussion of avocados.

    One value of "old stereotypes" is that that they are relatable and from the audience response, this is one of the strengths of the show. But if this critic had himself made any "attempts to search", he might have noted that in one vignette, gender stereotypes were reversed and more than one vignette focused on characters with non-normative sexual and romantic orientations. Is this ground-breaking? No. But it does reflect our attempt to move away from old stereotypes and to represent, on stage, the diversity of experiences and identities the cast members themselves bring to the show and the diversity of experience and identities sure to be found in the audience.

    One of the goals we set for ourselves and, as evidenced by other reviews, accomplished, was to seamlessly integrate the screen with the performers. Anyone who has ever given a power point presentation know that this is no small feat even for a one-person talk, nevermind an entire cast of performers. While this critic may not have found everything on the screen amusing, our use of the screen as an integral component of on-stage action is, as far as we can tell, pretty innovative and central to the key themes we are exploring.

    Which brings me to my last point: the key themes we are exploring. Yes, relationships. But also, technology. And the fact that technology is so often so seamlessly integrated into our interpersonal communication that we forget how much of our feelings and actions we can attribute to it if we stop and pay attention. The show is full of references to philosophical and social commentary on technology, such as Langdon Winner. And yes, references to pop culture. And yes, references to geeky interpretations of internet lingo.

    It seems to me that the goal of this critic is to build his reputation as one. But our goal is to entertain you, to bring you "That's totally happened to me!" moments, to have you laugh and wince with us as we try to make sense of the havoc communication technologies wreak on our lives and to note, with a wink and a nod, the opportunities they offer for greater connection, in our personal lives, and with you, our audience.

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  • Emily Crockett

    A few clarifications:

    1) Yes, I wrote the song. Also the other interstitial screen gags. I'm glad you enjoyed most of them. (You're right, though; other people somewhere on Google have written songs joking about Autocorrect, and so nobody else should ever do so.)

    2) I also wrote significant chunks of that dialogue that failed to tickle your fancy. (Yes, I stole from Seinfeld for about 60 seconds. Sorry.)

    3) No, the writer of the last scene did not "steal whole cloth" from Wedding Crashers. Using three words that everybody knows comes from a popular movie is called a reference, whether or not it's a reference that amuses you.

    4) No, the avocado stuff had nothing to do with me in real life -- nor did it have much to do with my characters. (In the "Text All Night" scene, it was Karen's character who was "obsessed" with them, although I made the guac; and then my last character mentioned it briefly. And I think that was all we did on that particular fruit.) I'm honestly not sure why avocados were in the show to begin with, but they were in an earlier draft of that fourth vignette that I revised, and I kept/expanded on the idea.

    5) Meh.

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