Fringeworthy

Hip Shot: W3

sixteenWarehouse – Fort Fringe

Remaining Performances: 

Tuesday, July 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, July 20 at 2:30 p.m.
Wednesday, July 23 at 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, July 27 at 12:15 p.m.

They say: With puppetry, live sound effects and a dead whale, three sisters reminisce the loss of their mother. Through stories, singing and dancing a heart-breaking hilarity will ensue.

Joshua's Take: The centerpiece of W3 is a rotting, eviscerated whale carcass.He’s a gross, bloody reminder of environmental devastation, but he’s also a cute puppet that in the course of the show sings and speaks and whose belly yields up colorful trash-heap treasures.  This wild blend of the toxic and the cartoonish is half of what makes Barking Fish Theatre’s unclassifiable performance so much fun.The other half is W3’s rich use of allusions, trusting its audience to follow along while it bounces from Shakespeare to Freud to the inhuman blandishments of corporate personality tests. Eloquent but maddeningly elliptical one moment, grounded in outright slapstick the next, W3 is never boring, even when it’s testing our patience. In other words, it’s a genuine Fringe show.

There are some belly laughs here, some engaging interludes of movement, and some inventive use of props seeming culled from a landfill. But the best moments in W3 come from its patient unpacking of it connection with Macbeth. That's right: the three sisters here, down-and-dirty nature goddesses pledged to a dying (dead?) Mother Earth, are also the Weird Sisters of “double, double, toil and trouble” fame. The highlight of the show is their attempt to recreate that famous scene. Pollution has wiped out some key ingredients, including newts and frogs, so substitutions must be made. Into the cauldron go a Fillet of Fish and Shamrock Shake, along with the flag of every nation (except, pointedly, this one).

As these “filthy, filthy bitches” work on their brew, they’re constantly pestered by a Macbeth-like inventor who, sadly, stands in for all us mortals (especially Americans), with our rapacious appetites and expectations that the Earth bow to our command.  In a neat twist, it is the noxious, synthetic forms of life mankind has loosed upon the world– those gadgets and chemicals “not of woman born”– that strike the fatal blow.

So W3, for all its comedic swagger, also has an apocalyptic streak. But do we need another repent-or-die eco-sermon, even one with cute whale carcass puppets? In this respect, nothing about the show is new. It could have been a really smart Earth Day pageant in 1998.  But it’s not writer/director Jamie Hamilton and crew’s fault that’s we’ve progressed so little; actually, as we confront new waves of pseudo-science and climate change denial, it’s more accurate to say we’re losing ground. We may be all-too familiar with W3’s message, but it's still important, and delivered with a welcome dose of WTF.

See it if: You’re looking for an inventive, loopy, fun treatment of environmental themes.

Skip it if: You fantasize about punching Captain Planet in his smug blue face.

 

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