Fringeworthy

Hip Shot: Giant Box of Porn

The cast of "Giant Box of Porn" at the Capital Fringe preview (Paul Gillis)

The cast of "Giant Box of Porn" at the Capital Fringe preview (Paul Gillis)

Warehouse

Remaining Performances:

Sunday, July 27th at 6:00 p.m.

They Say: Young couple Ron and Kate return home to find a giant box of porn in their living room. This comedy explores life’s most important questions: What kind of burglar breaks in and leaves porn? Is it okay to buy baby paraphernalia just because it’s on sale? And, most importantly, who still has a VHS player?

Joseph’s Take: A giant box of porn might be the best inciting incident of the theatre. It’s certainly the perfect setup for a surrealist comedy—some smutty whodunnit—but in this sharp production from Field Trip Theatre, it’s also the best domestic drama at this year’s Capital Fringe Festival.

In truth, that couple’s conventional investigation into the origin of the box of pornographic VHS tapes doesn’t last long. The police are uninterested, albeit entertained. The apartment doorman is useless. Google is NSFW, as Kate (Anna Jackson) discovers trying to figure out if delivering giant box of porn is a meme like planking or icing. Porning? Hey, we could make that a thing.

Ron (Grant Cloyd) believes that he can unlock the origins of the box if he can just solve the puzzle of its contents. But with fatherhood on the horizon and a vacation a week away, there’s a clock (or is it a bomb?) ticking.

There’s a little bit of CBS sitcom behind the setup: Ron as the unmotivated husband, Kate as the go-getter wife a few degrees too hot for him, Sherlock (Will Hayes), as Ron’s next door neighbor with knocking problems. It’s a credit to playwright Patrick Flynn’s script that there’s no two-dimensional characters or cheap laughs. The one-bedroom apartment is a fully realized, intricately detailed world. It’s the offhand remarks that linger with me. Shelock loves that his girlfriend sends back food in restaurants. The newspaper editor Kate slept with in college was colorblind. Ron can’t resist Kate when she’s wearing “the shirt”.

Couple that with some carefully crafted staging from director Maureen Monterubio and nuanced performances across the cast and you have a giant box of win.

Jackson’s performance in particular stands out. As Kate’s careful life plan is challenged, Jackson balances confidence, mania, and vulnerability with a great sense of comic timing. Jackson’s Kate is not always likeable, but she’s loveable. Cloyd's Ron is given less to do until the last half of the show, but as the conflict intensifies he becomes more and more identifiable. (Couples, by the way, will have great post-show debates about whether they are the Ron or the Kate of their relationship.)

Sherlock could have come across as a Cosmo Kramer-esque also-ran, but Hayes keeps up the energy of the show while teetering on the right edge of believability. Kate’s older, crunchy sister Vanessa, played by Morganne Davies, might have the toughest role in the production. The elder of the group, she’s slightly miscast as Davies doesn’t seem appreciably older than the other actors but has to sell lines like, “Politeness is a mask of fog and whispers.” And yet. Davies elevates Vanessa above caricature with a genuine earnestness and gentle humanity. More than any other character, she illustrates how Giant Box of Porn is really a play about what we sacrifice for those we love.

If I had one quibble with the production, it would be the proliferation of tapes across the apartment like tribbles in the play’s second half. As Ron stares deeper into the box, he starts strewing piles of tapes across the apartment, but we’re never given any insight into his pornographic taxonomy. Characters trip over the tapes in a recurring, fast-aging gag, it’s never clear why he couldn’t just organize them all against the wall or something. As a regular architect, Ron may be entry level, but as a sex architect, he is the worst in the world.

Anyways, porning. We could make it happen.

See it if: You were excited when you saw there was a Fringe show titled Giant Box of Porn.*

Skip it if: You don’t want “Giant Box of Porn” in your Google search history.

*The last performance is sold out, but 10 Standing Room Only tickets will be available at the door. First-come, first-served.

Giant Box of Porn photo from the Capital Fringe preview © Paul Gillis Photography

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