“Extended 4Play” proves less than exceptional at the Fringe

Lindsay Adams

Perhaps too extended, “Extended 4Play” could use tighter pacing, but the performances provide, if nothing else, a huge variety in theme and writing styles. “4Play” used traditional love songs like “Peggy Sue” and “A Kiss to Build a Dream on,” which often fit the scene only in a cleverly ironic way. There is very little heart in several of the shows, instead rather heady topics are explored or cynically examined lust and sex.

The first show, “Future Perfect” by Jack Phillips deals with issues of how much information to share with your partner in a relationship in a bit of a heavy handed way. It attempts to make the story more comedic, which only serves to undercut the message of the play. Missy Fennewald and Patrick Rippeto do an able job playing the young couple, who both have an untold history.

“Peggy,” written by Michael Ruth, is a purely ridiculous exploration of how far outside her comfort zone one woman will go sexually. Overall, it felt more like a skit than a play as there was very little character progression. It seemed similar to a very long joke waiting for its punch line, which comes in the last seconds of the show. Frank Lillig plays a fairly one dimensional character and seems to be overpowered, which may have been the goal, by Briana Marxen-McCollum’s charisma onstage.

“Górecki in Silence,” by Nicholas Sawin, is a very bittersweet play about a young man, Mikolaj (composer Górecki’s middle name), who is in love with his male roommate, Geoff, currently engaged in a long term relationship with a woman. Nothing is as clear cut as it seems or as black and white as Mikolaj wants it to be. This is a subtle and careful look at two very different men trying figure out how to communicate with each other.

Sam Slosburg as Mikolaj has a confident, extreme physicality, which can at times come off as stagey or over-aggressive, which at times pulls the audience’s sympathy from the character he is playing. However, his ability to express believable emotion is exceptional and we feel our hearts breaking as his does. His physicality, however, serves him well in “Koko’s Achilles Heel.” A real stand out of the evening was Matthew Schmidli. He gave an incredibly grounded and subtle performance as Geoff, a character with as many layers as an onion. Slowly, as Geoff lets the audience see deeper into his past, one is transfixed.

“Koko’s Achilles Heel,” by Frank Higgins, is a unique look at the entire romantic comedy genre, with Apes quoting the original romantic comedy that has spawned so many cheesy rip-offs, Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” The take is inventive and the commentary the play makes on the genre is refreshing. There is nothing too heavy in the play’s storyline. It doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it is an enjoyable ride. Tafik Muhammad does a good job pulling off a romantic lead, while playing an ape. Briana Marxen-McCollum plays the titular character and is absolutely charming. She is a character everyone is rooting for to find love. Missy Fennewald gives a nicely comedic performance as the passive aggressive human who looks after Koko.

The production values were less than exceptional. The stage was covered with a basic wash for the most part. The show didn’t use lighting to enhance or aid the audience in the changes between the four distinctly different settings. There were some cleverly staged moments that hinted the possibilities of the show that were not quite realized. There was a sheet over a door to cover it as the previous scene did not need the door, but rather than taking the covering off during a set change they incorporated it into the action of the scene. The character pulled off the covering and went through the door. The show keeps the audience’s attention and gets some good laughs, as well as some heartstrings pulled thanks to “Górecki in Silence,” but overall feels like a missed opportunity.

For more information, visit kcfringe.org

Image Credit: Nicholas Sawin