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For Fringe: Bedroom
Remaining Performances: Sunday, July 20, at 6:15 p.m.
Tuesday, July 22 at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, July 26 at 9:45 p.m.
They say: Based on interviews with Eric’s formerly hard-partying, now middle-aged fraternity brothers, C- is a funny and poignant look at the value of a college education, the challenge of choosing a career and life as we grow older.
Camila’s Take: The Sponge. Mules. New York Noise. In their college years, Eric Jaffe’s frat brothers bore spectacular nicknames. But while Jaffe gets some laughs with the inebriated exploits of those characters, his one-man show is mostly built around long monologues from other brothers: unnamed and unspectacular adults.
The failed rock star. The Peace Corps volunteer. The salesman. The would-be minister. As youth fades, so does nomenclature — and almost everything else. The stories share a common structure: heavy drinking and haphazard studying, the disappointments of the real world (during a recession that will sound familiar to recent grads), and finally a stubborn, sometimes-successful clawing towards prosperity. The disillusionment starts to feel a little repetitive, but that’s kind of Jaffe’s point: different men, same wasted education.
Jaffe’s characters are distinct and distinctive, with a ring of authenticity that speaks to the depth of his research: 65 interviews were distilled into 55 minutes of documentary theater. One-liners abound, but this isn’t a comedy about frat life. And while the play contains a critique of the American education system, at its heart, it’s not even really about college. It’s a look back at the painful journey out of adolescence, and an examination of masculinity in middle age.
The show falters when Jaffe inserts an authorial voice that is far less compelling than his characterizations. Those first-person segments also reveal a subtle but unsettling hostility towards his subjects — a sense of resentment shading the observation that charm is often more richly rewarded than smarts. The show is a quiet one, neither high-energy nor emotionally wrenching. Still, there’s much to empathize with here — even for a viewer who’s not male, middle-aged or remotely frat-tastic.
See it if: You have strong feelings about the ways college fails to prepare people for the real world. Or a deep, nostalgic fondness for Pink Floyd.
Skip it if: You’re not terribly interested in the inner lives of self-confessedly mediocre men.