Caos on F

Remaining Performances:

Saturday, July 19, 11:15 p.m.

Friday, July 25, 6:00 p.m

Saturday, July 26, 6:15 p.m.

They Say: Refresh is a hilarious chronicle sparing no painful detail of actor Matthew Schott’s adolescence, colliding the puberty pains and sexual awakening with the rise of a computer-crazed culture. This comically poignant performance contrasts teen nostalgia with twenty-something uncertainty.

Joseph’s Take: The internet of the late 90’s was an untamed wilderness. There were no profiles, real names policies, or permission settings. Post-Prodigy and pre-Facebook, AOL Instant Messenger was ascendant, a nebulous social network where you could message anyone — a housewife in Peoria or your high school crush — as long as you knew their screen name. Identities weren’t structured for advertising segmentation; you had to ask for age, sex, and location. Naked selfies didn’t self-destruct.

That’s the internet where Matthew Schott spent his adolescence. He and the consumer world wide web would have come of age at the same time, but Schott lacked the confidence that defined the dot-com boom. He collects crushes like Pokemon but can’t become more than their pet. He can’t level up like he can in Final Fantasy. He can’t live up to his Starfleet ideals. Faced with a real-world tragedy that he can’t process, Schott retreats deeper and deeper into a world of video games and AIM chat windows.

Julia Katz’s direction shows admirable restraint. Refresh is a show about digital living that avoids projection (a superfluous addition in too many shows in this year’s festival) in favor of sharp sound design — including a rogue narrator that threatens to wrestle control of the show away from Schott — and well-executed lighting changes. Schott juggles multiple characters clearly and makes the banality of online chat entertaining. Despite spending most of Refresh asymmetrically hunched over his laptop, it’s clear Schott is an energetic and specific performer.

The plot of Refresh, however, is fuzzier. Like Turtles in Time, the chronology is jumpy. I wished for clearer signposts about what era of Schott’s life we’re watching. Still, he’s vulnerable and fearless in sharing failures, perversions, and the self-disgust that threatens to consume him. Schott’s offhand insights are inventive, like realizing the absurdity of thinking all strangers were in ‘sexual debt’ to him.

While the show is billed as a a comedy on the Capital Fringe website, I never roflcoptered. Halfway through the performance, Schott confesses that “I just wanted to make a funny comedy show” and the results might have ran away from him. Refresh is more poignant than hilarious. Schott refuses to embrace catharsis and easy endings and, like a computer virus, the results linger.

See it if: You ever had cybersex or heard about a guy who did.

Skip it if: You prefer your crotch shots to disappear after 10 seconds.