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Fort Fringe – The Shop
Tuesday, July 23, 6 p.m. Saturday, July 27, 7 p.m.
They say: “A musical comedy featuring award-winning original rock songs and dialogue reminiscent of Woody Allen’s early work, Hello, You Assholes! follows a collection of partygoers as they share their hopes, dreams and obsessions while searching for romance and redemption.”
Alexis’ Take: Dan Sperling is a little like the reprehensible character Michael Caine played in Hannah and Her Sisters, who, armed with thick glasses, a British accent, and a book of e.e. cummings poetry, inexplicably gets into his wife’s sister’s pants. I mean, what arts nerd wouldn’t be seduced in a similarly questionable way by the false promise of an Woody Allen-esque musical? (Yes, I know that Allen directed a pretty crappy musical of his own once; I pretend it doesn’t exist).
Musicals based off of unorthodox material have historically proved to be rollicking, life-affirming chucklefests. See Tonya and Nancy: The Rock Opera (about Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan) or Carrie: The Musical for proof. But Sperling’s play is just like that sad-sack narcissist character Elliott (for which Caine won an acting Oscar)—-not just because his play description seduces, but because the result of this affair is similarly disappointing.
Disappointing is a little tame, actually. With the exception of one funny line about an aptitude test revealing that a character’s only talent is “crouching,” the experience of Assholes is:
1) A full 90 minutes sitting in a barely air-conditioned space. So already, I’ll give you, tough crowd.
2) A series of bland country western songs, often sung off-key, that all blend into one another, except for when a hooker (who is basically Mimi from Rent) sings rapturously about being roofied and date raped. HYUCK HYUCK.
3) Jokes that feel like a conversation you might have with a bro at a bar who says he does comedy open mic nights sometimes, then backpedals when you don’t laugh at his joke by explaining how the first time he told that shitty joke, people just died laughing, so clearly it’s your fault for being too dumb to get the joke.
The storyline comprises a series of hookups between characters so shallow and undeveloped, even by romantic comedy standards, you couldn’t possibly care for them. And on top of that—-and perhaps the reason why someone thought to describe this as Allen-esque—-there’s the whole premise of using the writer as a character in his own play.
Spoiler alert and all but…basically Sperling is the one who drops the roofie in the pretty prostitute’s drink. And he is consistently hated by the characters in his own play, who eventually command him to change things and take over their own destinies.
Which is a perfectly entertaining premise, and one that has been used plenty. Like in Luigi Pirandello’s Sei Personaggi in Cerca d’Autore, which he wrote in 1921. Or in many plays by Christopher Durang, whose deranged characters are often marked by an awareness of performance or outside forces doing the puppeteering. Or in Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation. Or Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt‘s The Imposters.
Alas, this does not rank among those works. The Woody Allen moment it mostly recalls is one of Alvy Singer’s lines in Annie Hall, which I shall paraphrase: “A [play], I think, is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”
See it if: The thought of spending 90 minutes at a frat party turns you on.
Skip it if: You think your analyst bills afterward would be to high.