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Sunday, July 21, 3:45 p.m. Thursday, July 25, 6:00 p.m. Saturday, July 27, 10:45 p.m.
They say: “A young man runs the Twitter account for a bumbling fast food chain engulfed in a horse meat scandal. He must demonstrate his social media expertise amidst inept management, an ambitious intern, a goofy roommate and his technophobic girlfriend.”
Ben’s take: For the first 60 minutes of Social Media Expert, audience members could be fooled into thinking they made a wrong turn on their way into the show and ended up next door in The Passenger. That’s how authentically John Krizel’s characters and dialogue jump off the stage in a hilarious, penetrating exploration of DC twentysomethings and their connection to—-surprise!—-social media.
From the non-stop conversation about work and how stressful it is to the horse mask reference, Krizel completely captures the essence of the happy hour crowd. Scenes fly by like so many 140-character tweets, filled with dialogue straight from Overheard in D.C. as if filtered through David Mamet. And the cast nails every line with effortless wit and believability. Nate Wolfson, as the eponymous social media expert David, drives the show with his boy-next-door charm and self-deprecating comic delivery, but his bromance with roommate Andy, played by Chris Aldrich, stands out for its genuine playfulness and affection and Katie Ryan nails it as Rose, the bleeding-heart-but-hard-partying non-profit staffer who falls in love with Andy. Megan Westman, as the intern David is crushing on, and Zachary Fithian, playing David’s boss, round out the cast. Both hit all the right notes as young people already resigned to their droll climb up the corporate ladder.
This is all fine and good, you might be thinking, but why would I bother to go see a show when I could spend my $17 at the local bar and hear pretty much the same thing? Because Krizel has some smart theatrical devices up his sleeves, and his deft usage of them propels the show to another level. From the first scene projections are put to good use to incorporate tweets, texts, and Powerpoint presentations into the action that keep popping up in unexpected ways, and a plot twist about halfway through transforms the post-collegiate comedy of manners into a compelling mystery.
But it’s the show’s powerful and spellbinding conclusion that spun this otherwise entertaining story into theatrical gold. There are not enough superlatives to heap upon the scene and show-stealing performance of Josh Benjamin, listed in the program only as “H.” (but you’ll know him when you see him!). His melodic delivery and sharp intakes of breath are simple but highly effective tools used to create a master villain, and the character takes the show in a wholly different tonal direction from the stark realism of the first two thirds.
Anybody with interest in rising local artists would be wise to keep an eye on the career of John Krizel. He’s a triple-threat, not only the brains behind the script but also the man who coaxed the exceptional performances from his actors and actresses and the one who raised the money, ironically using the social-media crowdsourcing site Kickstarter, to produce the show.
Sure, there are fringe-ier shows at this year’s festival, if that’s your thing, but I doubt there are any better than this intelligent, timely, fast-talking gem.
See it if: You want to know what everybody’s talking about when the Best of Fringe lists come out #RealTalk.
Skip it if: You are Courtland Milloy, or you wonder what all these damn kids are up to on 14th St. these days.