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It is summer, the season when a new bloat-budgeted spectacle of a movie arrives almost every weekend. Pointless Theatre Company can’t compete with those payrolls, but in the arms race of sheer enthusiasm, a trio of the creative talents behind their current Capital Fringe entry Imagination Meltdown Adventure sounds ready to take on all comers. Pointless’s shows in the prior two Capital Fringe Festivals — 2010’s Sleeping Beauty: A Puppet Ballet and last year’s Hugo Ball: A Super Spectacular Dada Adventure — were both voted “Best Experimental” in the esteemed if syntactically challenged Pick of the Fringe Awards.
At the festival’s opening night last week, I sat across from Imagination Meltdown Adventure‘s two writers, Frank Cervarich and Alex Leidy as they squeezed onto a tattered couch with Sadie Leigh Rothman. Rothman contributed choreography to the show, which concerns an epic battle to prevent the apocalypse wherein ninjas, cowboys and dinosaurs all play their parts as the Book of Revelations promised they would.
The three artists met while enrolled at the University of Maryland. Cervarich graduated in 2009. Rothman graduated earlier this year. Leidy is still working on his degree. Talking to the three of them at once is like listening to a choir work out a three-part harmony.
Leidy: What were really dedicated to is spectacle. Rothman: What were dedicated to is blowing your mind. Have we said the word ensemble yet? We really like to play together.
Cervarich: The Olive Garden has a saying: When youre here, youre family. Thats also true of Pointless Theatre.
Note, please, that Leidy and Rothman joined in to recite the “You’re family” part along with him. And so it goes. I asked if any particular theme or ethos unites the shows the troupe — which co-artistic directors Patti Kalil and Matt Reckeweg founded in 2009 — chooses to create.
Leidy: Its a lot of visually driven work. A lot of great theater is people sitting around a table talking for an hour an a half.
Rothman: Thats not us.
Cervarich: We live in a society that has moved on to movies and TV. We try to compete with that by heightening the stakes of the spectacle we put onstage.
Leidy: I dont want to say were competing. But its visually driven theatre.
Rothman: And at the same time that its completely nuts, its also completely relatable.
Relatable in the way that perenially syndicated, ubiquitously quoted sitcoms are relatable? Well, sure!
Cervarich: If Seinfeld was a “show about nothing,” I wanted ours to be about everything. Robots and cowboys and zombies on stage; all that was permissible. This show has over 150 set pieces and puppets in it.
Leidy: A lot of which are just beautifully painted cardboard.
Rothman: Just so its completely clear, the puppets in this show are really beautiful. Beautiful! We have company build nights. Saturday nights, were like, “Lets all get together and make lots of puppets.” Everyone is physically creating the show together.
As the shows have grown more ambitious, the troupe has necessarily become more disciplined while retaining its creative spark, Cervarich said.
Cervarich: Were talking like were hot shit right now, but when we did Sleeping Beauty two years ago, we had a six-hour tech [rehearsal] in an alleyway behind the house where I was living, and we didnt even get through the whole show. Which was supposed to be 30 minutes long.
Leidy: Then we did Hugo Ball, which was such a departure from Sleeping Beauty. We went from a childrens show into a Dada show about fucking shit up and the end of the world.
Cervarich: Hugo Ball was pure chaos. And this is a little dialed back. We really wanted to make a show that was accessible to a lot of people. We didnt want anybody to feel alienated.
Imagination Meltdown Adventure is at the Mountain venue tonight at 8:30 p.m. and tomorrow at 6:00 p.m. A full listing of performances and tickets are available here. Read Lindsey Boyle‘s Fringe & Purge review of the show here.