"Do Not Kill Me, Killer Robots!", presented by The Great Ben Egerman Theatre Adventure! Photo: Dave Stagner
"Do Not Kill Me, Killer Robots!", presented by The Great Ben Egerman Theatre Adventure! Photo: Dave Stagner

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The Bedroom – 610 L Street NW

Remaining Performances:

July 13, 9pm
July 16, 4pm
July 17, 9pm

They say: A building secured for generations against what lies outside. A meeting is called to discuss whether it’s time to finally open the doors, see whether the Beasts still wait outside, “time to let us out,” or to let them in?

Ryan’s Take: A lesser Fringer than Ben Egerman would have rested on his laurels and restaged his 2010 hit Do Not Kill Me, Killer Robots. Instead, he’s taken the plunge and is touring a brand new exercise in staged multiple-personality disorder with The Beasts. And bless him, it’s a fringey winner.

The Beasts concerns a far-flung future in which society has bifurcated between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom following a war in which Homo sapiens didn’t fare too well. The remaining humans locked themselves into agrarian compounds and barred the gates against all other members of the animal kingdom. Things have gone steadily downhill since. Now, with the pipes backing up and crops growing scarce, the last remnants of humanity have gathered to decide whether or not to unbar the doors and take a peek outside.

Egerman’s shtick is pure cheap-chic. Props are all homemade and generally hilarious (although some could stand to be BIGGER. Charts need to be read further than ten feet out.) Egerman plays upwards of 20 characters over the hour and he’s generally successful at keeping who’s who clear. There’s the politician invested in maintaining the status quo. There’s the military guy left with an arsenal of punches and other kinds of punches. There’s the workman just trying to keep the place from falling apart. He caricatures all the archetypal pillars of society. But then he goes further, making the bold choice to let the audience in on just what’s going on outside those doors before the human characters have any inkling. It ups the stakes and adds a healthy dose of irony to the whole proceeding.

Advanced political themes! Metaphors for isolationism! The slow and inevitable decline of society! Heavy stuff, right? Nah. The tone is light, and Egerman has good taste in influences. The Beasts plays like a stupid-smart mash-up of Caryl Churchill’s Far Away, Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, and the Fallout video game franchise. He pulls off a tricky mix of high- and lowbrow, and even throws in a little puppetry for good measure. And yeah, awesome Fringe-going Mom and Dad, you can bring the kids to this one.

See it if: You’re looking for the feel-good dystopia comedy of the year, put on by a guy who embodies the DIY spirit of Fringe.

Skip it if: You have a low tolerance for frequent on-stage costume changes, scatological humor, puppetry, or the potential for audience participation.