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UNcontentED Love

The Shop at Fort Fringe 607 New York Avenue, NW.

Remaining Performances:

Saturday, July 17 at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, July 18 at 11:00 p.m. Saturday, July 24 at 9:30 p.m.

They say: “Exposing the darker side of relationships through physical poetry: scenes between lovers, spouses and rivals; love thrown off by rejection, jealousy, misunderstanding, insecurity, and broken promises; with perhaps a hint of hope for reconciliation. This is not Shakespeare in Love.”

Matt’s Take: It’s more than a little cynical to wonder if any signs of fresh life can be injected into the bloated carcass of the Bard, a man whose works have already been re-imagined so often that even post-post-modern interpretations feel familiar.Enter UNcontentED Love (its creative spelling speaks volumes), which is neither a linear re-telling nor an obtuse experimentation but a rather frenetic and generally confusing cut-and-paste amalgam that tries to connect the dots between Shakespeare’s tragic oeuvre.

Initially conceived as a piece with a cast of five actresses, here it is presented with an all-signing cast comprised of (mostly) Gallaudet Univeristy students. An intriguing idea, to be sure. Yet UNcontentED Love‘s disjointedness stems from a host of logistical difficulties that can hardly be chalked up to its intended message being lost in translation.

Predicated on exploring the “darker side of relationships” through the lens of Shakespeare’s most memorable fatalists, we watch his most famous creations flirt, stab, and betray their way through snippets in which the audience is offered no identification of character or plot, just a few objects that intersect scenes. Are they performing Othello now? Why are some people wearing costumes while others prance in leggings? Was that guy in the gold lame American Apparel tank top supposed to be Cleopatra? Wait, what?

The cast brings an extreme physicality to the performance, exuding a breakneck intensity that is both inspiring and dizzying to watch. (Personally, I could have done without all of the gnarly thrusting and dry humping but these are the types of flourishes that Fringe provides.) But even with its laudable intensity, UNcontentED Love’s best moments came when the narration was abandoned and the action performed in silence. These moments also served as a much-needed reprieve for the unfortunate actors tasked with vocalizing the Shakespearean verse being signed while performing. (Could no one else have pitched in to help these two?) It was only then, without the clunky distractions, that UNContentED Love didn’t feel like just another idea transposed onto deaf actors but rather a performance that spoke for itself.

See it: If you’ve always wanted to see a Capulet in a jumper.

Skip it if: You’re already comfortable with the understanding that relationships in Shakespeare’s plays do not end well.