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Sezze Sun
@ The Bodega

Remaining performances:
7/24 @ 6:30pm; 7/25 @ 9pm; 7/26 @ 4:30pm

They say: A struggling actor invites friends and family to his parents’ Italian villa for great food, drink and festivities. But he has ulterior motives. Secrets are revealed and covertly filmed in this multi-media exploration of the digitalization and destruction of relationships.

Sheffy says: MTV is filming its 23rd season of The Real World right here in Washington, in Dupont Circle. What’s most surprising is not that the Fringer to your left might soon be a cable TV mini-celebrity, but that this show is still on the air. Who would’ve thought that broadcasting the “unscripted” lives of seven co-habitating strangers would spark a new genre called “Reality TV?” And after Big Brother, Survivor, Jon & Kate, doesn’t the concept ever get stale?

Well how about this play’s angle:  You lock a motley crew of characters in an Italian villa and videotape the unfolding drama without their knowledge. You can probably already guess some of the skeletons that come out when illuminated by the Sezze sun. The conniving mastermind behind the plot is the petulant Ben (Matthew Charles), a British actor-director whose egomania becomes clear in his ranting asides directly into the videocamera.

Toss into the fishbowl his ill-matched American girlfriend, who teaches economics at Oxford, his ex-girlfriend, who’s starting to have success in her own acting career, his patrician mother (played in a standout performance by Karin de la Penha), the flaming hairdresser uncle (humorously played by William Brookes) who mixes his meds and limoncello to set up the requisite gay come-on scene, and, inexplicably, Pete, an American folk-rock legend (Dan Barnhill), whose suave nonchalance reminded me of the Matthew McConaughey character in EdTV (a movie parody of reality TV). Add one more character: the ubiquitous video camera, streaming the action larger than life on the back wall in real time (well, not quite real time—-there’s an irritating one-second delay).

To quote the woman sitting in front of me: “The play held my attention, but I’m not sure why.” There wasn’t enough “Drama” to merit that categorization in the Fringe guide, but Sezze earns bona fides for “Experimental,” as the concept was collaboratively developed by the ensemble through rounds of improvisation. That might explain some of the long pauses: were they timing miscues, forgotten lines, or intentional attempts to dramatize reality? Sezze might even get away with “Musical” if you count the ambient soundtrack provided by Pete’s guitar. In fact, the highlight of the show for me was his song, “Recycle newspapers, but don’t recycle your ladies.” The difference between real reality TV and this show: reality TV is more scripted and highly edited.

See it if: You’ve caught yourself making excuses to your roommate about how you were just flipping through the stations, and oh, wait, is this a reality TV show I’m watching…?

Skip it if: You’re part of the real world (and this time I’m not referring to the cast of a TV show).