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Is There Anybody out There? Mead Theatre Lab

Remaining Performances: July 17th 8pm July 17th 10pm July 18th 8pm July 18th 10pm

They say: How do we communicate and what the hell do we have to say? Join a group of disabled and non-disabled performers as we wrestle with this simple question with song and sign. Is there anybody out there?

Suzyn’s Take:

“I didn’t know this was a cabaret performance,” the guy in the row behind me said.

I agreed.  I hadn’t known either.  Given the description in the guide, I’d been expecting something a bit more philosophical than a chain of popular songs, most of them sort of relating to the touted theme, some not at all.   That said, a cabaret performance is what I got and this was a pretty good one.

The two sign-language interpreters, Greg Anderson and Tami Lee Santimyer, were rose to the task as the show’s centerpieces. Both interpreters were very expressive; Santimyer especially seemed to make almost a dance out of performing sign language. I was fascinated to watch Will Mincey’s hands on his Braille sheet-music as he sang, and his “Pure Imagination” didn’t even sound creepy—-which is something of an achievement, as I’m used to the Gene Wilder version.

The singing was the highlight, which is, of course a good thing in cabaret.  The standout performances were the singers who added a bit of acting to their performance and managed to evince the emotions they were singing about.   Joe Peck’s “Signs” was a standout.  (Peck also got in some nice snark about the Fringe button.)

The solo performances, though, were the weak spot of the show.   Too many songs featured someone simply standing there and singing to the audience with little in the way of expressive movement.   (Rob McQuay, commanding in his wheelchair, was a notable exception.) However, it was in the ensemble work that Is There Anybody out There really shone.   An ensemble performance of Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” was, I assume, a last-minute addition to the show, but it had a vivacity that many of the solo performances lacked and was the most memorable number.

I suppose communication works best as a conversation not a monologue.

See it if: You’d like to attend a pleasant evening of popular music, or you’d like to bring a friend with a disability to a Fringe show.  I’ve been to about half a dozen this year and this was the first to offer sign language interpretation.   There are many fringe venues that don’t seem wheelchair accessible; this one certainly is.

Skip it if: Part of the appeal of the Fringe Festival is something new or edgy.   This is a pleasant evening, but there’s nothing “Fringe-y” about it in that sense.