The Shop at Fort Fringe

Remaining performances:
July 16 at 8:45p.m.
July 18 at 7:30p.m.
July 19 at 2:30p.m.
July 24 at 7:30p.m.

They say: “Come taste Soup! SF’s Trio arrives to DC with a tasty blend of swine flu, trans-fats, and a dash of downward dog. This original concoction of dark comic shorts is guaranteed to induce abdomen-strengthening belly laughs. Served hot!”

Brett’s take: Soup is a good title for this show: like the typical dish of that culinary category, this comedy program provides satisfaction, but is not likely to deliver gastronomic ecstasy. Or to put it less floridly: it’s not bad (nod and smile).

The “six course meal” (as the program presents it) of short sketches debuting here is in the style of latter-day Saturday Night Live—-high on conceit and character humor, low on repartee or big punchlines. Though the tagline claims the sketches are “dark comic,” there’s very little actual darkness here; rather, a certain topicality pervades. All six pieces are somehow related to the processes of the body—-cooking, childrearing, medicine, yoga, and a certain part of the female anatomy. The thematic unity gives the show a neat modernity and provides more cohesion than the average sketch show, even if the topical musings rarely rise above the level of cleverness to actual insight. (It is not, for example, a revelation that a vast majority of people are medicated nowadays.)

Around here, I would usually like to quote a joke or two to give you a sample of the style of humor, but I strain to recall any. The show’s main flaw is that it’s just not that hilarious. Performer-writers Gabrielle Fisher, Noah Kelly, and Pardis Parsa are high-quality character actors, and the topical focus keeps the pieces engaging, but each ten-minute sketch only generates about… oh, two audience-size belly laughs plus the occasional chuckle. At their best, the sketches sustain a mild amusement; take the one called “Baby Rent-a-Center,” in which a horribly irresponsible woman attempts to, yes, rent a baby, while her husband devolves into an overgrown child whining on the floor.

These folks have some considerable talent as performers; with some improvement as writers, they could put on one heck of a smart comedy show.

(Note of full disclosure: I ran a little late and missed the first few minutes of the first sketch [shh, don’t tell the box office about the late seating]. However, I don’t think all of the laughs were packed in that fraction of the show.)

See it if: You are especially tickled by the idea of a woman talking to her vagina, even if no actual jokes are uttered in the process.

Skip it if: You’ve only got a few Fringe tickets and want to squeeze maximum laugh-to-dollar value out of them.