Prototype 373-G July 19 , 2008 by Flea Market Theatre Co. at the Source Theatre Capital Fringe Festival 2008 Original Filename DSC_8821

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Prototype 373-G The Source

Remaining Performances: Saturday, July 26 @ 1:00 PM Sunday, July 27 @ 4:30 PM

They say: “In Polynesian mythology, when people were first created, they were born hatching out of turtle’s eggs … maybe they were right. Prototype 373-G blends humor and magical realism to tell the story of a woman battling extraterrestrials, a series of odd dreams, and the unpredictability of her own heart.”

Trey’s take: How much nonsensical fun was that?

Be warned: Prototype is less a finished play than an excuse for playing around — if I’ve got the story right, it started when some Arena Stage folk, working on that house’s tepid Christmas Carol 1941, realized that they were having fun, and someone’s uncle had a barn called Fringe, and gee, why don’t we put on a show?

Also it’s an excuse for: an unhinged bit of costume design courtesy of The Crafts Action League, an outfit that apparently builds a lot of gaudy stuff for shops around town. One dream sequence alone (check the photo) features a seaweedy mermaid fantasia, a belly-dancer whose look is distinctly chelonian, and a leafy-greens cocktail number that might have been hallucinated by a crash-dieting drag queen midway through an enforced week of Chop’t Salad.

So, why the lettuce wrap? Well, the redhead there (Tara Giordano as struggling stand-up comic) has been brainwashed by the commanding general of a belligerent race of space turtles (Hugh Nees), who plans to use her as a host mother, and —

See, I don’t really need to tell you more, do I? Turtles like lettuce, and this show features marauding alien turtles strong-arming comely Titian-haired maidens into terrestrial sex slavery: ‘Nuff said, book your tickets, do not pass Go.

A rapacious talent agent (Helen Hedman), an impulsive and ultimately unfaithful fiancé (Tim Getman), a recently lobotomized next-door neighbor (Daniel Eichner), and a rapidly growing Trojan Tortoise all play their parts in a loopy, no-development-is-too-wacky script — which, again assuming I’ve got my post-show chatter right, playwright Benjamin Fainstein whipped up specifically for this here ensemble.

The style is episodic, disjointed, and largely surreal, but it’s not that much work to stay on top of things. And what’s surprising, given the show’s loose and lark-y nature, is how much texture — how many tender, spiky, coarse, sweet, and downright charming moments — that ensemble manages to create.

Director Dan Pruksarnukul (he’s casting wallah at Arena) doubtless shares much of the credit, but here’s the real trick: No matter how mad the material gets, he’s got his actors honestly invested in their characters, and they’re paying attention to — and connecting with — each other every moment they’re onstage together.

See it if: You’re attracted to frivolity for its own sake — or you’re an sucker for tight ensemble work.

Skip it if: Whimsy makes you queasy, and no quantity of stagecraft will settle your stomach.

Photos: Paul Gillis