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Unintended Consequences: Three One-Act Comedies Warehouse – Next Door

Remaining Performances: Saturday, July 19 @ 8:30pm Wednesday, July 23 @ 6:30pm Saturday, July 26 @ 3:30pm

They say: “What the hell were they thinking? The delightfully perplexed characters in this trio of one-acts cope with the unintended consequences that ensue when the INS investigates illegal trafficking in undocumented genies, the Devil issues an RFP for a consultant, and an agenda-less retreat ends improbably, yet inevitably, in romance.”

Glen’s take: The laudable mission statement of the recently formed Senior Moments Theatre Company (“To encourage and support emerging dramatists over 55”) probably had a lot to do with the demographic makeup of Unintended Consequences‘ Sunday afternoon crowd, which, I merely note, skewed a bit more, ah, Applebee’s-five-o’clock-dinner-rush than Fringe audiences generally do.

Look: I get that satire is inherently pushy. It is, after all, just Funny With Something to Prove. But the trick of it — the way you get audiences to swallow your pill — is to spend more time worrying about the Funny than the Something to Prove. Satire goes wrong when its makers are so keen to poke you in the ribs that they neglect to tickle them.

Take the first two playlets in Unintended Consequences, both of which suffer from being overwritten and broadly performed. That, as it turns out, is a near deadly combination, because by insisting so shrilly and laboriously on their central satirical premises (Genies = Illegal Immigrants and Consultants = Satan), both plays reveal how little value they place on things like character, dialogue and recognizable emotion.

But as soon as the third and final one-act starts, something happens. Something surprising, and really kinda great. Even though its satiric premise isn’t particularly fresh (just some familiar pokes at meeting facilitators and org-speak), even though it’s written by the same guy responsible for the genie comedy you sat through earlier, that last play hits you like a revelation, for two reasons: Karen Lange, as a hopeful Arts Administrator, and Washington Improv Theater regular Stuart Scotten, as a hesitant meeting attendee. These two performers concentrate on creating characters — rounded, funny, utterly believable characters — and allow themselves to find the script’s jokes, instead of lunging at them.  Scotten in particular offers a master class in what offhand, unforced comic timing can do for a production; as a result, precisely 33.3% of Unintended Consequences is easily the best thing in Fringe I’ve seen so far.

See if if: You are possessed of both a Zen-like patience and a fondness for jokes about media consultants.

Skip it if: You’d rather catch Scotten at WIT.