Fringe By Numbers: Day Four, "This Play is Trash"
Day Four, 5:30 p.m. Time Slot
Show: This Play is Trash
Company: The Theat of the Cunch
Venue: U of M Rarig Center Arena
Die Roll: 12
Many, many years ago in a place across the river from the Fringe Festival, I was training in to be a teacher for SteppingStone Theatre for Youth Development.
In order to see an example of good teaching in progress, I was assigned to watch a class taught by Matthew Vaky. Over the next two years I designed lights for two shows that Matthew wrote. And then our paths diverged for a while.
We ran into each other last fall when the education department at the Guthrie had a meeting of all its instructors. Then, I didn't run into him again until this festival. Now, Matthew is part of the strangely named The Theat of the Cunch, but it is his progeny that make up the better part of its creative core.
This production is headed by Nathaniel Vaky, who in his own right is a terrific actor, as well as a playwright and director. He got his entire family and a couple of friends together and put together this show made up of four one-act plays all revolving around things that have been discarded.
The four acts were each written by a different member of the family. Each was well-written. Not only was it some of the best writing in the Fringe, but also some of the best writing I've seen this year. All the way around.
In the first play, Nathaniel played a character who finds conspiracies in coded messages from discarded newspapers. Ranting conspiracy theorists is common fodder for the modern stage, but Vaky (I really ought to use first names in this article... Nathaniel, in this case) treats it well.
In the second piece, Nathaniel returns to the stage in a play penned by his brother Paris. This time around, Nathaniel plays a business man on a bench who is waiting for the bus in the company of another man (Rocco Chierichella) who despises working in the corporate world that he plans on declaring his resignation from it while completely naked. The play proceeds through his declaration and his disrobing.
The third piece is a one-woman piece performed by Ariel Sims. The knock-out beauty is brought on to the stage secretly in a garbage can that is then knocked over. She falls out and begins accosting the audience in caustic language. We find that she has been dumped (both literally and figuratively) by her boyfriend. Sims is engagingly fierce throughout the monologue. My only complaint is that in a show set amongst street people, that she's the only one who is dressed nicely and not even slightly tousled. It seemed to fit the piece, but not the overall environment of the play. (Incidentally, that is my only complaint for the entire show, so if you're looking for witty barbs here on out, you probably won't find them).
The final piece (written by Nick Vaky) is about a man who carries his belonging in a trash bag (probably not too surprising considering he lives on the street. A policeman arrests him for "Public Dumping". A woman who had borrowed the man's library card is also apprehended by the policeman for stealing the man's identity. It all devolves into a bit of violence.
The acting in this piece was terrific. It was worthy of any major stage in town. The writing was equally as solid. There was music throughout produced by another member of the family (Angelo) upon a drum kit made of plastic containers and other pieces of refuse. And there was a saxophonist who played along as well. It was an environment of living on the streets that was enforced from the moment the audience walked in the door. The whole thing was staged simply, but quite professionally. It was a treat to see, and a shame that there were only 15-20 people in the audience.
Random thing: When, as a critic, I see a title like This Play is Trash, I start to come up with witty ways to use the title against the show. A title like that invites people to say, "It sure is!" and the like. I enjoy the fact that I couldn't use the things I came up with in advance. I just came up with one that is appropriate after the fact: This Play is Trash is Anything But.
Rating: d20 = One Of The Best
Ten Word Summary: Throwing away pieces of our lives makes comedy and drama.