Baron Dave Romm (barondave) wrote,
Baron Dave Romm

Fringe Show (sort of) at the Walker Art Center

cavandal and I went to "A Think and A Drink" event at the Walker Art Center. Basically, if you're a member you can get invited to a small cash-bar party beforehand and a meet-the-cast party afterward. Both take place on the fourth floor, with lounge-type seating, in view of the stage on the first level. A member of the Japan American Society gave a very general overview of Japanese culture as it relates to the workplace. He didn't say anything I didn't know, but was a good reminder.

Walker listing: chelfitsch: Hot Pepper, Air Conditioner, and the Farewell Speech. "chelfitsch" is pronounced like "shellfish" though sometimes with a harder "tch".

My public FB gallery 20120119 chelfitsch

On the Fringe Festival scale with five kitties the best, I'd have to give Hot Pepper about three kitties; maybe three and a half for being very "fringie". One of which is for performing in Japanese with English "subtitles" (really "supertitles" as they're projected above the actors).

The program notes, an extensive pamphlet, say, "The theme of this triptych is the disposable work force." Yes, four of the six roles (in two of the skits) are temps. I really didn't see anything that resembled a "theme". The English translation was (they said afterward) only part of what was said in Japanese, but got the gist of the speech. Certainly, they talked really fast and put a lot in, whatever they said. Still, at no point (in the English) was anyone complaining about being a temp or longing for the old days of permanent employment.

click on picture for larger picture
20120119 chelfitsch cast and crew 20120119 chelfitsch cast and crew
The cast and production company of Hot Pepper at the Walker Art Center 1/19/12

The first skit is about three temps who have to arrange a farewell party for a third temp. They speak one at a time, and say the same things over and over and over and over in a circle for about twenty minutes. At most, they're complaining that the permanent employees should do the party. Mostly, they just don't know what to do and don't seem to be listening to each other. There's a bit of an ending, but really, the skit comes to no resolution. Perhaps I'm not understanding the culture. The audience seemed to be laughing at the repetition, but I found only one funny line in the skit (which would be a spoiler so I won't repeat it). Hot Pepper is a magazine about restaurants that one of the characters insists is the best place to look for a location for the farewell party.

The second skit was the most active and the funniest. Two employees, presumably permanent employees, start talking past each other, but clearly are attracted to each other and come closer and closer physically. The male is a brash young lad who starts talking about the banality of political talk shows (so we have some connection with American culture). The woman simply responds "hai", which doesn't mean "yes" so much as "I'm listening". She says this every second or two. Then she talks about the office air conditioner being set to 23° C, which is too cold for her. It's his turn to say "hai" every second, no matter what she's rambling about. At least in this skit, there is an indication of time passing (the two of them with their legs up, as if caught in mid-stride), but they have the same conversation over and over. At some point, he actually responds to her, urging her to call the police. She never seems to respond to anything he says. The actors from the first skit remain on stage, sitting at a table to the left.

The third skit is really more of a soliloquy, even though the five actors from the previous two skits are still on stage looking at her. Erika, the temp being let go after less than two years, is speaking at her farewell party. She gives a long, occasionally repetitious but heartfelt speech about the cicadas (with their long life cycle but brief life) and how her cat ate a helpless cicada saving her from having to step on it. She dances around, literally, but never talks directly about her employment situation except to thank one person who helped her out in a minor way when when she was first hired. That act of kindness is all that she takes away from the job.

What makes the skit (and the whole show) fun is the choreography. With few exceptions, the strange, stylized movements don't have anything to do with the dialog. Still, it was fun watching the contortions, and the occasional colored light shadows it projects.

20120119 Carole 20120119 Carole
Carole and one of the actors in Hot Pepper at the Walker Art Center afterparty 1/19/12

I'm glad we went. Partially, this was Carole's first time actually going out to an event since her operation more than a week earlier. We struggled with getting the wheelchair in the car; it can be done, but it's hard. It could never have fit in my Protege, and needed to lower the back seats to get it in the trunk of the Camry. After two months, my new car is already a bit beaten up. *sigh*

The play itself was… not to my sensibilities. I didn't find it particularly funny or illuminating. Were I to have written a similar set of plays, the whole thing would be less than ten minutes and would say more about the subject. On the other hand, I wouldn't be internationally acclaimed and have performances in countries where they didn't speak the language it was written in. Oh well.
Tags: fringe festival

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