THE INSTITUTE FOR RELATIVITY STUDIES (Brian Shapiro Presents): 2016 Fringe review 37


The subtitle for this production, Unauthorized Explorations of the Human, says a bit more about the content than the show’s proper name. THE INSTITUTE FOR RELATIVITY STUDIES is a series of one-man shows, directed by Kelly Jennings and scored by Chris Jones, connected by a tenuous theme. Though the overall production doesn’t quite come together in a satisfying way, it does include some funny and thought-provoking vignettes. Professor Whitey (Brian Shapiro) is a “self-appointed PhD with ADD” and the eccentric, soft-spoken host of the Institute’s research open house. The open house serves as the frame through which Professor Whitey introduces each presentation, not all of which connect to the show’s theme of exploring how people develop different ways of seeing the world, but entertain nonetheless.

Each part of the show has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some, like “Status-faction,” a presentation by Surfer Willie (Shapiro), offer both a humorous character and a tight concept. Willie is a surfer bum and stock analyst trying to beat big oil companies with his craft-brewed “gourmet gasoline.” It’s a great satire of the faux-authenticity of businesses pretending artisanality as a cynical cash grab, and introduces an idea you almost feel surprised hasn’t been tried in real life yet. Later pieces like The Global Belief League, an ESPN-style sports show analyzing match-ups between different belief systems, starts with a great concept but falls flat. THE INSTITUTE FOR RELATIVITY STUDIES is a comedy for people who want to have a little extra to think about after the show, and while not all of its ideas land, there ought to be a character or concept that grabs your attention.

[Paris Wine Bar, 2303 Fairmount Avenue] September 14-21, 2016;


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About the author

Tyler Horst

Tyler Horst is a writer, filmmaker, and photographer based in Philadelphia. He is a regular contributor for JUMP, SPOKE, and Hidden City Philadelphia. His writing has also appeared in the Philadelphia Daily News and the mobile gaming site Hardcore Droid. In 2015, he won an Emmy for his short documentary "Born-Frees in Hip Hop," shot in South Africa. His first movie was a Star Wars fan film he shot on a camcorder at the age of 8, but his cousin tragically taped over it with an episode of Yu-Gi-Oh!. He still hasn't forgiven his cousin for this.