For the first few years of the Philly Fringe, it cost like five dollars to see a show. You could take a gamble on shows that looked interesting but risky. If you loved a show, it felt like winning the lottery. If you didn’t, you were only down five bucks. Best of all, if a perplexing show left its little fingers poking around your brain, you could come back the next night or two and see it again. It was a great way to get into experimental theater.
When the lights go up at the beginning of DREADFULLY WHITE, at the PlayGround at the Adrienne, creator Susan Pope sits on the floor pretending to be a child at play. Usually, especially in a black box theater, an adult imitating a child is not a good sign. Pope, though, makes clear that she’s not being self-indulgent. She establishes a convincing mix of the whimsy and idle cruelty of child’s play, just long enough to build a reality to smash, and then build another character out of the pieces. Then she does it again and again. These different points of view start adding up to something bigger, something full of eerie beauty and terror. Pope bravely explores the way violence twists the human heart, and offers a way to unwind it with compassion and courage. Stick around for a post-show discussion, and check it out again if you get the chance; it’s only a little more than $5, but worth it. [The PlayGround at the Adrienne] September 13-17, 2013. fringearts.ticketleap.