THE ELEMENTARY SPACETIME SHOW (César Alvarez): 2016 Fringe review 68.2

Photos by Paola Nogueras.

Photos by Paola Nogueras.

Directed by Andrew Neisler, THE ELEMENTARY SPACE TIME SHOW is a wild, unabashed, meta upon meta, and has a depth of emotional honesty that brings one dangerously close to heartbreak, veering deftly away from unbearable anguish in a series of wild turns into delicious vaudevillian absurdity.

Alameda (Julia Louis), a young woman, attempts suicide and ends up, instead of dead, a reluctant contestant in a somewhat Brechtian, somewhat dysfunctional, and highly ridiculous vaudevillian game show that exists in a liminal space between life and death. In several delightful numbers, the drag queen the game show host (Salty Brine), in a red pant suit, heels, and macabre makeup plays the friendly demon, dropping provocative questions that further frustrate Alameda. Despite the garb, the host is ultimately sympathetic, exhausted and demoralized himself by the hamster wheel of suicidal teenagers. Alameda reveals herself to be the sensitive wreck we expect her to be, but sharp, funny, and thoughtful enough to win her case for death against Camus himself in one of her various challenges (others include facing off with a bizarre mosquito, unlocking existential equations, and being faced with another version of herself in one of the most sensitive moments of the play). Music director César Alvarez’s genre-bending music brings levity to Alameda’s existential grief, but is melancholic enough to match it. Neisler’s direction and Louis’s performance dig up long buried longings and bring back essential questions about the pain of living and the choice to go on.

[The Arts Bank at The University of the Arts, 601 South Broad Street] September 10-24, 2016; fringearts.com/elementary-spacetime-show.

Read Julia Taus’s take on this production.

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