Every now and then we need to take a step back and look at the art of theater from a distance—through a microscope, in a vacuum, stripped of its pretense and pageantry. If we remain forever enveloped in the seriousness of our aims as artists, we cannot laugh at ourselves. And it is this ability that takes a bundle of cells and transforms it into a person. It is the definition of self-awareness.
In less able hands, THE TALKBACK would be a five-minute joke: The audience shows up and the actors begin a dialogue about a show that no one saw. But the Berserker Residents—Justin Jain, David Johnson, and Bradley K. Wrenn—are not interested in one-off gags. THE TALKBACK is front-to-back hilarious, yes, but it’s also an honest and penetrating look into how theater is created. This includes satirical ruminations on the lives of the artists, their interpersonal struggles, their insecurities, and their passions. By pulling back the veil of straight performance, the Residents reveal both the silliness and the sadness that drives art, all the while flexing their impressive improv muscles (the Q&A with the audience finds the actors at their funniest and most freewheeling). Earlier in the Fringe, I reviewed Parts: A Speed-Through by the Drexel Players—a meta piece about the process of staging a play, ably performed by the students of Drexel University’s theater program. THE TALKBACK is that show all grown up, looking past the nuts and bolts of process and into the neuroses that drive us to create. It is the funniest and most introspective show you are likely to see this Fringe season. [Skinner Studio @ Plays & Players] September 18-21, 2013, fringearts.ticketleap.com/the-