FRINGE 2018 REVIEW: 'Thrive IRL'

A collection of sketches themed around technology’s omnipotent influence over every aspect of our lives

Thrive IRL is a collection of sketches themed around technology’s omnipotent influence over every aspect of our lives. (IRL is a slang acronym for “in real life.) From unconventional gender reveals during pregnancy to the unbearable pressure of interacting with a grocery clerk face-to-face, comedy team Maari Suorsa and Henry Riggs (they call themselves Nameless Numberhead) lampoon the antisocial nature of millennials conditioned by impassive social media. It’s onstage at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

The show is pitched as a “post-apocalyptic vaudeville” and, while the entertainment variety and demeanor are reminiscent of vaudeville, the post-apocalyptic tag is misleading if audience members expect Mad Max or Skynet and its terminators. The synopsis established at the show’s start is framed as a series of examples of modern life to appease the insatiable algorithm of our robot overlords. But that’s about as cohesive as the pair of shiny jumpsuited actors make the plot. Thrive IRL is very funny and likable, with a suitably goofy tone silhouetting dark truisms regarding our struggle to stay human in spite of technology’s every effort.

While the general theme centers on technology, several sketches stray into effectively simple physical comedy pieces, such as a hippy millennial couple who take several minutes to blow out a seemingly infinite number of candles before they leave home — irrelevant, but genuinely funny thanks to the duo’s performances.

An interesting thought surfaces near the end of the show, discussing the validation modern  humans might receive from having their data hacked (it means someone cares!). If the robots are spying on us through our smart phones, we should be flattered by their interest.

Thrive IRL was born of improv comedy. Even if you’re not a fan of the “different wig = new character” formula so many improv groups rely on, there might still be quite a bit of enjoyment to glean from this strange, compelling show. 

The Cincinnati Fringe Festival runs through June 10. Find showtimes, tickets and more info here.

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