With so many ways to communicate, how do you come up with a new one?
That’s the task at hand for blueDragonfly Productions, which has traveled all the way to Cincinnati from Liverpool, England to perform And All the Rest Is Junk Mail.
Oh, and their task was spawned by a chain letter. But we’ll return to that.
This spunky two-woman show explores communication of all kinds, as well as miscommunication, in a quirky, often farcical romp. Call it a way-left-of-center communications sound-off wrapped in an absurdist theater package.
The pair (Sarah and Stephanie) are deft and delightfully engaging performers. They played to a sizable opening night audience at Coffee Emporium, an intimate venue well suited for the show.
The small stage is littered with refuse relating to communicating: paper airplanes, broken rotary and mobile phones, paper wads, even bottles (their significance is revealed later).
In an age overwhelmed with communication modes — social media, telephones, email and beyond — there still are so many ways messages still get missed.
The performers drive this point home through an exhaustive list of possible ways to communicate: from Facebook and phones, to semaphore and smoke signals.
As Sarah states the reason she did not get the message via a given mode, Stephanie replies with understanding, “Oh, it happens to the best of us,” and hangs the object in question (a flag, a phone, etc.) from a phone cord “clothesline” attached to microphone stands at either end. Interestingly, each object gets suspended by a chain of paperclips. Similar repetition of elements are used to good effect in the show.
Speaking of chains, chain letters, whether paper or electronic, are to blame for all the bad in the world today.
Smartly written and playful, the show gains momentum and meaning as it progresses. Billed as “communication experts,” Stephanie endorses verbal communication modes, while Sarah, who’s “sick of words,” favors corporeal technology — body language and physical poetry. But it’s all about context, interpretation.
Other fun, original concepts include Thought Airplanes (or aeroplanes, I should say) that begin with a raw thought, and, later, a large grey origami bird that becomes the proverbial little birdy… spawning Twitter.
For all its silliness, there are salient embedded messages and questions here: Does the message depend on the medium? Are they one and the same? We’re always communicating something.
In heart and spirit, it’s a production that feels true to Fringe. It’s decidedly low-tech, with some skilled theatrics and writing, complete with oddball props and goofy, light audience participation. And its meanderings are just strange enough, but remain accessible thanks to a subject to which we all can relate: communication.
PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE: 8:45 p.m. May 30 and 8:15 p.m. May 31. Find more of CityBeat's ongoing 2013 Cincy Fringe Festival coverage, including performance reviews, commentary and venue details, here.