The kids are all right. They know everything about the birds and bees, to say nothing of blow-up dolls, and they’ve been watching the grownups. Very carefully.
Katie Hoffecker and Zak Kelley, students at the School for Creative and Performing Arts, wrote Blown Up and star in their 40-minute production, sharing billing with Roxie Foxie, a life-size air-filled substitute person with a reputed drinking problem. The piece is sharp and funny, and the actors’ timing is on the nose. They play a married couple with a history that goes back to kindergarten — interrupted when she went on to Country Day and he to “some Catholic school” — but was picked up at a high school party in which each remembers the other as drunk, the self as sober.
We see them each telling a story, the same story, to invisible psychiatrists, who of course say nothing, that being the way of psychiatrists, and we hear that one person’s understanding of what happened is diametrically opposed to the other’s. Hmm. Have you ever remembered a conversation one way and found someone else’s memories different? Of course not, because you are accurate and so are your friends — but you know it happens to other people.
These two writers are slick actors, on their marks and quick on the uptake opening night. They are good at using facial expression to say more than the words they speak, and they have fashioned their airy script to move from farce to fantasy without a shudder. The SCPA black box theater is good venue for such a words-centered undertaking, a couch, a chair, a small table and two stools answering all the needs of the script. The stage crew gives the actors efficient support.
Any constraints of set are circumvented by use of a screen, where purported snapshots of the two in happier days appear as well as a funny sequence taking off on serious dance. Kelley, at a low point, is reduced to street theater and a cardboard sign reading “Will Dance 4 Food.” A passerby might want to give him food to stop him dancing.
The script itself doesn’t hang together perfectly. Why is the wedding in Kansas, “where she comes from,” when they seem to have shared kindergarten somewhere else? And why does he so dislike the priest she insists on having for the wedding ceremony, when he was the one who went to “some Catholic school”? But these are minor quibbles on a piece that gives us acutely observed and unfailingly amusing comments on the difficulty of relationships.
Blown Up and another SCPA Fringe show, You Will Have Twenty-Five Minutes to Complete This Essay, are this year’s FringeNext productions, in which high school students create, direct, produce and perform. The category, initiated last year, is solid assurance that Fringe itself will have a long life.