Thursday, August 27, 2009

NY Fringe Festival Review: Shelf Life


Shelf Life
Presented by: The Arcade
Writer: Molly Goforth
Director: JV Mercanti

Summary:
Staying with the one you love despite her memory loss; putting on a gruff exterior to hide the pain you feel after losing the love of your life; finding compassion to help other cope: all complex emotions, but who would have thought they would be happening inside your refrigerator?

That’s the premise of Molly Goforth’s play Shelf Life, where things just might not be as quiet as you think when the light goes out and the door shuts. A bottle of ketchup (I think) named Hi (Eric Loscheider) and a jar of grape jelly named Sweetie (Teresa Stephenson) are an item, but Sweetie gets taken “out there” more than Hi. He asks each time she returns what it’s like, but she just replies “bright and boring” and lately, she seems to be remembering less and less.

Meanwhile, Hi defends Sweetie’s honor when an offensive and gruff refrigerator mate named Clovis (I’m guessing he’s horseradish or garlic paste — we never really know) and his cronies start throwing insults. The British-accented Armand, (baking soda) who has been sitting over in the corner longer than anyone can remember, tries to befriend him, as does French-accented Frieda (Katya Campbell, the best of all the condiments) who somehow has escaped the container where the rest of her family was lost (I think she’s a French fry, but until she described the terror of being boiled in oil, I thought she was Brie cheese).

A newcomer, Tex (Clark Gookin) whom Sweetie and Hi knew “back home” (wherever that was -- the supermarket? the warehouse? the processing plant?) arrives and is taken out almost as often as Sweetie (he’s maybe barbecue or steak sauce? Honestly, I know and I don’t care). Together they seem to be losing more and more of their memories and of themselves which leads the others to fear for their shelf lives.

The play is an interesting idea “gone bad” in that it becomes too serious and we’re left wondering about too much.

Highlights:
• A great Abbott and Costello “who’s on first” scenario when Sweeties forgets having met Tex.
• Lighting (Chad. Jung) and sound (Daniel Neumann) to create the interior of a refrigerator and the simulation of the door opening and shutting.
• Direction by JV Mercanti
• I’ll never throw away a box of baking soda from the frige with quite the same lack of feeling.

Lowlights:
• Spending too much time trying to figure out which condiments they all were. Call me slow, but I spent quite a while thinking from the dialogue that Hi must be peanut butter, but couldn’t figure out why he would be in the refrigerator or red.
• Too long for the plot to develop. At the half hour mark, one of the characters asks “what is this place” and if you hadn’t read the program description about it being a refrigerator, I’m not sure you would have known either.

Christians might also like to know:• Lord’s name taken in vain
• Language
• Sexually suggestive dialogue

Fringe Tassels Awarded: 2

VENUE #2: CSV Cultural and Edu. Cntr. Flamboyan
Run has ended

--Lauren Yarger

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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