SHOW: Alternative Theatre Festival
GROUP: intuitions Experimental Theatre Company
ATTENDED: Sat., Sept. 7, 7 p.m., Platt Student Performing Arts House at the University of Pennsylvania
CLOSES: Sept. 7 (one night only)
BRIEF SELF-DESCRIPTION: The Alternative Theatre Festival is a collection of five short plays written and directed by students at the University of Pennsylvania. The shows feature themes such as the pervasiveness of headline news, unrequited love, mental illness, loneliness, infertility, and finding oneself.
WE THINK: The quintet of short one-act plays exhibited at the Alternative Theatre Festival are, if nothing else, earnest. That much should be expected from iNTUITIONS, UPenn’s only student-run experimental theatre group, and it is comforting to experience the seriousness with which these young artists dedicate themselves to performing original works (and only two weeks into the school year!). The two strongest featured plays — Artificial Intelligence, in which a socially inept computer programmer hilariously and poignantly confronts relationship anxieties with help from his IPhone; and Sessions, a chronicle of a woman’s meetings with a psychologist, during which they unintentionally swap therapeutic roles — mixed naturalistic performances with unconventional storytelling techniques to throw a unique spin on universally relatable themes.
Still, these works suffer the pitfalls of most student-run shows. For one, the Platt Student Performing Arts House basement space is little more than a big room with a shoddy coffee bar, sleep-inducing fluorescent house lights, and inconvenient construction (a massive pillar divided the audience and made it impossible to see anything from behind the second row). In true collegiate fashion, the plays also had to compete for audience attention with the sound of crunk music and the passing of inebriated co-eds from the party in an adjoining room. Honestly, some of the best performances came from partygoers unintentionally walking into a Fringe performance and either abruptly affecting sobriety (sorry, not fooling anybody) or exhibiting obnoxious ambivalence (actually…we’d prefer if you pretended you were sober).
If these works were part of a multi-show run, then this reviewer would have confidence in iNTUITIONS’ ability to work out any of the fixable first-performance kinks (and tell the bros next door to shut up). Unfortunately, Fringe audiences won’t have the chance to see a better-executed version of these plays, nor will iNTUITIONS be able to put what it’s learned into practice for a non-student audience.
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