SHOW: Go Long Big Softie
GROUP: Groundswell Players
ATTENDED: Sun., Sept. 8, 2 pm, 928 S. 8th St.
CLOSES: Sept. 21
BRIEF SELF-DESCRIPTION: “Following the 2012 Fringe hit Hackles, this avant garde bromance by FringeArts Lab fellow Mason Rosenthal and Pig Iron School graduate Scott Sheppard asks the hard and soft questions about contemporary masculinity.”
WE THINK: Nebbishy Derek (Scott Sheppard) joins a “mythopoetic men’s workshop” offered by reclusive shaman Barnaby Rosenblatt (Mason Rosenthal), seeking “The Hero’s Journey” and his “power animal.” Groundswell Players (last year’s superb Hackles) returns with a very physical, funny, and affecting story about self-discovery and spiritual connection.
The spacious, crumbling lobby of the soon-to-be-demolished Torrent Collective becomes Barnaby’s man-cave, where he channels the legendary bear that ripped out his eye. Reluctantly accepting Derek as his protégé, Barnaby leads Derek on a hilariously goofy yet ultimately magical journey, a series of tests designed to unleash his manly powers. He has to prove physical prowess — “Kill me,” Barnaby instructs hapless Derek, sparking some inspired slapstick — and more sensitive undertakings, like apologizing to all the women in his life and pounding clay to “transmute your emotions.”
The ridiculousness builds to an uncomfortably funny, revelatory, and moving examination of themselves naked in a full-length mirror. Sheppard and Rosenthal convincingly create middle-aged characters who are boys at heart, making what at first seems a satire of a long-gone movement into a playfully profound story.
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