Well, that was weird.
That was my first reaction upon lights up at the end of this dark, strange short play from Sean Graney. It’s a play-within-a-play as 4th grader, Johnny, has committed suicide and left a play as his suicide note. There are romances, betrayals, bullying, and the structure of a Shakespearean tragedy.
Not only is the concept bizarre, but the playwright’s unique use of language reminded me of Shakespeare in its poetic, repetitive way. I’m not sure if it’s supposed to be dark comedy, but people were certainly laughing at moments in today’s performance. The actors were all-in, too, with bombastic performances, especially from Stephen Kell, Katie Groneman, and Daniela N. Neonva.
Every year, Ensemble Theatre participates in the Fringe Festival by producing a show featuring their Intern company. I suspect finding ensemble plays with the exact right amount of parts is difficult. It’s certainly “fringey.”
There’s certainly room on the theatrical landscape for this kind of avant garde work. And there are certainly interesting things about it. The play provides these actors an opportunity to learn how to work with unusual language, characters that they’ve likely never played before (or will again), and… it only lasts 48 minutes.
And it has the benefit of some of the most talented behind the scenes, technical people in town like Brian C. Me hiring, Shannon Rae Lutz, Matthew Hollstegge, Starr Fish, Kelly Yurko, and director Ben Raanan. It wasn’t the worst way to spend a hot summer afternoon, to be sure.
THE 4TH GRADERS PRESENT… continues with a final performance tonight at 9pm. More information can be found here.