Various Authors noon, Feb. 23
SD Fringe Festival: Nothing
If you've already seen some Fringe Festival shows, you might have noticed a recurring theme, in the stories and the telling: difference.
Many are about "outsiders," people condemned by traditional society to the margin and beyond. And the tales are told by non-traditional means: some dramatic acting, yes, but also cartooning, clowning, myriad dance forms, and whole vocabularies of physical movement.
Compared to "traditional" theater and its values, these multi-styles may seem different, even "other." But they are so by design - and encourage you to leave your expectations at the door, and open up to the artistic universe beyond "realistic" acting.
Like most of the Fringe shows, Unity Productions can load in their piece in 15 to 20 minutes. The company, from Cincinnati, Ohio, tours schools with it - and should bring it to every one in the country!
Written by Nic Balthazar, and based on his book Nothing Was All He Said, the solo-performance show is about bullying and its devastating effects.
It unfolds as a mystery. Reclusive Ben, wearing headphones and a brown hoodie, types and text-messages on a portable keyboard and replays videos of various people trying to explain what went wrong.
"Ben is special," says a woman, who may be his mother.
"They aren't bad boys," says a denial-choked school official.
As he watches and listens, and sometimes cowers from the screen, Ben speaks in rhymes. He glides in stream of consciousness pairing words in new combinations. "I'm the rhyme master," he tells us, "but I suck at human relations."
Ben is autistic. Any deviation from a strict routine brings instant chaos. Rhyming helps hold his world together.
At school, where bullies claim they're just "teasing," Ben's a constant target every day, but one in particular.
Nothing's as current as current can be. It raises awareness about autism, bullying, and suicide prevention not with a ruler-on-your-knuckles sermon but from the inside, looking out.
Jon Kovach gives a deeply felt, physical performance as Ben. As the mystery unfolds, each new piece of evidence intensifies his pain - and our understanding.
Tenth Avenue Theatre, Cabaret Theatre, 930 Tenth Avenue, downtown, Saturday, July 6 at 6:30 p.m., and Sunday, July 7 at 2:00 p.m.