Quirky ‘Hummels’ has charm
By Rebecca Ritzel
Friday, July 20, 2012
You don’t have to be from a blue-collar, German American family to fully appreciate the charming Fringe comedy “I <3 Hummels,” but it will help if you grew up with a few of the Deutsch-made porcelain figurines around the house. (Also, if you know that in computer keyboard shorthand, <3 = “heart.”) The show is cute, well made and a little unnerving, just like the statues of lederhosen-wearing children that inspired it.
In this LiveArt production, James Radack stars as Raymond, a 30-year-old virgin and Hummel collector who works at a card shop. His lone friend is Mrs. Klein (Wendy Wilmer), the president of the local collector’s club and proud owner of 487 Hummels. One night while setting up the club coffee table, Mrs. Klein suggests that Raymond come over to have schnitzel with her daughter, Heidi (Heather Whitpan). Raymond is so nervous that he can’t even hold a Hummel, so he seeks out advice from a 1-900 sex chat operator and presses “6” for German.
The first call Raymond puts in to “Greta” (Rebecca A. Herron) is actually an accident, but soon he’s addicted to calling his confidante, even from bathroom stalls mid-date. The situational comedy is outstanding. That’s due to both committed comic acting from the four-member cast, especially Whitpan as a crazed hipster art teacher, and a script that was apparently written by committee.
Like the best quirky comedies of this ilk, “I <3 Hummels” is about something bigger than six-inch statues. It’s about deal breakers and how sometimes the things we think will smash a relationship aren’t the hammers we expect. (Yes, expect sound effects of shattered porcelain.) The production’s on the low-budget end of Fringe shows. Most likely, you’ll leave wanting to pat Radack on his adorable oblong head and hoping some other theater company comes along to put “I <3 Hummels” on a display shelf appropriate for special editions.