Fringe's 'Talent Nite' makes good, awkward fun of middle school ignominies
By Stephanie Merry
Thursday, July 15, 2010
The words "middle school talent show" are enough to make some people's palms sweat. All those flashbacks: the braces, the acne, the uncertainty of whether to wear one's backpack on one or both shoulders. It was a stressful time that can haunt many well into adulthood. But maybe it's been just long enough to be funny now. At least that's the idea behind "Ridgefield Middle School Talent Nite," playing on the Goethe Institut mainstage through July 25.
The hour-long parade of awkwardness feels a bit like the uncomfortable humor of "The Office." Seeing so many characters uneasy in their own skin can be hard to take, no matter how funny it may be. But the usual suspects are all here and all good for a laugh: the jaded assistant principal; the smug student body president; the goth girl, who reads from "The Raven" and makes her entrance to the sounds of Evanescence; the lesbian gym teacher; the nerdy girl with the recorder, who may have been dressed by her mother. Did I mention all of these characters (and many more) are played by just two people? Jo Firestone and Dylan Marron are whizzes with wardrobe -- and personality -- changes.
Overall, the show is great, silly fun but might not appeal to the squeamish or easily embarrassed; the many hilarious moments are punctuated by some overwhelming humiliation. But this is middle school; could it be any other way?