The Cloak Room

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Editorial Review

Fringe's 'Cloak Room' will challenge your hearing, and your sanity

By Fiona Zublin
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In low-budget theater like the Fringe Festival, sets are the first thing to get tossed out of the budget. "The Cloak Room," which is playing through July 24 in the Bedroom at Fort Fringe, uses only a few containers and coat racks as furnishings, which is why it's so impressive that actor JaBen Early manages to chew the scenery so rabidly for nearly an hour.

Early plays Mansel, a guy who collects the coats of his long-gone loved ones and has conversations with himself in the guise of each person he's lost. Mansel is all crisis and no character -- Early's voice fluctuates between a whisper and a mutter, and neither is easy to understand. One imaginary character is a pilot, one (maybe?) drowned. It's never a good sign when notes on a play read "7:50: Still no idea what's going on. 8:05: Nope, nothing." If we knew more about Mansel -- or indeed, could understand a word he said -- we could sympathize with this obviously disturbed guy.

The only other corporeal person in the play is Ruby (K. Clare Johnson), Mansel's girlfriend, who appears periodically to offer weird ultimatums and sexual propositions. How a man who can't even remember to put on a shirt managed to land a girlfriend is never explained. It's possible Ruby is a hallucination. It's possible this whole play was a hallucination.