'Freud Meets Girl' lacks science but provides drama at the Capital Fringe Festival

Sunday, July 11, 2010; 12:40 PM

Mix the technology out of control in "The Fly" with the one-eyebrow-raised giddiness of "Little Shop of Horrors" and you come up with something close to "Freud Meets Girl," the juicy sci-fi morality playlet making its debut at the aptly named The Clinic on 6th Street NW.

The brainchild of playwright Hunter Styles, this terrifically cast fringe production imagines the scientific nightmare that might arise if a machine could be developed to explain our dreams. Or something like that. "Freud Meets Girl" is a little fuzzy on the details of why professor David Freud (the suavely frazzled Eric Messner), great-great-grandson of Sigmund, has strung a whole lot of wires around a pole on wheels and called them Norm, a device (in the person of Misty Demory) that is slowly acquiring the ability to read minds.

No matter that the behavioral science could use some shoring up. What's fun is the way Styles plays with the conventions of cautionary drama, without using them for a more obvious brand of spoof. The play is particularly good when it feels as if the playwright is making things up as he goes along, as when David puts a young subject (the excellent Laura C. Harris) under Norm's control with fumes from a new, untested element hilariously called "mentillium."

Director Randy Baker maintains a breathless pace for the 70-minute play, which continues at the Fringe Festival through July 23. Though a couple of his supporting actors might consider ratcheting down the bluster just a bit, Baker generally constructs a nifty entertainment, filled with winning performances. Tony Bullock, for instance, offers a swell turn as Roger, that staple from the annals of mad science: the smug, undermining colleague. Too bad Norm doesn't get to wrap a few of those wires around Roger's neck.

--Peter Marks

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