The Washington Post

‘Cross the Line’: Be a better person at Fringe fest

"Cross the Line" is an ensemble show that documents random acts of kindness. The six performers often supply their own sound effects. (Courtesy of Jenna Selby)

Brothers and sisters of our isolating, dehumanizing new millennium, come save your frozen souls. Cross the line to a more connected and more peaceable being at “Cross the Line,” a collection of uplifting testimonies in the Shop at Fort Fringe.

The idea behind producer-director Jenna Selby’s project is simple: Too often we are too busy or too defensive to really connect with the people around us. As the audience gathers, Selby’s ensemble of six sits cross-legged in a sharing circle, holding hands. Once the performance begins, the cast addresses us directly, introducing themselves and then playing all kinds of roles as they reenact true tales, both lofty and earthy, of reaching out.

A man crying in public gets consoled by a little girl who sings to him. Strangers on a train come to the rescue of an upskirt-photo victim. The hungry get fed. The lonely find company. One of the actors holds up homely cardboard signs to tell us where each tale comes from: a local grocery store, Metro’s Blue Line, Jamaica, Australia.

This celebration of random acts of kindness would seem perfectly natural as a documentary film, but Selby does surprisingly well making it work as theater. The 50-minute show unfolds with style and purpose; the actors, all in black, move in easy but precise patterns as they slip in and out of characters across socioeconomic and geographical scales.

The settings are minimal — benches and milk crates. The performers often supply their own sound effects. One actor briefly plays a parking meter, and the performance climaxes with a balletic pas de deux — not technically breathtaking, but you give it credit for heart. In form and content, “Cross the Line” has a 1960s impulse, and it comes across as a certain kind of church. It insists that for just less than an hour, anyway, you check your snark and irony at the door.

“Cross the Line” will be performed four more times from Tuesday through July 25. Visit .

First Post byline, 1992; covering theater for the Post since 1999. His book "American Playwriting and the Anti-Political Prejudice" came out in 2014.
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