The Capital Fringe Festival closes this coming weekend, but the stages in the Southwest neighborhood around Arena Stage are still busy. Michael Gaynor reviews the solo technology meditation “Phantom Limb,” and Kristina Orrego peeks at “Ghosts.”
“Warning!” Joseph Price says near the start of his one-man “Phantom Limb.” “This play is about the years 2015 to 2018.”
In other words, he’s going to talk about President Trump, the election, the aftermath and all the big beats along the way: the Comey firing, Charlottesville, “locker-room talk.” Price’s retrospective, though, puts them in a specific framework: He reviews these wild years through the lens of his iPhone, coupling his politically harrowing experience with that universal feeling of smartphone addiction.
The play’s stage setup is simple but ingenious. Price monologues his way through the life span of his Apple device while an image of a mock smartphone screen is projected on the wall behind him, changing to reflect his anecdotes or display the virtual conversations he describes. It’s dynamic and smoothly engages the audience by, say, showing the Instagram page of the cute corgi that Price reluctantly becomes obsessed with over the course of his smartphone enslavement. Cue the awwws.
There’s more to reckon with than just Trump and Twitter as Price — full disclosure, a Washington Post employee — delves into his phone’s cornucopia of addictive video games, dating apps and the aforementioned corgis. His story, as it wends through news cycles and Facebook arguments and the past few drama-packed years, will be familiar to anyone who’s unable to pry themselves away from their personal screen. It’s funny, it’s upsetting, it’s meaningful — and it will give you a good reason to stop looking at your phone for an hour.
60 minutes, July 28 and 29 at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, 555 Water St. SW.
— Michael Gaynor
“Ghosts,” a supernatural drama written by Elford Alley, centers on Levi, 38, who’s mourning the untimely loss of his wife, Abby, who died a year before. Levi can’t move on, barely leaving his apartment and taking a three-week hiatus from his job at a bookstore.
Before her death, Levi found a radiolike box that seems useless. The device summons ghosts of those close to him, including his largely silent grandfather, grandmother and Robert, a former co-worker with whom Abby was unfaithful. Levi’s desperate for Abby to come back so he can create a new last memory with her, to replace the memory of her tragic car accident. Between visitors, ghosts in black robes slink around to ominous music.
The play’s effectively creepy vibe falters a bit in the long-winded nature of how Abby feels in the relationship, as well as in the soap opera-ish infidelity with Robert. The acting is a strong suit — Evan Crump’s performance of Levi is believable enough to elicit empathy, and each visitor seems to uniquely care about him, wanting to get him out of his slump (even Briana Boldon’s Abby, who warns that the device is a life-sucking force of evil). So while the show’s characters tell a compelling, human story of wanting a do-over, the sometimes overdramatic execution makes it narrowly miss the mark. Kind of like an elusive ghost.
65 minutes. July 29 at Blind Whino, 700 Delaware Ave. SW.
— Kristina Orrego
All tickets $17, plus a one-time $7 purchase of a Fringe Festival button. 866-811-4111 or capitalfringe.org
MORE FESTIVAL REVIEWS: