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Of People and Not Things

By Rick Pender · June 3rd, 2010 · Fringe

Critic's Pick

This show was supposed to start at 9:15 p.m. on the Fringe’s opening night. Some diddling with sound equipment (which didn’t play a part in the performance I watched) delayed Of People and Not Things for another 10 minutes, and I was irritated — it was late on a Wednesday evening, and the piece didn’t look promising: Onstage were one chair and one music stand, period. The third floor space at Mixx Ultra Lounge on Main Street was as bare-bones as it could be.

The Fringe program indicated the show, a script by Fringe veteran Andrew Hungerford, was 70 minutes long. The fact that it’s bound for the legendary Edinburgh Fringe didn't assure me that this would be time well spent.

I was wrong. I should have paid heed to the title: This is a piece about people, not things.

Hungerford’s show, featuring him and Know Theatre regular Liz Vosmeier, is an engaging piece of storytelling, artfully delivered by two excellent actors. It starts with Hungerford (whose usual contributions to the local theater scene are in the realm of scenic and lighting design), who comes onstage as Thomas, wearing a sport coat, blue shirt and tie, looking slightly nervous and certainly geeky.

He obsessively adjusts the chair and anxiously shuffles a few pieces of paper, then begins to explain why he’s there.

After perhaps 10 minutes we understand that he’s delivering a presentation about the end of a four-year relationship, but the path to that tale is anything but straightforward. It becomes evident that we’re in an era somewhere in the not-too-distant future where something has changed the world — an event that has reduced the population and made life simpler and perhaps a bit harder.

The story he tells, framed as a halting and circuitous outline, paints a picture of a man who wants more and seems to have lost it because of his nature. It’s staged with almost no props, although Hungerford uses his tie to illustrate an anecdote that’s very revelatory. The language is often beautiful and evocative; he describes a sunrise as “a furnace of creation.”

Hungerford’s narrative finishes, and he leaves the stage. Should there be applause? No, Vosmeier steps up and begins another, more assured, monologue.

Karen is not so obsessive as Thomas, and it seems that her story is another tale altogether. She’s more straightforward and blunt. But as elements of her tale bubble to the surface, we begin to see how it’s a complement to his. In fact, they’re two sides of one tale — with a lot of embroidery that gives us a whole picture of who they are, not to mention a sense of the changed world in which they live.

Of People and Not Things, actually about 60 minutes long, flew by — and I would have welcomed more. Its concrete, everyday language was gripping and real, and the delivery of the monologues by Hungerford and Vosmeier, as directed by Elizabeth Martin, was natural and compelling.

It’s not an overly dramatic or emotional piece; in fact, both narratives feel understated and off-the-cuff. But this piece of theater will stick with you because it’s so human — not about “things” but about real people.

(Get upcoming performance dates and venue details here.)

 
 
 
 

 

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