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The Doppelganger Cometh and Overtaketh

By Rick Pender · June 3rd, 2012 · Fringe
In her director’s notes for The Doppelganger Cometh and Overtaketh, Leah Strasser says, “We hope you find this play as funny as we do, because we still laugh every time we hear it.” If that was the goal of Strasser, who also plays a central role, and her colleagues who have announced the birth of Homegrown Theater, a new local company, I’m afraid I need to say “Better luck next time.” I suspect this show did amuse its participants as they created it: It’s full of stoner humor and non-sequiturs that might tickle people whose comic expectations have been chemically altered. A few in the audience laughed — the 80 or so folding chairs assembled on the stage at the Emery Theatre were full for the opening performance, including many family and friends — but most seemed mystified by the amateurish production.

Here’s the premise: A young woman named Leah (played by Strasser and apparently loosely based on her) is obsessed with fantasy novels, to the point that she’s been kidnapped through a portal to another dimension where she’s being held prisoner awaiting execution.

(I’m not giving anything away: Onstage during the preshow is a large iPhone with a steadily updated Twitter stream from IAMREALLEAH, pleading for someone to rescue her.) From two guys (Stephen Goering, Jon Nutter) smoking a lot of high-power weed — perhaps imported from the other dimension, which is accessed through a nearby closet door — we learn that “Leah” has been behaving strangely, and we gradually realize that she’s the “doppelganger,” a replacement for their friend.

And so it goes: there’s a demon from the other side (Ben Dudley, with red ram horns and a tiny top hat) whose role is to shed some light on the situation, but the echoing sound in the immense Emery space made him almost impossible to understand, although his antics are amusing. After several more implausible developments, the arrival of another character (MaryKate Moran) whose presence serves no obvious purpose and a brief appearance by Barret (Nutter in another role) as a heroic fellow from the other side seeking to retrieve the doppelganger, the 50-minute show abruptly stops — with no clear conclusion.

It’s as if this production were thrown together at the last moment, barely rehearsed and not nearly ready to be performed. Strasser is a solid stage presence (her lines were the only ones clearly audible from start to finish), but her direction did little more than line up the actors in a row across the stage and occasionally run around in fake panic.

I suspect Strasser and her cast had a lot of fun putting this together, but I don’t believe it will entertain a broader audience until it’s tightened up and staged with considerably more finesse — and perhaps an ending. At one point, the demon remarks, “I enjoy watching fools wallow in their stupidity.” If that’s your thing, you might enjoy The Doppelganger Cometh and Overtaketh. Otherwise, I’d suggest finding another show.

 
 
 
 

 

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