Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fringe: The Redheaded Man

Photo/Dave Adler

Halley Bondy's new play, The Redheaded Man, starts out as a comedy that explores the difference between illness and insight, but by repressing the drama until late in the one-act, Bondy ends up with a lot of unprescribed side-effects: exaggeration, implausibility, and senselessness. Luckily, these unpredictable moments are still largely entertaining, thanks to the relationship between Brian (David Jenkins), the "ill" architect who creates buildings by altering his symbolic memory, and his roommate, Jonathan (James Edward Shippy), whose family adopted him after his mother's death. When these two argue, it's with years of happy memories mixed in with resentment, which makes their conversations far richer than the one-sided and berating "lectures" from The Redheaded Man (Bruce Bluett), a manifestation of Brian's absent father figure, and far better than the manic scenes with Dr. Jones (Michelle Sims), a psychiatrist who is addicted to the drug she's a shill for. The final character, Lydia (Bondy), is another device, but at least she has a dramatic purpose, one that goes beyond manifesting Brian's madness or criticizing an industry that would rather medicate effects than treat the cause. Like the character she plays, Bondy arouses a lot of interest in Brian's unique condition, but despite Jessica Fisch's surefire direction (projections show us what Brian sees), the show is repressing a deeper, richer, meatier second act. On a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being "Untreated depression" and 5 being "Pill-popping euphoria," The Redheaded Man gets a 3.

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