Saturday, September 01, 2007

PLAY: FRINGE, "I Dig Doug"

Unless you followed the campaign trail of '04 (specifically the rise and fall of Howard Dean), there's a lot that you won't dig about I Dig Doug, an erratic, straining, and yet occasionally charming show about politics. The play is fun on account of Karen DiConcetto, who plays one of those unnamed, mass-market generated, self-proclaimedly vapid, girls who blogs about reality TV and falls in love with the struggles of those most real people and their hardest of hardships. But Rochelle Zimmerman, her co-writer and co-performer, makes it wearisome: not because of her acting, but because of the redundant shallowness of her convictionless characters.

Like one-line cameos from a sitcom's supporting cast, Zimmerman's multiple personalities are cardboard cutouts, when they should be cutups, and this turns I Dig Doug into heartless satire, as superficial and vapid as the main character. It takes a deus ex machina to justify the over-the-top narrative that waylays our Iowa-bound heroines with heartbroken waitresses, rifle-toting terrorists and Utopian Communist hippies. Bert V. Royal's direction only emphasizes the shallow choices, particularly the unambitious and fairly standard half-lit scene changes to irrelevant yet loud pop music. It accommodates the costume changes, but it does little else, just as the play speaks to the laughable state of politics, but affects little else.

For every well thought out moment, like Girl's explanation of why Doug's policies are important and relevant to her rich and mindless friend, there's a needless and unfunny joke (the buzzing vibrator, the half-whispered moan of Doug's name). The disconnected scene structure doesn't help much either: the story is made to serve the needs of the jokes. What the show really needs is a manager and a media team; someone willing to put the right spin on all the chaotic gags. If that's done, then I Dig Doug could actually run for something.

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