Monday, August 17, 2015

An Inconvenient Poop: Fringe Festival

On hearing the phrase "political theatre," most of us think of painful shows discussing life-or-death issues, often with unhappy endings. (Anyway, that's what I think of, and not without reason.) Shawn Shafner's one-man show, An Inconvenient Poop, is political theatre as stand-up comedy meets crazy professor. Shafner's humor is the proverbial spoonful of sugar, and An Inconvenient Poop--which, yes, considers life-or-death issues--is often delightful. And Shafner makes it clear (without guilt-tripping) that whether the ending is happy or unhappy is up to us all.

An Inconvenient Poop is not coyly or symbolically named. It is truly about poop, including taboos about poop, the history of humans' relationship to poop, and how composting toilets might (literally!) save the world. Shafner knows that many people in the audience will have objections to hearing about excrement for 70 minutes, so he (with his co-writer Julia Young) has a Dr. Oscar von Shtein stand in for us. Dr. von Shtein initially believes he is about to give a "Fred talk" on Proust, so he is astonished and horrified when faced with "The Puru." As The Puru insists on discussing mores about pooping--and farting--from ancient times to the present, Dr. von Shtein tries to get him to be less blatant and less crude. The von Shtein-Puru debate takes what might be a lecture and makes it a play.

An Inconvenient Poop is smoothly directed by Annie G. Levy. It features excellent singing (yes, about poop), as well as entertaining projections with witty animations (designed by Charles Caster-Dudzick).  The costumes, designed by Croft Vaughn, have just the right amount of levity and color. 

Unfortunately, the lighting design, perhaps hampered by Fringe Festival technical limitations, washes out many of the projections. The voiceovers are hard to hear; luckily, there aren't many of them. And the show could use to be trimmed by ten minutes or so; Shafner's flood of information is always interesting and sometimes fascinating, but there's just too much of it.

Overall, though, An Inconvenient Poop is both important and great fun.

[Full disclosure: I went to An Inconvenient Poop because I know Shawn Shafner and my nephew designed the projections and graphics. (I also donated to the IndieGoGo fund-raising campaign.) To be honest, I doubt I would have gone otherwise, but I'm quite glad I did.]

(press ticket; first row)

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