Strange Days

In my guise as sometimes theatre critic I can get some pretty fun emails. . .like this one!

“[You] came up as a potential resource that reviews fringe theater companies.  For that reason I am inviting you to Exiled Theatre’s first production.”

I especially appreciate in this message that there’s no judgment or valuation: no, “I’ve heard soooo much about you” or “I’d loooove for you to come review.” It’s a simple statement of work: “you do this thing; will you do it for us?” Maybe I’m good, maybe I’m not; that’s not really the point.

So often it seems in our noisy, fast-paced, twittering lives, straightforward substance gets pushed aside for the posturing superlatives that might win a valuable few seconds of attention from a random passerby, regardless of truth or relevance.

“Would I like to review a fringe theatre production?”
Why yes, in fact, I’d LOVE to!

And so I put on my calendar the Sunday matinee press performance of “Strange Days: Five Tales Concerning Dark Paths, Odd Numbers and Birthday Cakes,” and made plans to rendezvous in Cambridge at a couple new trending watering holes.

At the nouveaux wine bar around the corner from the performance venue, we overheard some other guests request a speedy check. Are we going to the same place? Do you know what we’re going to? Not a clue. . .

Down an alley, past a rattling roll-up door, up the stairs. It’s dark. Where are those sounds coming from? Do we go through this door? A familiar face! From Salem Theatre. Exiled Theatre’s founder and playwright. Perhaps we’re not so far on the fringe afterall. [Or, maybe it’s the fringe where I spend most of my time. . .]

In the Green Street Studio, we found a few rows of chairs facing an expansive space most commonly used to teach “Advanced Modern and Movement Lab,” “European Swordsmanship,” or “Balkan Dance.”

Perusing the program, we learned that this production was indeed the first for Exlied Theatre and would be comprised of five short original plays by James Wilkinson. The first of which, “Delicious,” was familiar from Salem Theatre’s “Moments of Play” Festival.

Here, it was performed with all the innocent absurdity requisite of a piece involving the mysterious delivery of birthday cakes and a prosthetic hand.

Wilkinson seems most comfortable in this sort of twilight zone, pushing slightly wacky but mundane situations to extremes while testing the disbelief of his audiences. A young girl picks up a couple hitchhikers, one of whom is injured. In the midst of a storm on a secluded island, young Nora goes missing.

Perhaps because each piece is so short, they come-off more as “treatments” or exercises in a game of what-if, than fully developed, complex wholes.

Regardless, Exiled Theatre is most definitely doing the work — a new company, performing new plays — it’s wonderful to see, whether on the fringe, or wherever you happen to be.

+++

Strange Days: Five tales concerning dark paths, odd mercies and birthday cake
By James Wilkinson
Directed by Teri Incampo
through April 5

Exiled Theatre
exiledtheatre.com

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