The Philadelphia Fringe Festival serves as a platform for both new and established theaters to branch out of their repertoires and offer to the hungry public fresh, often experimental, cutting-edge works. B. Someday Productions took full advantage of that carte blanche opportunity Thursday evening with the World Premiere of Ari Flamingo’s 3 WISHES at the Walking Fish Theatre. Mounted by Artistic Director Michelle Pauls of B. Someday and Gerald Van Wilgen, the show stars Pauls as repressed business executive Cornella Jennings in line for promotion to Vice President. Set in the 1950’s, an era most consider oppressive for women, the story explores what would happen if that traditional woman listened to her libido, after muchcoaxing. Flamingo brings that very libido to life, in a steamy, surging character named Voce, portrayed by young actress Sarah Braun.
The story revolves around Cornella coming to terms with her obsession with a handsome janitor (Matt Shell) whom she gets fired from the company. As retribution, she agrees to grant him three wishes. But Cornella is no genie, so she is only able to grant him favors of a sexual nature, upon his request.
The show is labeled for adults only, but I found most of the humor to be quite juvenile and base. The press release states the show is really designed for women, but the only people laughing in the audience were a couple of men. If the playwright’s idea of liberating women is to have his character masturbate in public, well, let’s just say she hasn’t really come a long way baby, has she? If it was meant to purely be funny, it just wasn’t. If it was meant to shock or actually make a statement about the absurdity of men’s fantasies and women’s place in society in the 1950’s, it didn’t quite do that either. I couldn’t help but wonder if Flamingo has just been listening to Howard Stern for too many years. A former fan of Stern myself, I grew up and got bored of his shtick, and that’s pretty much my experience with this playwright’s attempt at liberating women in a fantastical setting.
That said, Pauls could be considered a very modern day Carol Burnett in her performance. She was funny, sexy and spirited. More importantly, she proved her skilled acting chops with a mediocre script. The dynamic between her and her libido, Ms Braun, was delightful. Their chemistry onstage far outshone that between her and her sex interest, the janitor (Shell). Shell’s performance was sometimes funny and very animated, and though his exquisite physique added to his appeal, he was more silly than sexy. John Burmaster plays the stereo-typical boss torn between running the company in “traditional” male fashion, and hiding how turned on he was by subordinate Cornella. There is an audience for this kind of humor, but I’d like to see Pauls and Braun with a meaty script, I have no doubt their chemistry and talent could be put to better use.
Director Stan Heleva made the show a little fun with creative set changes, special effects, comic bits and slap-stick. The transitions were smooth and fun to watch, normally at a time when audiences tune out. So kudos to the director as well, for making a lot out of a little script.
Walking Fish Theatre is a charming theater located in Kensington on the Frankford Avenue Arts Corridor. Running time of the show under one hour, the theater offers free beer at each performance, a nice treat for those supporting the Fringe. If you’re looking for a bawdy night of theatre with skilled performers in a hip setting, 3 WISHES is for you.
by Ari Flamingo
Walking Fish Theatre
2509 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19125
Sept 13-23, 2012