Writing It Out is Key In How To Adult

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Considering that the festival calls itself The Fringe, How To Adult: The Musical was anything but unconventional. Perhaps if it were the 1980’s or prior, the constant barrage of forced f-bombs by the character of Holly may have been viewed as having an edge. However, given the parlance of our times, the script writer’s attempts at shock via Holly’s ‘risque character trait of dropping a litany of expletives serves only to be a direct rip-off of the equally as contrived quirk of the character of Debora Morgan, displayed in the Showtime series Dexter (as played by Jennifer Carpenter). Even if it were the 80’s and the character of Holly had been written in shock-bait dialogue, such as the frequency of needless f-bombs displayed in How To Adult: The Musical, any additional attention it would likely receive would no-doubt be due to the  gender expectations of a woman’s speech at that time, and not due to the utterances themselves.

How To Adult: The Musical is advertised boasting the production’s ability to have the audience laughing their pants off; while we figure out ‘how to adult’. Perhaps due to my inability to properly ‘adult’ (as they say), my pants were left firmly on.  There was at no point so much as a hint of having relinquished trouser-control at any point during the production, no matter how amusing.

Had my pants somehow fashioned their way down my legs and escaped what I envision to be my reflexes reacting to the transpiring jailbreak with a hastened widening of my feet, I would have remembered it. The sheer realization that ‘by golly, my pants seek refuge from this production’s unrepentant onslaught of hilarity would surely have me feeling less adult than I felt upon entering the venue in the first place.  The huddled up reproductive organs not anticipating a curtain call would be stunned with shock like a startled meat and two veggies locked in like a deer in the headlights. The state of awe experienced at the fact that all of this time my anthropomorphized pants were present and duty bound out of personal choice, and not due to the running perception of  having been rendered inanimate. Now that would  warrant laughter, if nothing else it would warrant some pointing and snickering, and that’s Fringe.

Sadly, How To Adult: The Musical shows no signs of being against the grain in any fashion. Whether in subject matter or in storytelling the writing showed nothing that would set it apart from any other homogenized and forgettable theatre.

Sad for those attending the 70 minute production, but even sadder for actors Erika Babins, Natalie Moon, and Jill Raymond, who all put in high calibre performances in their respective acting within what their roles would allow.

While much of the singing was pitchy in its delivery, an occurrence magnified when the actors were called upon to harmonize with each other despite questionable stage blocking.

That said, despite the egregious  limitations written into Holly’s character, Moon did manage on several occasions to pull the character out of the proverbial fire, showing commendable acting prowess. Raymond’s mugging and movement on stage showed significant stage time in her wake, often looking remarkably at home up there (on stage). Both Raymond and Moon did well within their respective characters to slowly work from a deficit and gain the crowd’s affection as the play unfolded. Raymond’s portrayal of the daft, yet charming Rosie did well to communicate the frustratingly difficult choice it must have been to live with serial monogamist.   

Peter Abanto’s underscore was light and effective, often setting the tone of the scene subtly, while the actors played tug-o-war with audience patience. Abanto’s lyrics and music did however, show a little too much time spent influenced by the showtunes section of itunes; for my liking. With a very hit and miss song catalogue, the consistent tendency to drag out most every tune eventually served to alienate the audience as opposed to leaving them wanting more.

How To Adult: The Musical was handcuffed right from the script onward. Without the foresight to endear the characters to the crowd early, it felt like the actors started the game down by a couple goals. Before we had time to invest emotionally into any of the characters issues the whining, bickering and yelling achieved a disconnect between the audience and the people we were there to care about. Without even a couple minutes to see the characters’ quirks and lovable sides prior to the drama ensuing it made it difficult to discern the clear antagonist thus leaving left little reason for the audience to invest in the eventual outcome. Though clearly a talented actor, Aaron Lau’s effeminate portrayal of Graham did nothing to convince me that even as children, the hard-headed Holly would see him as a love interest.  Failing to see why Graham would gain the affection of multiple persons in the house, even with Imogen and Graham’s relationship as brother and sister a connection between he and any in the house seemed implausible. Lastly, if it could be said that the production was gaining any ground or traction with the crowd , the uncomfortably awkward five minute text message scene drove a nail through the coffin. The text scene felt like a last minute write-in, in an already questionable script, and even if improvised would have no doubt turned out to be more accessible.

I am sure that the award winning director Eleanor Felton did what she could to salvage the show; however, decisions such as blocking the actors out of decent ear-shot from each other during harmonies, coupled with having Moon play a drunk Holly as though the character was an invalid rookie directly after tackle practice trying to navigate through an unsupervised pantsless freshman class while trying to fornicate with a door knob. The drunk Holly scene performed so egregiously ‘over-the-top’ that it made the term ‘chewing the scenery’ is an understatement of colossal proportions.

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