Adam Smith: Theatre Show
Amanda Berg Wilson • August 24, 2016 • Boulder Fringe Festival •
I won’t bury the lede–this show is brilliant.
Five minutes into this piece, I looked at my program with that “I gotta see who this guy is” impulse; I was already enjoying the show so much. I was unsurprised to discover that its author and lead performer, Adam Smith, is a Neo-Futurist, a Chicago-born troupe that now has satellite ensembles in New York and San Francisco (Adam is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Neos). Most of my ideas about theatre were honed in Chicago, and the Neos are one of the amazing Chicago theatre community’s crowning achievements.
The concept of Neo-Futurism hinges on dealing with “what is happening right here, right now,” and an absurdists’ embrace of the fact that something might go terribly awry in the theatrical moment. And this play really, really embraces this latter possibility by having audience participation be central to its unfolding.
It’s hard, actually, to talk about this show without giving away how that element of audience participation factors into the play, and I don’t want to do that, because I think Theatre Show manages to do what theatre so rarely manages to do, and that is to be constantly surprising. There is this wonderful element of “What is going to happen next?” because the central conceit is built around the unpredictability of how one “performer” in the show might react to how the other performer is prompting them to act. Moreover, this surprising quality accumulates to become ultimately quite moving. There is something so sweet and human about how one of the performers in the piece is rendered as a result of this unpredictability.
I know, I know–this all sounds very heady and probably maddeningly vague, but I will also let you know that Theatre Show is actual quite fun, and really funny. I brought my eight-year-old daughter to see it with me, and she knows nothing yet of meta-theatrics or absurdism. But she has a fake laugh (delivered to adults politely for attempting to amuse her), and a real, guttural, delighted laugh (that she issues involuntarily when something genuinely tickles her), and it was only the latter that I heard throughout Theatre Show.
My only complaint about this show was not Adam Smith’s fault. I love the Fringe, and feel so grateful that we have it in Boulder. But two shows I saw were in church basement-y type rooms, with very minimal lighting. No blacks hung to render the performance space neutral, and no risers set up to make it so that you weren’t constantly looking through people’s heads. I felt it really took away from the shows. It’s a hard year for performance in Boulder, with The Dairy Center for the Arts being renovated, but I’m hopeful they’ll develop their ability to transform these “fringe” venues into more appropriate theatrical spaces. The ladies who run the Fringe are amazing, so I bet this can happen.
That said–don’t miss this one.
You can experience Adam Smith’s Theatre Show in the parlor of the First United Methodist Church