Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A History of Cobbling (FringeNYC)

By Dan

BOTTOM LINE: A short, bizarrely funny play that both entertains and stays with you.

I fully admit - I only went to see A History of Cobbling because my friend thought it sounded interesting. On my own, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it, as it is one of those plays that tends to get lost amongst other, flashier titles in the Fringe catalog. But I’m very glad I went. A History of Cobbling may be one of the more interesting plays I’ve seen in a long time, because it strides that fine line between fantasy and reality, between the ridiculous and the mundane.

The play takes place in the kitchen of Michael and Loraine’s home, as they discuss the surprising event of the day: on a deserted city street, Michael met a foot high English cobbler. Justin T. Klose and Cameron Reed, who also co-wrote the play, are Michael and Loraine. Both are excellent, and create complex characters that have lot more going on than it might at first seem. Reed’s somewhat daffy Loraine is especially delightful, and her speech is peppered with a lot of malapropisms that are as funny as they are unexpected.

All too often playwrights feel the need to tell the audience everything through dialogue; in A History of Cobbling, Klose and Reed wisely avoid this temptation. While Michael and Loraine are at first surprised by the presence of the foot high people, their conversation begins to ramble, and they are soon speaking about the most random subjects. And weirdly, it reminded me of many conversations I’ve had with my partner, in which something that at first seems shocking quickly becomes ordinary, and the talk moves on to the everyday events that are the bulk of most relationships. In other words, A History of Cobbling reminds us that relationships are built on things like grocery lists. But this isn’t just a typical play about a normal couple. In this strange little world, Michael and Loraine have a lot that they don’t talk about, and these elephants in the room become more and more evident as the play progresses.

I think everyone will read something different into this play; for me, it is about the need to keep going in the face of loss, and that while the desire to forget might seem to translate into an inability to remember, memories have a way of resurfacing in the most unexpected places. If this implies that A History of Cobbling is serious and somber, don’t be fooled. I laughed a lot during this piece; at times I had no idea why things were funny, since much of what goes on is so very odd. I enjoyed myself tremendously, and would recommend this to anyone looking for an entertaining play that doesn’t hit you over the head, but has enough substance to give you something to think and talk about after it is over. In a sense, A History of Cobbling is a lot like the cobbler Michael meets - short, a bit surreal and bizarre and strange, and much more affecting than it might at first appear.

(A History of Cobbling plays at the Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street between Varick and 6th Avenue. The show is approximately 45 minutes long. Performances are Thursday 8/20 at 8:30 pm, Friday 8/21 at 3:30 pm and Tuesday 8/25 at 5:45 pm. For tickets and show info visit www.myspace.com/ahistoryofcobbling and for more FringeNYC info visit fringenyc.org.)

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