On Friday night — the first official day of the FringeArts festival — I made it to three shows. The first one of the night was The Renegade Company’s Bathtub Moby-Dick.
At around 6 p.m., I arrived at the performance location in a row home at 1816 Wharton Street in Point Breeze (or is it Newbold? Wharton Heights?), where there was whiskey punch and some cheese curls for pre-show enjoyment. (Note to Renegade’s staff: You might consider putting a sign on the punch indicating that it’s alcoholic. God forbid someone in AA takes a big swig.)
Based on the show’s name alone, it would be easy to imagine that this would be the worst kind of Fringe show: a naked guy in a Point Breeze bathtub reading Moby-Dick, just for the hell of it. Ooh, naked performance art. In Point Breeze. How edgy.
Well, there is a (sometimes) naked guy in a bathtub reading Moby-Dick, but as the hourlong show develops, we learn why as we watch his disturbing descent into madness. And the nudity is hardly gratuitous.
Actor Ed Swidey, who co-wrote the show, gives a riveting, often discomforting performance, which would be even better if we weren’t viewing much of it via a live feed on a television screen and hearing it on speakers that distort too much. The audience is seated in the home’s living room around a wall-mounted flat-screen, and most of the action takes place in a bathtub upstairs that has a video camera pointed at it.
At first, watching Swidey’s raving, writhing character splash around on the TV has a nice “fringe-y” touch to it. But after a while, some audience members obviously lost focus, with one woman completely tuning out for the climactic final fifteen minutes and an older man seated across from her constantly looking at his watch and giving his wife time updates.
It’s pretty easy to ignore a guy on a TV screen, even if he is naked and smashing a McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish sandwich into his face. Put that guy physically in front of you, and you won’t take your eyes off of him.
Still, The Renegade Company’s Bathtub Moby-Dick is the perfect way to kick off a night of FringeArts shows. And with each performance starting at 6 p.m., it leaves plenty of time for you to get in another show or two.
Through September 22nd
Tickets: $10 to $15
Other FringeArts Reviews By Victor Fiorillo
Gunnar Montana’s Basement Is Some Crazy Shit
My Kids Liked “Everything” About A Mystery?
Joan of Arc, Betrayed: What the Fringe Should Be
EgoPo’s The Doll’s House Is Not Fit For Human Consumption