Fringe Shorts: 1926 Pleasant

Jaime Kleiman found "1926 Pleasant" not so pleasant after all. It's Wednesday, 8/9, through Friday, 8/11, at 7 and 8; Saturday, 8/12. at 4 and 8:30; and Sunday, 8/13, at 2:30 and 7. It's all at the 1926 Condos (see Fringe website for directions).


Have you ever tried to do a life-sized Sudoku puzzle with fifteen people who guess at all the answers? Granted, interactive shows are difficult to do. Audience members are unpredictable. Some have diarrhea of the mouth and don’t have anything intelligent to say. Others get so excited by the opportunity to be a part of the action that they bump into people (like this reviewer) and fail to notice their rudeness. There’s a bit of ingenuity present in 1926 Pleasant, but one suspects that the real reason Walking Shadow Theatre Company created a “Bring Your Own Venue” show was because they were locked out of an actual Fringe site. (A lottery randomly selects which shows get in and which ones are waitlisted.)

1926 Pleasant is an attempt at a live action “Clue” mystery/puzzle game that takes place inside a gutted condominium. Envelopes that contain clues to the whodunit lead the audience through the space with enigmatic messages and bizarre references to owls. As the clues add up, so does the ghost story. 1926 Pleasant is hampered by the appearance of the actors (John Heimbuch and Cherri Macht), who play an antagonistic couple selecting kitchen sinks, wallpaper, and whatnot for their haunted house. Macht in particular is awful, reciting her lines as if she’s a teleprompter who can’t read very well. The unwarranted intensity of both performers, rather than adding to the tension of the event, deflates it. When Macht becomes seduced by the condo’s ghost and spirals eighty years into the past, any credibility is thrown out the window. She turns into a zombie whose sole purpose is to freak the audience out.

There are some nice bits—an oversized woodcut jigsaw puzzle reveals a riddle and a cryptic drawing. The audience gets to smash hollowed-out eggshells with their hands. As a bonus, the show ends when it’s supposed to.

Sartre didn’t specify on which rung of Hell the characters in No Exit were stuck. But as usual, the existentialist has a point. Hell is other people. And hellishness is being forced to watch bad theater with no way to make an inconspicuous exit.