Fringe Shorts: To the Winners

Jaime Kleiman concludes, reluctantly, that "To the Winners" is no winner. It's at Theatre de la Jeune Lune, Sunday 8/6 at 10:00 PM, Wednesday 8/9 at 5:30 PM, Thursday 8/10 at 10:00 PM, Saturday 8/12 at 2:30 PM.


A middle-aged man walks onstage, one foot raised high in front of the other in a grotesque version of an attitude en avant. He begins to speak. Then he rolls on the floor and wraps himself in a plastic shower curtain. Other times he peers down his pants and refers to his “pecker.” Occasionally, he glissades across the small stage and leans in close to whisper something to an audience member or to hand them a mimed prop. Sadly, it is unclear what he is talking about—or why he’s talking about it.

Wilson Loria’s To The Winners is an autobiographical exploration of his search for the meaning of life. With his face painted white and his hair pushed under a skullcap, dressed in black pants that flow to the floor like a languid river, Loria’s limbs look impossibly long, awkwardly graceful like an adolescent dancer. Later, when he changes into a ballerina costume and plays the accordion, blue light bathes him in an amniotic glow. The image is striking, but don’t be fooled. Even though Loria’s stage pictures photograph beautifully, Winners doesn’t hold together as a play.

Part of the problem is that Loria is the only character. We get no sense of what the world outside his head is like. Metaphors are great, but when they’re not grounded in something specific, they become abstruse to the point of inanity. The other problem is that, while Loria knows exactly what the story is, he’s not proficient at telling it. It’s difficult to know what he’s thinking or what, if anything, is behind his perpetual smile.

Fifty headache-inducing minutes later, Loria boils his coming-of-age discoveries down to a cliché that isn’t particularly interesting. “Love is what matters and what matters is loving,” he concludes, eyes wide in wonderment. “It’s so simple but so revealing.”

Simple, maybe. Illuminating? Hardly. To The Winners fails on the most basic level. One should never walk out of the theater not knowing why on was invited there in the first place.