Review: The Speed of Surprise


By Wendy Rosenfield

  The Groundswell Players’ The Speed of Surprise is one of those Fringe shows that’s hilarious if you’re friends with the cast, and sort of a zero-gravity time-waster if you’re not. It’s funny enough, with a Trekkie premise: space travel, cocky captain, sexy assistant, alien engineer, secret plans for takeover of the universe. 

  A scripted/improvised hybrid directed by Pig Iron’s Charlotte Ford, the show misses the best of both forms. The dialogue’s not sharp enough to make a decent script, or unexpected enough to bring the surprises that arrive during improv. Still, I laughed at its space-racism and sexism.

  Bouffanted Dyanne (Alison King) doesn’t get along with Wang, the ship’s on-board computer (“Dyanne,” it asks, “Did you do your own makeup this morning?”), and claw-handed Girk (Jesse Bowie Paulsen) responds to arrogant Captain Riley’s (Jack Meaney) recollection of choosing him for the crew with a humble, “Uh, ‘swarm mentality’ and ‘crabman,’ both very offensive.”

  Evan Leigh’s set, with its clunky technology and cardboard detail, and Katherine Fritz’s American Apparel-meets-The Enterprise costumes -- think metallic tights and long-sleeved lycra mock-turtlenecks -- go a long way toward framing the jokes. 

   Being improv-based, the cast’s future performances and plotlines will probably veer away from what I saw, but they’ll no doubt still be a good time, just not quite good enough of a time to edge out some of their sharper competition in a very crowded Fringe Fest field.

$15.  8 p.m. 9/8 and 9; 9:30 p.m. 9/10. MacGuffin Film and Theatre Company, Adrienne Theatre, 2030 Sansom St.