Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fringe review: 'Some Other Mettle'

At the Fringe's "Some Other Mettle" by Applied Mechanics: ... uh... Inquirer theater critic Howard Shapiro reviews.

Fringe review: 'Some Other Mettle'


By Howard Shapiro

You enter into a series of about a half-dozen nearly empty rooms where the sound bounces freely. In one of them, five actors - two men and three women - stand  silent. They are dirtily marred and splattered with paints so that they look as if they have never understood the fine points of a bath. There are no seats here. You will take this journey with them, from room to room.

But first, a few words. Like: "You are my other, and I love and hate you at the same time" and "the hurt is the heart of everything," spoken while the ensemble assumes many poses. You are at … the beginning of the world? You learn that a "big movement" made the beasts and the beasts made the eels and the eels made electricity and everything exists at some core. A creation story.

And you are going far back into it, for the actors stop speaking in anything but groans and grunts and occasional belches, as if an acting teacher had asked for something very primal or stunningly constipated. They do this while slithering along the dirty floors on their bellies, or plodding on all fours or threatening each other or slowly, methodically carrying one another off though the surrounding audience to different rooms for more grunting.

You follow with rest of the audience. Grunting turns to bleating and snorting. This all goes on for about 12 minutes and you begin to think how good the nature channels are, partly because animals never try to imitate people and call it art.

The actors acquire language, sort of,. You hear different stories, complaints, fears, and babble in various rooms, some apparently snipped from people like Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens, who may not recognize their own work were they alive, or might obtain a lawyer if they did. A few pieces of elementary fabric art on the walls become important because the actors refer to them incoherently, even the one that looks like a perpperoni pizza drawing that might hang at the IKEA Småland kids room.

Someone plays with a cutout of a man on a wire. Someone plays with a prop that looks like a mrtar and pestle. Someone else arranges shotlasses in an arched pattern on the floor. The actors end up around the glasses and for a second or two, there is silence. Abruptly, they throw up their hands. "Ay-yahhhhhh!" they sing out loudly in high-pitched unison. The declaration reverberates. "Ay-yahhhhhhh!" And in that high-energy musical declaration, you discover the discernable point: We are all the Lion King.

Contact Howard Shapiro at 215-854-5727,, or #philastage on Twitter.
Some Other Mettle: $15. 6 p.m. Tuesday, 10 p.m. Sunday, 7 and 10 p.m. Monday and 6 p.m. Sept. 18. 224 N. Juniper St. 75 minutes.

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About this blog
Toby Zinman's night job since 2006 is theater critic for the Inquirer. She also is a contributing writer for Variety and American Theatre magazine. Her day job: Prize-winning prof at UArts, author of four books about four playwrights (Rabe, McNally, Miller, Albee), and doer of scholarly deeds (winner of five NEH grants, Fulbright lecturer at Tel Aviv University, visiting professor in China). Her 'weekend' job as a travel writer provides adventure: dogsledding in the Yukon, ziplining in Belize, walking coast-to-coast across England, and cowboying in the Australian Outback.

Wendy Rosenfield has written freelance features and theater reviews for The Inquirer since 2006. She was theater critic for the Philadelphia Weekly from 1995 to 2001, after which she enjoyed a five-year baby-raising sabbatical. She serves on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, was a participant in the Bennington Writer's Workshop, a 2008 NEA/USC Fellow in Theater and Musical Theater, and twice was guest critic for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival's Region II National Critics Institute. She received her B.A. from Bennington College and her M.L.A. from the University of Pennsylvania. She also is a fiction writer, was proofreader to a swami, publications editor for the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, and spends all her free time working out and driving people places. Follow her on Twitter @WendyRosenfield.

Jim Rutter has reviewed theater for The Inquirer since September, 2011. Since 2006, he covered dance, theater and opera for the Broad Street Review, and has also written for many suburban newspapers, including The Main Line Times. In 2009, the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a Fellowship in Arts Journalism. Thames & Hudson released his updated and revised version of Ballet and Modern Dance in June, 2012. From 1998 to 2005, he taught philosophy and logic at Drexel, and then Widener University. He also coaches Olympic Weightlifting for Liberty Barbell, and has competed at the national level in that sport since 2001.

Merilyn Jackson regularly writes on dance for The Inquirer and other publications. She specializes in the arts, literature, food, travel, and Eastern European culture and politics. In 2001, she was dance critic in residence at the Festival of Contemporary Dance in Bytom, Poland; in 2005, she received an NEA Critics’ Fellowship to Duke University’s Institute for Dance Criticism. She likes to say that dance was her first love but that when she discovered writing she began to cheat on dance. Now that she writes about dance, she’s made an honest woman of herself, although she also writes poetry.

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