Fringe review: 'Some Other Mettle'

By Howard Shapiro
INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

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, hshapiro@phillynews.com, 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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