By Merilyn Jackson
For The Inquirer
A friend told me that the best coffee in Colombia is called Perfect Love. In The Society, by Norwegian choreographer/theater director/playwright Jo Strømgren, Philippe, one of a trio of French coffee lovers, is served a cup by Louis and a third gum-chewing pal. Philippe overwhelms them by correctly identifying it is as Colombian -- Esperanza to be exact -- another specialty grower. Save for a key word in English or French, the dialogue is entirely gibberish and the plot unfolds through outrageously exaggerated dreamlike dancing, innuendo and inflection.
In its second FringeArts appearance, Jo Strømgren Kompani exploded on the Painted Bride Friday night. A teabag turns up, injecting caffeinoia into their smug little café world. How did it get there? Who brought it? When chopsticks and a likeness of Chairman Mao appear, they’re soon torturing each other like Norwegian-style Three Stooges to get at the truth.
The actor/dancers, Bartek Kaminski, John Fjeinseth Brungot, and Trond Fausa Aurvâg, gesticulate in universally recognizable ways and spew their lines without understanding a word of Strømgren’s invented languages, making the company’s work accessible to any audience in the world.
Lighting and sound effects intensify the tea/coffee dichotomy and amplify it as metaphor for the differences between the East and the West. As hilarious savagery ensues, it becomes clear that politics, war and domination are at the heart of this society, where hope and love cannot be found in a cup of coffee.
Painted Bride 230 Vine St. Sept. 7, 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Sept. 8 2 p.m. 65 mins., FringeArts.com