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.