Fishtown — A Hipster Noir is, simply, an adorable show: funny, smart, and stuffed with talent. It's playing at the Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake through Sept. 23 as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival. And it's by Tribe of Fools, the physical theater company with, understandably and deservedly, a cult following.
Fishtown speaks to both the hipsters who can laugh at themselves and the old-schoolers who are naturally sympathetic to this cautionary tale about technology. It's written with wit and charm by Caitlin Weigel and directed with speed and gusto by Peter Smith.
It begins noirishly: a street lamp, under which a detective in hat and trenchcoat slouches and smokes (a vape, natch). This is Sarah Lowell (Tara Demmy), a woman attempting to start an old-fashioned business in a new-fashioned world ruled by technology. Her assistant is tech-savvy Bradley (Zachary Chiero), who is astounded and appalled that Sarah still "dials numbers and speaks words." Sarah's secret companion is a memory in the form of a shadow (Kyle Yackoski).
An evil company called OtherSide can acquire and exploit anyone's privacy (if you checked the box) in order to sell your taste, your needs, and your intimate details to advertisers. It is run by a feckless fool named James (Joseph Ahmed). Actually, his secretary, Claire (Jenna Kuerzi), is the brains behind the outfit; once version 2.0 is released, they will know users better than they know themselves. Especially tempting and especially dangerous is their best product: virtual-reality glasses that provide a chance to "live in our happiest timeline."
There is a moment, about halfway through, where the satire suddenly becomes an intriguing narrative and the plot actually thickens. But that doesn't keep this wildly gymnastic cast from niftily choreographed production numbers that are part fights, part dance, part acrobatics, and where "noir" is literalized in the costumes (by Lexa Grace). All in all, Fishtown is just the kind of show that is the essence of Fringe. Don't miss it.