nytheatre.com review by Gyda Arber
August 12, 2006
Going to a show in the Fringe sometimes can seem like an exercise in sensationalism. Celebrity gossip, bad behavior, and scandalous titles seem to be at every turn. How nice, then, to be presented with a simple, enjoyable, scandal-free story collection like Emergency Exits.
Melbourne theatre troupe Coming of Age Productions has adapted the short stories of Israeli writer Etgar Keret into a series of vignettes that cover everything from a one-night stand to victims of terrorist attacks. It’s a surreal experience to see Israeli characters performed with Australian accents, but Keret’s world exemplifies surreal: objects share their inner feelings, hearts are detachable, and women turn into fat men in the middle of the night.
The adaptation, by Adena Jacobs and Carla Silbert (also the show’s directors), feels like story time for grownups. The characters primarily address the audience directly, both narrating and interacting with the other actors. This creates an acting challenge that some members of the cast handle better than others—though the narration sections are quite polished, the relationships between the characters feel underdeveloped—but as a whole the ensemble is quite charming.
Joel Goodall’s set and Nick Huggins’s music do the most to evoke Keret’s whimsical, philosophical universe. Goodall perfectly understands the limitations of the festival and has created a simple backdrop of fluffy clouds with a bright cheerful parachute that seems decorative at first, but becomes an integral part of one of the sketches. Huggins’s score is the ideal counterpoint to the tales, fully underscoring the lighter ones and wisely remaining silent in the more dramatic moments.
No, Emergency Exits isn’t about celebrities, and it doesn’t have a crass title or feature politics or nudity. But it’s a pleasant, lighthearted little show, which can seem like a rarity in the Fringe. If the majority of your Fringe picks are fraught with darkness and scandal, head over to the Actors Playhouse to catch this optimistic romp through the world of Etgar Keret.