nytheatre.com review by Richard Hinojosa
August 21, 2008
Dingbat is a funny, quirky, and utterly entertaining show. The one thing I would say to writer/performer Nancy Friedrich is more, more, more! The show is 45 minutes long but I was so into the performance that it felt like maybe 20 minutes had gone by when the final blackout came.
Friedrich plays several different characters, all of whom are rather odd in a down-home sort of way. Her main character, Claudia, is a nerdy girl with a love for the word "douche-bag." She meets a punk rock boy named Richie who happens to love the word douche-bag as well, and so they get married and move away from New York City to a small town in South Dakota where Richie is promptly eaten by a bear. After his death—and they'd only been there one day—she becomes depressed and this causes the return of her childhood imaginary friend, Dingbat.
Dingbat is a piece of looped and knotted rope with cow bells tied to it. They catch up on all the wonderful places Dingbat has been to—China, Antarctica, Denver—and they watch lots and lots of TV together. Her neighbor Louise comes over with a condolence lasagna and a welcoming casserole. The elderly matron, Ms Debbie, also comes over and offers her sympathies and welcome by doing a slow, arthritic song and dance number. In between each segment in the show there is a narrator, heard over the PA, telling us about Claudia's life and who she is about to meet.
Later in the show, Claudia throws a hilarious party with Louise, Ms Debbie and Dingbat. They decide they should each have an imaginary friend and their imaginary friends should have large penises. Ms Debbie says, "Not too big, mind you, just big enough to keep me coming back for more." Claudia throws the party because an access TV dream expert tells her to after she describes her dream in which she is trapped with some of the girls from Sex and the City, The Facts of Life, and The Golden Girls and is unable to speak.
Friedrich is a master of her characters. She is extremely animated and her timing is impeccable. She creates some hilarious moments with just a look or a gesture. She finds physical qualities for each person and exploits them to the fullest. The story isn't really compelling and I don't think Friedrich intends it to be. It is not about her relationship with Dingbat either. No, it's just a slice of a strange world that is easy to get caught up in. Noah Gregoropolous does a great job with the voiceover as the narrator. He adds a warm, fuzziness to the show. I hope Friedrich decides to expand the show because I could have sat through another 45 minutes.
Friedrich and her director, James Whittington, have an enormously entertaining show that is well worth a look before this year's FringeNYC comes to an end.