theMumblings has a pitch that sounds like a sit-com: A sexually repressed woman marries her gay best friend who happens to be a famous children’s entertainer – HILARITY ENSUES! Hilarity often does ensue in theMUMBLINGS, but it also has drama and tragedy. Far from the “Will & Grace” set up, it’s about people suffering through life unable to experience intimacy. It’s all the more impressive that it is presented with just two performers who play fifteen roles.
Allen (Played by Keith Foster) and Jodie (Lynne Rosenberg) take the stage and explain to the audience their unusual relationship. She’s straight, he’s gay, and they’re married. It’s a marriage for companionship, and the two have slipped into a comfortable home life. Exactly why they’re comfortable in this unusual arrangement isn’t revealed until much later in the show.
The elaborate back story is explained by each performer taking turns playing other characters in Allen and Jodie lives. Scene by scene the two actors quickly transform to become everything from abusive ex-boyfriends, to pretentious college girls, to coked-up hustlers. Lynne Rosenberg is a delight when playing an insecure gay man looking for a quick romp, and Keith Foster is equally enjoyable when performing Allen’s children’s routines.
While it has lots of fun parts, theMUMBLINGS also becomes very serious in many scenes. Foster plays a dying woman to great effect in one sequence, while Rosenberg plays a woman confronting the man who assaulted her years previously.
This lightning fast character changing is done mostly through the performances. Charles Foster Cohen’s directing ensures that everyone is distinct through voice work and physicality, but the use of quick costume changes and props helps out too. There are two conspicuous racks of costumes upstage, and each actor will grab a simple item like a scarf or coat to change character. At times new characters are created by cleverly repurposing mundane items onstage, like a sick woman covering herself up with a blanket that was innocently lying onstage earlier.
Dan Kitrosser’s script showcases the talents of these two actors, but there’s more to the piece than just an excuse to show off the performers’ versatility. The title characters, the “Mumblings” are imaginary creatures from one of Allen’s stories, and they represent the sadness and loneliness that follows these two characters.
Both Allen and Jodie have become almost asexual due to past events, and their friendship is all that’s helping them keep up a semblance of a healthy life. Each has their own reason for a crippling inability to experience intimacy, and theMUMBLINGS is an examination of what it’s like to spend a lifetime in such a state.
theMumblings has two performances left in the NYC Fringe Festival as of this writing. It’s an excellent chance to see two performers showing off their chops, while forcing audiences to think about their own intimacy issues. More information is available at theMUMBLR.