Every year at Fringe I seem to find a fantastical freak-show of physical theater to fall in love with, like Miss Hiccup (who returns to the Festival this year), Poofy Du Vey, or Schave & Reilly. This time around, Wonderheads won my Fringe Crush fealty with their touching triumph Loon.
When we first meet Francis (Kate Braidwood), he's trying futilely to spread his beloved late mother's ashes in the rain, only to smear them on his shabby suit. Slogging back to his lonely apartment, which literally fits inside a suitcase, Francis spends his time mopping movie theater floors and waiting hopefully for the connection from his telephone dating service (Bachelor #378: Favorite color, plaid; talents, none) that never comes.
If this was the plot of a conventional play, it would be hideously depressing. But because Francis wears a giant bulbous, balding mask-head and communicates solely through gestures and movements, his plight becomes pathetically endearing instead of simply morose. Inspired by the sci-fi comic books he finds comfort in, Francis eventually abandons uncaring reality and climbs to the heavens, retrieving the moon to be his mistress. It's hard to have a LTR with a celestial object, and despite their whirlwind romance she inevitably wanes.
Loon bathes its audience in the purest magic of imaginative theatre, needing little more than the movement of a simple glowing orb to make viewers gasp with childlike delight. Whether slouching, swaggering, or slipping into a brief unexpected Bollywood dance break, Braidwood's body language so expressive that Francis' frozen countenance actually seems to change. My only regret is recommending this show in my preview to families with small children. While there is nothing offensive or objectionable in it, the dark emotions explored are definitely intended for adults, and I'm not ashamed to admit Loon's bittersweet ending brought me to tears. Not to be missed.
Wonderheads (Portland, OR)
Run Time: 60 minutes
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Mask, Physical Theatre, Puppetry, Living Cartoon
Sat, May 18 2013, 11:45a.m. - 12:45p.m.
Sun, May 19 2013, 2:15p.m. - 3:15p.m.
Tue, May 21 2013, 7:00p.m. - 8:00p.m.
Fri, May 24 2013, 5:30p.m. - 6:30p.m.
Sat, May 25 2013, 8:30p.m. - 9:30p.m.
Sun, May 26 2013, 12:45p.m. - 1:45p.m.