The Battery Factory opened this year's Milwaukee Fringe Fest with something of a weird, surrealist variety program. Kirk Thomsen and Posy Knight played security agents in sunglasses who were milling about Todd Wehr Hall. Audience members were handed ridiculously large programs with bits of text hand written on them. The stage was littered with paper. There was a beach chair, a piano and a flat T-Rex standee of respectable size onstage. This was the first show on the festival. It was 1:00 pm and already things were getting a little weird.
This was the opening of Chad M. Piechocki's Valentine 3: Etymology (and a comedy.) The cloying edges of a slightly grating Piechocki was tempered onstage by the effervescent charm of Cree Myles in the central framing narrative where the two performers were looking to try to travel into the past to improve the future.
Doomed to failure from the start, the attempt at time travel involved the rolling of office chairs and the wearing of corrugated paperboard boxes over the performers heads. There was also poetry. Strange bits of text (evidently from a Polish poet) were read off the cards we were all given.
So much of the interaction between the two of them felt like an attempt to draw something beautiful out of scattered moments that seem very under planned and remarkably repetitious. That this didn't come across as being annoying in the least says a lot about the powerfully casual charisma of Cree Myles.
Kirk Thomsen and Posy Knight were given space for some interesting dance onstage as lizard hybrids from a different time. It was an interesting contrast with the secret service-style security agents they were playing for much of the rest of the show.
The whole thing ended with some classy, soulful jazz piano by some cat from New Orleans not actually mentioned in the program. It was a really sharp way to end the strangely misshapen hour of performance. The remarkable thing about it was the fact that it was as cohesive considering how scattered it seemed at any given moment. In so many instances the overall flow of the show as conceived by Piechocki seemed to be trying way too hard to be clever and at the same time seemed be a product of little if any effort. The balance between these two elements of the show exhibit a strangely entertaining sense of framing on the part of Piechocki.
The Milwaukee Fringe Festival continues today in and around the Marcus Center downtown. For more information, visit Milwaukee Fringe Fest online. Piechocki and Myles perform again at the festival as a part of Dasha Kelly's Talkin' About Home at 4:30 pm at Vogel Hall.