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Fringe Festival 2008

Trick Bag

Co-writers and stars Jeff Long and Andi Teran pull out all the stops in "For Reasons Unknown."

Pictured: Andi Teran and Jeff Long.

“For Reasons Unknown,” a comedy in the 12th annual Fringe Festival in New York, lives up to its title by not making it too clear what it’s about or where it’s going through most of its first half.

However, the play redeems itself in its second half by unexpectedly pulling out of that seemingly uncertain hodge podge of shtick and an overly neurotic lead character to tie together connections between all its characters and deliver a surprise ending -- maybe not as profound an ending as its creators hoped, but still a resonant one.

The action begins when Bradley, played by Jeff Long -- who co-wrote the play with co-star Andi Teran, returns home to find a piece of poop on the middle of his couch, with no obvious explanation for how it got there (as all the windows and doors to his apartment were locked). This occurs one Saturday morning in New York after he returned to his apartment, having ditched an exercise class with his best friend Julie, played by Teran as a frantic, kinetic fountain of non-sequiturs and strange statements, somewhat like Cheri Oteri’s cheerleader character on SNL. Teran’s antics are absurdly funny, though.

Bradley has a flair for the dramatic as he wails and whines about how violated he feels, summoning the police to investigate and getting upset when they take the incident less than seriously at times (but the play does have the two cops, played by William Franke and Jessica Kaman, shift abruptly to taking the occurrence overly seriously later on, donning hazmat suits). But the true finds among the supporting cast are Travis York, as the suspicious super of the building, and Matt Mullin as Bradley’s neighbor Craig, to whom there is also more than meets the eye in the first act.

York gets a tour de force monologue, in part about his fixation with killing the pigeons that plague the building, that evokes one of those true New York characters -- using a voice that is a blend of the cadences of Jackie Gleason and Christopher Walken. It’s a very enjoyable segment of the play.

What’s strange about “For Reasons Unknown,” in the end, is that it takes dramatic development of its characters and their relationships to make its humor make sense. The plot and circumstances within it, especially with the ending, do seem contrived for contrivances’ sake, but the play has enough funny dialogue, performances and interactions in it to recommend it.

“For Reasons Unknown” has two more performances in the festival, August 21 at 2 p.m. and August 24 at 2:15 p.m. 

   

     

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