I’ve been going to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival since it was still called the Fringe Festival. These years of lint monsters, El buskers, Prospero in a wading pool, toilet racers, and many other assorted characters have been fun, and Philly is truly lucky to have two weeks a year devoted to unorthodox performances in unexpected venues.
That said, only a handful of shows have made a lasting impression on me. For example: Planet Lear, Thaddeus Phillips’ one-man, mini-golf-based, King Lear re-telling; Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, in which the men truly were hideous; and AdShock, my introduction to the world of Brian Sanders’ JUNK.
This weekend another show made my Fringe all-star list: Pig Iron’s Cankerblossom, a charming and musical play about a couple’s adventures among the inhabitants of a two dimensional world. Two online reviews admit that the play’s cardboard characters have charm but complain about the lack of narrative and resolution.
While it’s true that the show is fifteen minutes too long and the storyline goes adrift somewhere on the way to the Flats of Flat, to say that Cankerblossom “ultimately proves to be a sweet but laborious fable in desperate search of a point” (NYT) misses the spirit of the production and the festival itself.
Animated water drops and hang gliders lept from the cardboard sets to the actors on stage, the animals were enchanting, and the music was sweet and perfect. Quests were completed! A finale with an octopus, a bear, and a trumpet! Somewhere in all this was a story, but even when it got lost, the individual scenes were fun, clever, and worth the ride.
Cankerblossom was a worthy experiment by Pig Iron, and I’m not ashamed to admit that I left the theater a little teary-eyed.