The Column Online



by Brad McEntire

Out of the Loop Fringe Festival

Audacity Theatre Lab

Directed by Andy Baldwin

Shane Beeson ? The Barker
Natalie Young ? Samantha
Jeff Swearingen ? Ellison

Reviewed Performance: 3/6/2012

Reviewed by Mary L. Clark, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

In the continuing saga of the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival, I journeyed back over to the WaterTower Theatre to see two individual theatre's one-acts. A gusty, cloudy evening made for perfect play watching in their Studio Theatre.

First up was Audacity Theatre Lab and what was described as "A Sweet New Play" by local playwright and founder of Audacity, Brad McEntire. Entitled Raspberry Fizz, a sweet play it was, set in 1949, when Truman was President and minimum wage was going up to 75 cents an hour. Double Bubble was the gum of choice, that fizzy soda was only 5 cents, and the worst thing you would ever say to someone was "Go suck an egg!".

A mysterious street corner barker sits in front of a record player and a taped up box. At intervals, he puts the needle on the record and tells passersby to witness "the expected, the unsuspected". Reciting short tales of unusual events, oddities, like those in the back of sensation rags, the barker then returns to his stool and paper.

Ellison has come to that same corner for the last five days, in particular to the stoop where high school friend Samantha has been, with an important question to ask her. But the "cats got his tongue" and he just can't muster up the courage. Talking about what they want to be when they grow up, "Sam" teases "Ellie", calls him a sap and a square, and generally they both pass the time. Samantha is a flirt who gets poor Ellison to buy her things. As he leaves to purchase gum, he passes the barker, asks him what he's up to, and the con begins. In what McEntire describes as "a heart-warming exploration of expectations and the potentialities of the unmapped future tied up in. . . an encounter between two young adolescents in small town America, Raspberry Fizz reminds us of an innocence we'll never see again.

All three actors used their talents to take the audience to that more innocent time - when dreams were made on the steps of a stoop instead of playing the lottery or getting on a reality TV show. Your future or fortunes could change for just a nickel.

Shane Beeson played the barker with the friendly yet smarmy personality a good con artist needs. Both older than their characters, Natalie Young and Jeff Swearingen played that by-gone era's youth with sincerity. Not trying to fake younger, they instead relied on the emotions of great potential all Americans felt coming out of World War II. Young was all smart-alecky, gum chewing, and kidding around as Sam. Swearingen made use of his natural clown/comic facial and body gestures to portray put upon Ellison as a true sad sack.

A thoughtful conception piece, a fun trip down a memory lane I traveled a bit of, and a sweet slice-of-life, coming-of-age play made Raspberry Fizz a tiny wonderment.

Audacity Theatre Lab
Final performance, pairing with You Will Know When You Are
There on Friday, March 9th at 8:00 pm