Monday, August 16, 2010

FringeNYC 14: The Battle of Spanktown

The aforementioned Battle of Spanktown combines so many disparate elements, it shouldn't possibly work. It is a piece of Revolutionary War history, relating how a dispute betwixt a Mole and a Badger incites a series of events involving a young Hobbeldehoy who embarks on a classic Fool's journey encountering many Wonders and Adventures, including a dread Kobold and the freeing of the Winter Queen from the Nefarious Red Coats only to find himself assisting General George Washington himself in the Great War of Independence.

In other words, it is a delightful 18th century picaresque (a literary style which may be characterized as "one damn thing after another"). There are animals who are clearly important members of Spanktown society. There are fairy tale elements that are done extraordinarily well. In fool's stories, a younger son, usually poor, often considered stupid or foolish in some way, leaves home in search of a fortune and gets it after a series of adventures. Puss in Boots is the most famous of the genre. Here the Hobbeldehoy fills this function to a tee. The writer knows his tales.

Of course, the success of any theatrical enterprise is more in the how than the what. And the execution here is delightful. Jeffrey Pfeiffer's script is a wondrous thing. When one hears the word pastiche, one usually thinks of something derivative. But here, the odd disparate elements form a delightful and unique whole. Big kudos are due to Heidi Handelsman for her direction. The performances are all funny and distinct. The casting is marvelous, some of the actors looking as if they have stepped right out of the pages of Punch. The set pieces and costumes are simple and functional, look properly period without being too much. I don't think anything cost very much either, but clearly a great deal of thought went into all of it. Which is far more important than deep pockets in a fringe production.

Their website is worth a visit (or two). Included is a timeline of events in Spanktown's history. I was particularly glad to learn the about the (heretofore under-reported) importance of robots in the War of Independence. And I look forward to collecting my Animal Heroes of the Revolutionary War commemorative stamp series.

The Battle of Spanktown
Writer: Jeffrey Pfeiffer
Director: Heidi Handelsman
Dixon Place, 161 Chrystie Street
remaining performances: Mon 16 @2, Sun 22 @ 12, Wed 25 @ 10, Fri 27 @ 10:45

(Illustration: Jason Stefanik via

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