Philly Fringe 2017: Found Theater Company’s ‘Game Show Show’

What's in a game?

Found Theater Company continues its impressive record of eclectic ensemble-devised plays with music and movement in Game Show Show, a darkly comic exploration of television’s most enduring, if trite, genre.

Everyone's a winner at the Game Show Show. (Photo by Harish Pathak.)

Gaming the system

We’re the audience at a live broadcast of What’s on Your Mind? hosted by smarmy Cal Calverson (Matt Lorenz), who instructs us to “laugh when you want to cry” and otherwise obey projected directions to applaud, boo, hiss, “ooh,” “ahh,” and screech like eagles.

The other five performers, barefoot and wearing white, first play hordes of applicants, revealing the hilarious desperation of those hoping to be chosen. They then settle into specific roles. Cal gives progressively more absurd challenges, like “Mime Time,” in which each has to imitate some sort of work. Andrea (Adrienne Hertler) gets “underwater magician,” for example, and each similarly absurd task becomes a clever pantomime. Cal tests them with rapid-fire questions: “What if your life is just the dream of an infant?” “What’s up with the pudding?” “Where did you hide the body?”

Lest this seem like a Saturday Night Live sketch, all six characters share private interludes. Hertler Collins, Ciara Collins, Joe Palinsky, Kristy Joe Slough, and Joe Wozniak play brittle, broken people hoping for a big break. “I just want to say ‘fuck it’ and mean it,” one confesses.

Director Alison Mae Hoban varies the pace well, surprising us with moments of stillness framed by manic hilarity. The cast perform their own satirical commercials, spoofing election spots, drug testimonials (for “Igiveupalreadyitol”), and other familiar targets, often with song and dance.

Ultimately, What’s on Your Mind? exceeds its snarky satire and cute audience-participation bits with a spectacular climax and an appropriately chilling ending, capped by a Brechtian song urging us to turn off our TVs. But will we? 

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