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Water, plastic, and magic 

Philly Fringe 2018: Brian Sanders’ JUNK’s Plunge’

In
3 minute read
This year, Brian Sanders invites you to peer into 'Plunge.' (Image courtesy of Brian Sanders' JUNK.)
This year, Brian Sanders invites you to peer into 'Plunge.' (Image courtesy of Brian Sanders' JUNK.)

“Although we’ll be outside,” said Brian Sanders of 1998’s Patio Plastico (one of his earliest Fringe offerings), “even the weather will be manufactured.”

That bit of hilarity took place at 2nd and Race, where the Bridge apartments now stand. He placed his original The Gate there as well, and I still thrill at the memory of his crew swinging from the scaffolding as trains sibilated across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Fans will recognize this abridged inventory of JUNK performances: AdShock, Sanctuary, Flushdance, Urban Scuba, and Dancing Dead. Almost all were performed in industrial cityscapes or the bowels of old factories.

Playing under the trestle

This year, with Plunge, Sanders returns to one of his favorite play spaces: under train trestles. Patio Philly, at 10th and Hamilton, was made for him. With a gravel floor and repurposed shipping containers, this cocktails-only lounge nestled under the old unused trestle is brought to us by none other than the nearby Trestle Inn. It’s where the smart set now sips in Palm Springs comfort. Gawd, would’ve been hard to believe, 35 years ago when we hung around there, that it would one day glitter with noirish panache.

While we roamed the blocks to find the venue in Saturday night’s drizzle, the Inn’s intersection looked as scuzzy as it did back then. But lo and behold, we came upon a block of bright lights, murals, neon, and party people milling about outside Do You Want a Cookie, from the Bearded Ladies, in their venue just north of the Patio.

Sanders couldn’t un-manufacture the weather. His Friday opening at 10:30pm had been rained out. Once at the lounge Saturday night, we were invited to belly up to the bar for drinks and sit where we pleased, but to move around so we could see the action that would take place around the space. The drizzle fell softly throughout the show, but didn’t deter diehards who came prepared with rain gear. Those who hadn’t took shelter on the concrete risers under the trestle or under a ramada created from a container.

Water dances

So we were the first to become aware of Rimaj Todd’s slithery water dance high above our heads on an acrylic rectangle that I surmised was an upturned convex skylight bathed in bluish white. Shocked and awed, we gradually turned our heads to watch, mesmerized by Todd’s long-limbed swirls. Sanders’s magical genius was at work again, as most didn’t notice the other dancers and Sanders himself mopping up the roof of the ramada and other areas, to give safer footing for the dancing to come.

Laura Jenkins, Alyssa Kennedy, and Todd climbed a ladder to the roof of the stripped-down container. Jenkins wore a Marilyn Monroe-style white halter dress and blonde wig, while Kennedy and Todd also wore summer whites. To musical choices that included Sinatra’s The Best is Yet To Come, they danced a raunchy Lindy Hop turned ménage-a-trois, ending in violence. Later the women splashed about in troughs filled with water the temperature of which made me shiver just to think of it.

Throughout, an unseen narrator introduced each section as an “Artifactual” (a wicked pun on fake news), commenting on our era’s fascination with plastic. You must listen carefully to his hypnotic and sometimes screamingly hilarious monologue — a delicious spoof on Sanders’s fascination with and original uses of various plastics and water during his fabled career. I won’t give away the more daring and dangerous sections. You’ll have to go see those for yourself.

What, When, Where

Plunge. By Brian Sanders. Through September 22, 2018 at The Patio at Spring Arts, N. 10th and Hamilton Streets, Philadelphia. (215) 413-1318 or fringearts.com.

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