So far at the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival, we’ve seen singing Presidents, courtroom trials turned into Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, even the apocalypse brought on by a slacker who took his role playing games too far.
As we end the summer Fringe Festival, let us banish these strange worlds of gloom and doom. Let us get back to terra firma, and what better way to knock down all thought of imagination and fantasy than with high school science demonstrations. “Dr. Science’s Science Time Science-va-ganza” is a spoof of all those horrible hours in high school Science class where a teacher did live demonstrations that never quite worked. You suffered through more than one, but you never had a teacher like Adam Ruben.
According to the playbill, Ruben is a molecular biologist as well as a writer. He really knows this topic, and he is able to turn the whole subject into a freewheeling parody. Joined by Jason Pittman working a puppet (“It wasn’t creepy on Mr. Rogers and it’s not creepy here”) Ruben goes off on a lively set of experiments involving prisms, dry ice, and baking soda that rarely work and you probably should not attempt at home.
Fortunately Ruben and company are great at the ad lib, and whenever anything goes wrong – which is frequently the case – the actors have a field day. Plus it helps that Rubens has the somewhat oblivious but ever energetic Science teacher patter down to a science, but with just enough exaggeration built in to give the jokes a little edge. “Science is alive – except for geology.”
About halfway through the evening, one experiment goes wrong, and here we go from simple parody to science fiction as Rubens enters a world where science never happened. Meet actor Chuck Na as Dr. Anti-Science, a hilarious lampoon of climate deniers and other science adverse conservatives. His prism is a healing crystal, and when Pittman returns with his puppet character now suffering from scurvy, Dr. Anti-Science enthusiastically recommends leeches (“I have twelve myself”).
Let’s just say that all three actors really get into it, because once again all the “experiments” go wrong and all three get to ad lib. I have a sneaking suspicion that this script is only a half hour long but the actors are having such a blast on stage they extend the show to nearly an hour. That feeling is contagious, and the audience quickly picks up on that fact and joins in the humor.
It is hard to explain adequately, but this is one of the funniest shows I have seen all year – and the word got out because the final performances all sold out early. There is a theme to “Dr. Science” about how science is always about asking new questions. The theme I took out of the show was that when you have three talented comic actors on stage, literally anything can happen.
I consider this show one of the best things I saw at the Fringe this year, along with Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s version of “The Brontes” and Pointless Theater’s hilarious “Imagination Meltdown Adventure.”
Thus ends this year’s Capital Fringe Festival. But the Fringe often beings back artists for fall shows, and check their website to use your Fringe button for discounts throughout the year. For more information, go online to http://www.capfringe.org/
Dr. Science’s Science Time Science-va-ganza – 4 Stars
By David Cannon
Mocovox Entertainment Critic