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2017 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘Game Show Show’ by Found Theater Company at the MAAS Building

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Seen through the lens of the popular phenomenon of the TV game show, Found Theater Company’s latest ensemble-devised Fringe offering, Game Show Show, considers the ethical dilemma of how far a person would go to achieve success, while casting a critical eye on the declining societal standards promoted in our mass-media culture. Directed by Alison Mae Hoban and performed by a creative cast of six (Ciara Collins, Adrienne Hertler, Joe Palinsky, Kristy Joe Slough, and Joe Wozniak are the contestants; Matt Lorenz is the host), the mood of the post-modern morality play – combining original text, a cappella song, and physical scores – shifts from silly parody to jarring Absurdism to nightmarish psycho-drama, as the participants reveal their innermost secrets, grapple with their personal and collective conscience, re-evaluate what they deem acceptable in their quest to be a winner, and ultimately decide whether or not they’re willing to “play the game.”

From left to right, top to bottom: Adrienne Hertler, Joe Wozniak, Kristy Joe Slough, Ciara Collins, Matt Lorenz, and Joe Palinsky. Photo by Harish Pathak.

From left to right, top to bottom: Adrienne Hertler, Joe Wozniak, Kristy Joe Slough, Ciara Collins, Matt Lorenz, and Joe Palinsky. Photo by Harish Pathak.

Inspired by the Pop Sixties, the design of the show features colorful lighting by Will Jonez and a TV-studio game-show set by Tom Lombardi, with silver-tinsel curtains, call bells for the contestants to hit when they think they know the answers, and a uniquely menacing countdown clock timer. Lorenz’s large-screen video projections of questions, scoreboards, applause signs, and other cues for the audience (which, in addition to segments of audience participation, cleverly make us, as a group, complicit in the proceedings), and his pre-show montage of clips from well-known hits in the genre from past decades to the present, provide an eye-popping backdrop to the live action.

Along with the vintage artistic stylings, Newt Minow’s famed 1961 speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, in which the then-Chair of the Federal Communications Commission called for greater responsibility and commitment to excellence in the “vast wasteland” of commercial television programming, is cited in the show’s program notes. Found’s incisive production also significantly references the controversial experiments in Social Psychology conducted at Yale University by Psychologist Stanley Milgram beginning in 1961 (the Milgram Experiments), which measured his subjects’ willingness to obey an authority figure (here represented by Lorenz as the increasingly sinister host), even if it conflicted with their own values. Suffice it to say that the results, both then and in Found’s current impactful show, are shocking!

You can always count on the artists of Found Theater Company to be smart, engaging, and entertaining. They’ve done it again in this year’s Fringe with Game Show Show.

Promotional image, with Matt Lorenz and ensemble. Photo by Harish Pathak.

Promotional image, with Matt Lorenz and ensemble. Photo by Harish Pathak.

Running Time: Approximately 85 minutes, without intermission.

Game Show Show plays through Sunday, September 10, 2017, at Found Theater, performing at the MAAS Building – 1325 North Randolph Street, Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the Fringe box office at (215) 413-9006, or purchase them online.

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