Capital Fringe Review: ‘Mirabilia’ by Maddie Gaw

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FOUR STARS
Electric Mayhem Productions announced their arrival with Mirabilia, a (literally) colorful tale about two friends on separate quests to find one another. Written by and starring Rebecca Rose Vassy and Erica Smith, Mirabilia is an oddball, whimsical hodgepodge of aesthetics, which, for the most part, work well together.

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Best friends KC (Vassy) and AJ (Smith) are opposite creatures of habit. KC has never left her hometown, and AJ has never stayed in any one place too long. They write each other letters and see each other once a year. When AJ finally considers staying in KC’s town permanently, a mysterious storm separates the two, and they both navigate magical worlds in order to find each other again.

What is unique about Mirabilia is not what story is told, but how it is being told. The best way I can think to describe the overall aesthetic of the piece is “fairy tale silent movie.” Whole scenes are often wordless and filled with clever sight gags. Scenes like the one where KC continually tries to give away her coin, either to a well or a homeless man, only to have it spat back at her, and a sequence where AJ wrestles with a man for his hat, feel very Marx-ian and Chaplin-esque.

The physical look of the characters and the locations are what make it feel like a fairy tale. KC is a variation on Mario the Plumber, equipped with a multicolored toolbelt and rainbow sleeves. Everyone in the ensemble has elaborate and silvery eye makeup, giving them an otherworldly feel that both clashes with and complements the clownishly bright and childlike clothes they wear.

Smith is very funny and engaging as AJ, a tough-as-nails tomboy in a world where the evilest person is just a slightly annoyed and unhelpful gatekeeper. She is the glue that holds the piece together, as we watch her transform her values. The rest of the ensemble define their quirky side characters pretty well, although some could stand to be more distinct. The silent film pantomime sequences are a real highlight, but Vassy and Smith might consider spreading them out throughout the piece more, since some of the best bits feel clumped together.

Ultimately, Mirabilia is an odd ride, but one that keeps you guessing.  As Vassy and Smith develop the script, I’m sure it will become even more of a fairytale treat.

Mirabilia plays through July 27, 2013 at Fort Fringe – Redrum – 612 L Street NW, in Washington, DC. For performance information and to purchase tickets, go to their Capital Fringe page.
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Maddie Gaw
Maddie Gaw grew up in suburban Maryland, where she was a frequent audience member at local high school productions before she overcame the shyness that kept her off the stage. She re-located to New York to attend Sarah Lawrence College, concentrating in theatre arts after initially abandoning theatre for the much more profitable field of historical studies. A big supporter of new play development, Maddie is proud of her work as Literary Manager for the Downstage Theatre Company, where she gave slots to two plays written within the last five years, and one premiere production. Having graduated in May, Maddie squints into the post-grad distance as she returns to the D.C. area, looking for work in arts administration, or any place that will support her habit as a full-time suffering writer and part-time suffering theatre artist. Her rants and musings outside the purview of reviews can be found on her website, maddieturgy.wordpress.com