2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘I Fucking Dare You’ at The Berserker Residents

The Berserker Residents, a Philadelphia-based troupe, has been writing and performing inspired comedy for years. Their irreverent 2010 offering The Very Merry Xmas Carol Holiday Adventure Show remains one of the most deliriously enjoyable Christmas offerings I’ve ever seen.

Their newest creation, I Fucking Dare You, represents a bit of a departure. It finds the Berserkers experimenting with bouffon, a French-born style of theatre that focuses on mockery. (“Think Stephen Colbert or Sacha Baron Cohen,” the Berserkers write in the show’s program.) The show’s structure allows for a high level of improvisation, with the performers interacting with (and mocking) audience members in ways that changes the show’s trajectory.

Lee Minora and Bradley Wrenn. Photo courtesy of FringeArts.

Lee Minora and Bradley Wrenn. Photo courtesy of FringeArts.

I Fucking Dare You consists of two extended one-person skits. The first, “Cheeks,” is written and performed by Lee Minora, who serves as a kind of honorary Berserker this time around. The second, “Cockatrice,” is written and performed by troupe member Bradley Wrenn. (The two stars received “help,” according to the program, from the other two members of the Berserkers, Justin Jain and Dave Johnson, who also serve as emcees.) No director or technical crew is credited; there’s no set, just a blue curtain and a handful of props.

In “Cheeks,” Minora plays a performance artist doing one-woman show about “Lady Elizabeth Edwards.” And who was Lady Elizabeth? According to Minora, she was a Victorian-era writer, composer, artist and recluse. She claims to revere Lady Elizabeth, but Minora’s character is also an egotistic (and not too bright) actress who passes out her resumé to audience members. And she can’t stop herself from inventing simplistic poetry on the spot or slipping into a “sexy baby” voice to draw even more attention to herself.

Imagine a production of The Belle of Amherst performed by 30 Rock’s Jenna Maroney, and you’ll have some idea of what “Cheeks” is like. Minora is marvelous, never slipping out of character and performing with a high level of commitment.

Wrenn is a solid performer too, but his skit, “Cockatrice,” doesn’t work nearly as well as Minora’s. Wrenn, clad in a tunic, plays a medieval knight who is trying to lead a rebellion against a cruel despot named Rangoon. He tries to enlist the “Shitty Peasants” – a.k.a. the audience – in his campaign. Wrenn ends up playing Rangoon and a bunch of other characters too in this skit, which comes off as a parody of Game of Thrones.

“Cockatrice” opens with gross-out humor – fake blood and black goo pours out of Wrenn’s mouth for several minutes – and returns to it repeatedly, with diminishing results. (Minora’s piece uses some gross-out humor too, but not nearly as much.) “Cockatrice” also requires a lot more audience participation than “Cheeks”; this made it more unpredictable but also more undisciplined.

The plot was too diffuse and difficult to follow, and it was filled with sluggish spots. (It was too long, too – Wrenn’s skit ran over 40 minutes, nearly twice as long as Minora’s.) And Wrenn repeatedly cracked up at his own jokes, which was distracting.

But “Cockatrice” has a lot of funny lines, and it has a lot of potential. (The audience, which seemed to know a lot about the sword and sorcery epics Wrenn was parodying, ate it up.) If Wrenn can keep the plot – and his performance – under control, this could have a bright future.

Altogether, I Fucking Dare You has a lot of funny moments, and it’s great to see two performers take wild risks and get the audience to go along with them.

Running Time: Approximately 80 minutes, with no intermission.

I Fucking Dare You plays through September 17, 2016 at The 2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival performing at the Skinner Studio at Plays & Players Theatre – 1714 Delancey Place, 3rd Floor, in Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the box office at (215) 413 1318, or purchase them online.

RATING: FOUR-STARS18.gif

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