2017 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘Fishtown – A Hipster Noir’ by Tribe of Fools at the Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake

A spot-on parody of the retro-style of film noir in a hilarious send-up of our ever-growing post-modern obsession with social media and technology, Fishtown – A Hipster Noir reaffirms Tribe of Fools’ standing as a perennial favorite in the Philadelphia Fringe. Written by Caitlin Weigel and directed by Peter Smith, the hysterically sharp-witted show will have you screaming with laughter, then considering the issues of privacy and ethics raised by the unchecked proliferation of digital profiling and virtual reality.

Zachary Chiero. Photo by Kathryn Raines, Plate 3 Photography.
Zachary Chiero. Photo by Kathryn Raines, Plate 3 Photography.

Creator/Performers Zachary Chiero, Tara Demmy, Jenna Kuerzi, Joseph Ahmed, and Kyle Yackoski are flawless in their definitions of the quirky characters (featuring women in key roles), impeccable in their comic timing, masterful in their delivery of the vintage lingo from then and the techno-speak of now, and perfectly synchronized in their seemingly effortless execution of Chiero’s inspired choreography. Highlights include energetic fight scenes, the complex side-splitting transfer of multiple valises by undercover agents, and a completely unexpected rollicking group dance to Lesley Gore’s 1963 pop hit “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows.” It’s all a lot of fun, until they – we – are confronted with the serious question of “What is real?” and the moral dilemma of what we would do, if given the opportunity to bring to (virtual) life our fondest dreams and memories.

A top-notch artistic design supports the terrific cast, script, and movement. Smith’s set, and lighting by Robin Stamey, evoke the look and mood of an old movie, with spotlights in the darkness and figures silhouetted behind window shades. Costumes by Lexa Grace capture the preferred attire of today’s hipster techies and computer nerds, as well as the period-style fashions of 1940s private detectives (or, more accurately, “private investigators,” as explained in one of the show’s wacky running jokes). Props by Christine Gaydos form the basis of zany sight gags (yes, there’s a banana!) and trace the recent history and projected future of digital devices, with well-coordinated sound effects provided by Damien Figueras.

With Fishtown – A Hipster Noir, the ever-brilliant Tribe of Fools offers yet another must-see production in its ongoing series of original Fringe hits. Don’t miss it!

Promotional image with Tara Demmy. Photo by Kathryn Raines, Plate 3 Photography.
Promotional image with Tara Demmy. Photo by Kathryn Raines, Plate 3 Photography.

Running Time: Approximately 85 minutes, without intermission.

Fishtown – A Hipster Noir plays through Saturday, September 23, 2017, at Tribe of Fools, performing at the Louis Bluver Theatre at the Drake – 302 South Hicks Street, Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call the Fringe box office at (215) 413-9006, or purchase them online.

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Deb Miller
Deb has written reviews, interviews, and feature articles for Stage Magazine, theartblog, and Inferno, and is a lead writer for Phindie.com and the Philadelphia Arts and Culture Correspondent for Central Voice. She is a judge for Theatre Philadelphia's Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre, and previously was a Voter for the awards under the former Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. Deb holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware, has served as a Commonwealth Speaker for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, and has taught at the U of D, Bryn Mawr, Rutgers-Camden, Hussian School of Art, and Rowan University.