Not everyone wants to cramp into a tight seat at the theatre.
But for those who want a showtime experience where they can both lounge and laugh, now through May 14, there is no better show to catch than Faction of Fools’ seriously silly comedy “Missed Connections” at The Parks at Walter Reed.
Having organized an outdoor family-friendly display of absurdity on the lawns of Walter Reed, the Faction of Fools Theatre Company is D.C.’s premier organization for shows exclusively rooted in commedia dell’arte.
An Italian comedy style forged in masked performances and serious situations with ridiculous outcomes, commedia dell’arte’s approach to the stage is one of collaboration.
Instead of directors, you have capocomici: troupe leaders who don’t demand, but rather encourage their actors to define their characters and their intentions.
And what sets Faction of Fools apart from other commedia artists is they recognize the historical ramifications of their artform.
Although commedia is rooted in equal group narrative creation and the spirit of “Carnevale,” it’s still a European art form that has historically excluded people of color and LGBTQ+ identity.
But with Faction’s take on commedia, those principles of group creation and egalitarianism are used to subvert white hegemony and develop a theatre troupe that encompasses perspectives other than Euro-centric ones.
And those perspectives come together phenomenally in the “Missed Connections” narrative.
A work co-developed and written by all their players, “Missed Connections” lies in the fact that all the characters are incredibly driven people who just happen to have absurd rationales.
Setting their tale on the same park greens they performed on, “Missed Connections” revolves around the ever-so-magnificent Aphrodite Fittereri, a butterfly whose presence makes fact look like fiction and calls Walter Reed home.
But unbeknownst to the unseen Aphrodite, there is a vast collection of foolish characters on the green who either want ahold of him or need to square off against those who do.
From a world-class secret agent being duped by an overzealous park volunteer to a prim-and-proper sophisticate squaring off against a lovestruck grad student, everyone in “Missed Connections” has defined goals, but is willing to climb ridiculous heights to achieve them.
This show’s amazing humor lies in the fact that no one has any chill. If these characters were told to jump, they wouldn’t ask “how high?” They’d already be stuck in some ridiculous place and beg for help getting down.
It’s incredibly forward intentionality coming from incredibly eccentric characters.
All the aspirations displayed are pretty clear-cut, but what isn’t clear is where these foolish participants picked up such odd-ball personalities.
This comedy is so wonderfully smart that they can’t help but act foolishly. It’s reminiscent of Oscar Wilde with how the stories are so well-developed but try to come off so juvenile.
It’s comedy taken seriously. And Faction of Fools has proven just how serious they are with this great showcase.
“Missed Connections” runs through May 15 and performs Saturdays and Sundays at The Parks at Walter Reed. Tickets are $15-$35 and can be bought here.
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