Fringe Festival

‘Love me Tinder’ on festival’s opening night uploads love in the digital age

Jake Swaney (right) and cast members Ras Badejo (from left), Sara Marie-Nichol Platt, Shea Ketchum and Taylor Silvestro perform scene called “It's Science With Jake!,” part of “Love Me Tinder” on Friday. The show at the Unicorn Theatre is directed by Heidi Van.
Jake Swaney (right) and cast members Ras Badejo (from left), Sara Marie-Nichol Platt, Shea Ketchum and Taylor Silvestro perform scene called “It's Science With Jake!,” part of “Love Me Tinder” on Friday. The show at the Unicorn Theatre is directed by Heidi Van. JTOYOSHIBA@KCSTAR.COM

Nobody can dispute that Heidi Van, a talented actress and director, has influenced the local theater scene as curator of the Fishtank Performance Studio, an incubator for new work and young talent.

“Love Me Tinder” is one of two shows Van is directing in this year’s KC Fringe Festival. The piece examines the ups and downs of interpersonal relationships in the digital age, when more communication is done via texting than in face-to-face conversation.

Tapping young writers and actors from the Fishtank’s intern program, Van gives us a sparsely appointed show that is a bit rough around the edges but that ultimately wins over viewers thanks to the often witty writing and the charisma of some of her actors.

According to the program, 10 writers contributed to this exercise in vignette theater. That includes the seven actors onstage at the inaugural performance Friday evening at the Unicorn Theatre. Taylor Silvestro, Jake Swaney, Rasheedat “Ras” Badejo, Brian Laurence Buntin, Shea Ketchum, Duri Long and Sara Marie-Nichol Platt are an attractive ensemble and generally demonstrate a sharp sense of timing as they perform material that often comes at the audience in kaleidoscopic fragments.

The premise is that everyone onstage has downloaded the online connecting/dating/flirting app Tinder, which allows users to post bios, photos and all the attendant personal propaganda meant to attract an acceptable relationship partner. The show addresses sex, love, loneliness and solitude, and dealing with people with absolutely no sense of boundaries.

The humor is often pointed, and specific lines pop out. One character complains of the “hamster wheel of loneliness.” Another observes that “solitude is a glass of wine; loneliness is a bottle.”

Eventually the characters collectively come to realize that the ease of digital communication becomes an insurmountable barrier to real relationships: “I miss loving,” one says. “It’s a feeling you can’t fake.”

This is a short, lean show with little wasted effort. Some of Van’s choreography and blocking could be executed with more poise and polish, and at times the show feels too “busy.” Even so, it achieves a modest degree of momentum.

The actors bring energy and commitment to the stage. It’s a talented group, but my attention was repeatedly drawn to Badejo, who projects an image that is both waifish and worldly. She performs with a gleam in her eye that could probably be seen from orbit.

Silvestro demonstrates pinpoint comic timing, Buntin performs a memorable bit as a Christian trying his hand at online dating. Swaney, Platt, Long and Ketchum all have vivid moments.

The good things in this show suggest a potential for future expansion and refinement and a life beyond the Fringe.

Van’s other Fringe show, by the way, is “The Penis Monologues,” which she developed with artist Peregrine Honig. It also runs at the Unicorn Theatre.

To reach Robert Trussell, call 816-234-4765 or send email to rtrussell@kcstar.com.

Onstage

Performance times for “Love Me Tinder” are 8 p.m. July 21; 6:30 p.m. July 23; and 11 p.m. July 24. All performances are at the Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main St. For a complete schedule, go to kcfringe.org.

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