;"How are you?"
Fifteen seconds of dialogue and nothing is achieved other than the greeting that seems to be all the conversation we have time for in our busy world.
WHEN: Thursday through Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 7 p.m., through March 22
WHERE: Theatre de la Jeune Lune, 105 1st St. North, Minneapolis
TICKETS: $9-30, www.jeunelune.org
It's superficial, and a little ridiculous, exactly what the creators of "Fishtank," the latest production at Theatre de la Jeune Lune, realized and used as part of their subtle commentary about life.
Not easily categorized, the play tries to put our everyday encounters on display and examine our interactions with one another - in other words, look at life from outside the "fishtank."
All four of the actors, Dominique Serrand, Steven Epp, Jennifer Baldwin Peden and Nathan Keepers are listed as co-creators of the show. In a YouTube video promoting the play, Serrand said "we thought about doing a production that would give us joy and pleasure, and also would be intellectually rewarding."
The play begins where one would expect most travel stories to: security. Shoes, eyeglasses, cell phones and watches come off as the actors nervously walk past the security screener hoping the light won't buzz. The gag comes back again later in the show, this time with more embarrassing results, where whatever is causing the beeping, in the words of one of the characters, is definitely on the outside.
In the in the world of "Fishtank," everything is provided by a vending machine - Coke, chips, coffee, an umbrella and a suitcase, even karaoke and a wine spritzer. It also acts as a waste disposal area, using a vacuum to suck away the trash from the characters' lives.
In the tradition of the Theatre de la Jeune Lune, multiple languages are used without explanation. Even the "how are you" chorus is repeated in multiple languages, where the conversation continues for minutes but the only thing established is that everyone is good, in five different languages.
And, of course, in the middle of the stage, there is a giant fish tank, serving as a bath and a soundproof booth, a mixture of metaphors far too complicated to contemplate during the short run-time of the show, a convoluted hour and a half.
Besides the fishtank, the vending machine, a table and a few other incidentals, much of the action is left to the imagination. The show also relies heavily on physical comedy - Coca, played by Peden, flapping like a fish out of water, and then a seacow, Harry tripping and falling again and again on a floor that Coca buffed too much.
But what does it all mean? What's the point?
There isn't one.
"The story is extremely simple," Serrand said in the YouTube video. "It's so simple, we don't have a plot."
However, as everyday encounters in the show turn to the ridiculous, it's funny. Hesitant giggles arise when the audience isn't sure they're supposed to be laughing or exactly why they're laughing.
These little moments of insight are often accompanied by nuggets of wisdom.
"Sometimes you think you have a problem but you end up creating one," said Jim, played by either Serrand, Epp or Keepers - it doesn't matter, because all three are listed as Jim, Harry or Jules in the program.
Later on, when Harry fixes Jim, Jim adds, "Sometimes it's only when you solve the problem you realize you have one."
By the end of the hour-and-a-half production, the stage is covered in sand, bricks, confetti and torn-up pages of The Onion, and while the audience watched it all unfold, no one is quite sure where it all came from.
With "Fishtank," you're sure to leave the theater deep in thought, wondering, "What just happened?"
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