Four Characters In Search of a Laugh

For the past few weeks and months, casts from the small theater companies around the country and world that are taking part in the Fringe have been feverishly memorizing lines and rehearsing blocking. Not the talented actresses of Naked in a Fishbowl, an entertaining improv sketch comedy about the lives of four young female New Yorkers. While these ladies didn’t have to memorize anything, they aren’t totally free to invent. Each night brings a new scenario, but the specific, detailed character histories established over the course of several years and incarnations of the show inform the actresses' reactions. In addition, three of them have been in the show before and have grown familiar with the characters. So instead of working from a blank slate the actresses assume alternate personalities in order to deal with unexpected events – reality theater, in a way. In the show's Fringe opening, for example, the friends are heading to a play that Bonnie (Lauren Seikaly) is producing, which stars the new wife of Sophie’s (Brenna Palughi) ex. The first scene, however, consists entirely of the women chatting as they finish getting ready, in a clear reminder of why the earlier versions of the show were called What Women Talk About. For instance, Sara (Katherine Heller) is dating a Republican, a situation Jean (Lynne Rosenberg) can’t comprehend. Then Sophie drops the bombshell that she is moving to Italy in two weeks. After the play, the other three women try to decide how to break the news to Bonnie that they thought it was horrible.

Thanks to the two seasons of “webisodes” of What Women Talk About and its prior stints onstage in New York, Naked in a Fishbowl already has a fan base that is familiar with the characters’ back stories. But the actresses are skilled at dropping clues about themselves into their comments so that even the uninitiated will quickly feel up to speed. As the women grapple with the night’s designated challenge and the curveballs they throw each other as it goes, there’s naturally a fair amount of spluttering and hesitation and interruption among the actresses. But since they have established characters to fall back on, the show never goes too far out to sea. To the contrary, the actresses’ good cheer and spontaneity encourage viewers to attend future performances in order to find out what happens next.

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