The Performant: Final Frontiers with “Sigh-Fi” and W. Kamau Bell

Pub date September 1, 2010
SectionPixel Vision

Scoping out the local arts and culture scene …

So much fascinating shit is rooted in science — from the way things work to the way they fall apart — that it seems passing strange that more performance pieces aren’t written using scientific law as a unifying theme. Not that you’ll find a whole lot in your physics texts about Saturnade a spoofed drink mix with a long list of dire side-effects that belongs more properly in the frame of a John Kricfalusi cartoon. You probably won’t find mention in your astronomy handbooks about alien surveyors with invasion viability agendas either, but why split atoms over it?

In “Sigh-Fi: An Evening of Science-fiction Themed Comedic Shorts” debuting at the Darkroom Theatre, fictions may trump facts, but the undercurrent is endearingly nerdy. Written by Philadelphia Fringe Festival veteran Shawn O’Shea, “Sigh-Fi” includes what is probably his best-known (and fully realized) work, “Starlight Supply,” which stars Jim Fourniadis as thoroughly under-socialized uber-dweeb William William Williams, and Craig Souza as an uptight insurance agent from Universal Business Insurance sent to deny him a $20 million claim for his registered star which has vanished from the night skies.

Other sketches of note include “Dinner Guest,” a Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner spoof involving an affable yet menacing extra-terrestrial Bob (Phil Ristaino) and “Hail to the Queen” in which a planet ruled by women accidentally hijacks a Freddie Mercury lookalike BJ (Richie Lillard) whose initials no longer describe his occupation, in order to force him to impregnate them all. Too bad for these galactic gals William Shatner is no longer traveling around the universe in spandex, because fancy-pants BJ only has eyes for the yummy male slaves in leather tunics—giving the appropriate measure of stage time to the social sciences as well in addition to the natural and applied strains.  

Meanwhile, in a galaxy not too far away, W. Kamau Bell has been trying to “end racism in about an hour”….for over three years. And for a split second there, it looked like he’d succeeded. You remember that split second—it occurred somewhere between November 4th and 5th, 2008. But here it is, 2010, and post-racial has become post-post-racial, and all in all, it’s been a frustrating time for a comedian who’s somewhat unwillingly become the spokesperson for comics-concerned-about-entrenched-racism to be that. Hence the title of Kamau’s new show-in-progress: “Aaaaaarrrrrrrrgh: A Solo Comedy about how Frustrating Frustration can be” (which he performed as part of the Solo Performance Workshop Festival at Stage Werx on Saturday).

It’s such a universal emotion: I could imagine Alien Bob getting stuck at the credit union while they tried to work out how to cash his check from Betelgeuse, or BJ the intergalactic love-slut trying to avoid old cranky critics who want to give unsolicited “feedback,” or cops cracking down on the illegal consumption of Saturnade on the beach. These are the things that happen to all of us—but only Bell has had the foresight to try and work it all into a narrative that tries to make sense of the myriad situations that defy reason and provoke ulcers all across the universe.