The Sincerity Project assumes a lot about art, about audiences, and about its own ability to pull off such an ambitious undertaking. Over its 90 minutes, seven actors talk exclusively about their personal lives: what they've lost, how they cope, and what each expects from the future.
Team Sunshine Performance Corp. plans this current installment as the first of 13 iterations over 24 years. The plan: to revisit the same themes as the actors age and progress through life.
Logistically speaking, TSP is banking on the seven performers' still being alive (the oldest is 45, the youngest 26), let alone still interested in reappearing two or 22 years from now. Factor in the changing landscape of funding, culture, and audience demographics, and the likelihood of the full run diminishes further.
But the biggest assumption is the one that interprets bodies in seats as meaning audience members also care about these actors as people.
No knock on Benjamin and Rachel Camp, Melissa Krodman, Makato Hirano, Jenna Horton, Mark McCloughan, and Aram Aghazarian, but at several points, an actor would say, "Some of you may know that I just" broke up with this actress, ended an engagement, used to date that performer, etc. Whether we know these things is irrelevant, even if we might be familiar with the actors from other productions.
Theatergoers are interested in actors in so far as they bring qualities to characters we find fascinating (Hamlet, Lady MacBeth), not because we're deeply interested in the actors' personal lives.
I understand that director Alex Torra and his cast want to produce an "anti-play" that presents something more real than a traditional scripted drama, and in a more charitable moment, I'd see it in the vein of such docudramas as The Laramie Project.
But when Horton tells the audience to chill out over a real-life personal tragedy because she has "processed it," (as though psychological problems were Chicken McNuggets), I start seeing The Sincerity Project's long haul as a form of sociological group therapy.
That said, I certainly don't intend to casually dismiss their efforts. At its heart, The Sincerity Project celebrates hope and the desire to live both life and art as more than a series of disconnected moments. It wants to reach us and form a genuine connection. That that didn't happen is not a failure of ambition or sincere intent.
The Sincerity Project
Through Dec. 13 at FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Blvd.
Tickets: $30 or pay what you wish.
Information: 215-413-1318 or www.fringearts.org