Plenty of local talent emerges in risky, ditzy, edgy (and sometimes iffy) theater for the two late-summer weeks of the Live Arts Festival/Philly Fringe, after which - except for some established companies - Fringe-like experiments appear to go dormant.
But many Fringe actors and designers fan out to local stages or to cabarets or improv and comedy clubs. And I can tell you where a few of them are these days: in the basement of the Wolf Building at the northern reach of Center City, on 12th Street near Callowhill.
They're having a great time in a new show called Survive!, which is delightfully Fringy - and that's a compliment. In the course of the show, the audience finds scenes in different playing spaces and is involved (gently) in the action, whose weird story line unfolds with no actual plot, except that the world goes on.
Survive! is the first production of a troupe called Swim Pony, which has been behind several weird, funny Fringe hits, including The Giant Squid two seasons back. Adrienne Mackey, its artistic director, plans to use a rotating team to put together original productions.
Mackey, who studied chemistry and theater at Swarthmore College, is interested in quantum mechanics and physics; Survive!, which she conceived and directed, is full of wonderings about the universe and us, in both wide-angle and closeup.
But, gee, that sounds like a science lecture, and Survive! is anything but - even though it begins with four scientists arguing over how to leave some information about humanity for beings they refuse to call aliens. Are these really scientists, or are they high-concept robots, called fractiles? These humanoid things lead us through Survive! as we break up into self-chosen, always-changing groups and explore "nodes" where we might learn about the rat that changed the world or the way movements can translate into language that appears useless. To us, anyway. But then, we are mere specks.
We are manipulated by a being who keeps drawing us back to her "hub," a communal playing space. She's heard and never seen, and played in wonderfully alluring voice by Wendy Staton, among the young theater artists in Swim Pony who works on a variety of stages.
Staton's character easily turns big ideas into pop-science, or outrageous notions. "I could give you a moment for personal reflection," she tells the audience at one point. "But I won't. Trust me, it's faster this way."
The other players are Bradley Wrenn, a staple in trippy, funny Fringe work; Jamie McKittrick, whose impish visage becomes a trademark in the show; Ahren Potratz, nicely eerie when I visited his "node"; and David Sweeny, whose riff about a bullet and a string makes sense - if only for the moment.
Tim Sawicki, who's pulled together group ideas for scripts for some fine Fringe productions, did the same here. The spacey white-mesh and plastic set (Lisi Stoessel), lighting (Maria Shaplin), and spot-on sound (Mikaal Sulaiman) mean everything to the show. You'd have to see it several times to catch all the "node" action. But just once will get you into the 10th dimension, or wherever it is that Survive! exists.
Presented by Swim Pony Performing Arts, at Underground Arts in the Wolf Building,
340 N. 12th St., through June 20. Tickets: $20.
Information: 1-800-838-3006 or www.swimpony.org. EndText