by Mel House · August 15, 2014
Given how difficult it is to produce a show at FringeNYC, I have to say just how BLOWN AWAY I was by the quality of every aspect of Andrew Miano and The Wall of Sound’s production of Absolutely Filthy. If this company struggled with these challenges, they used those limitations to inspire creative genius. And I know that the audience agreed. This company filled up the house at The Players Theatre on MacDougal Street and as soon as the final lights blacked-out, the crowd was on its feet. Brendan Hunt and the outstanding ensemble of Absolutely Filthy more then earned their standing ovation! The quality of this production rivals the best of Off-Broadway today. If this show isn’t already sold out, book your tickets now, because it will be.
Absolutely Filthy, written by Brendan Hunt and directed by Jeremy Aldridge, is an unauthorized parody of Peanuts. The protagonist, referred to in the program as “the Mess,” is an all grown-up Pig-Pen, played superbly by Brendan Hunt. We meet him outside a church on Valentine’s Day in a large city in California, where he is currently homeless. Hunt keeps a hula-hoop in perpetual motion throughout the play’s hour and forty-five minute run, creating the image of Pig-Pen’s cloud of dirt.
His day takes an unexpected turn when he solicits quarters from “the Ophthalmologist,” an all-grown up Marcie (Jaime Andrews). Having overcome blindness, she has renamed herself “Marsha.” When next he meets “The Popstar,” an all-grown up Schroder (Curt Bonnem), Pig-Pen suspects more then a coincidence.
It turns out that Charlie Brown (Kiff Scholl), who grew up to be a great child pyschologist, has died from encephalitis and the gang is getting together for his funeral. Pig-Pen wants to go inside the church to say his goodbyes, but Schroder doesn’t think it’s appropriate for this dirty, hungry and homeless man to enter the church.
We next meet an ambitious sports journalist, “The Big Sister” or Lucy (Anna Douglas), and “The Little Brother,” a.k.a. Linus (Robbie Winston). Lucy is as domineering as ever. Linus, after a stint in Iraq left him with PTSD, has traded in his blankie for a smaller pocket-square version that he keeps in his breast pocket. They too think that Pig-Pen should stay outside the church, although Linus does compassionately share his pocket-square.
Inside the church, we meet “The Bereaved,” who is an all-grown up Sally (Shannon Nelson). The gang agrees to withhold the fact that Pig-Pen, who once was the love of her life and who broke her heart, is outside. Eventually “His Honor,” a.k.a. Franklin (KJ Middlebrooks), and “The Designer” an all-grown up Paddy (Rachel Germaine) arrive too.
With the gang all there, will Pin-Pen be able to overcome his harrowing self-doubts and earn redemption?
For me this comedy is absolutely perfect. The jokes keep coming and I laughed myself silly. But more then a piece of fluff, the play has an undercurrent of social commentary that is at times profound, and never preachy. I was truly surprised when a small moment in the story moved me to tears. I cared deeply about the characters and laughed at all the truth spilling off the stage in witty and moving turns. If there is one show in this Festival that I can unabashedly recommend, it is Absolutely Filthy.
Warning: this play contains nudity, profanity and adult situations.