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Photos by Matthew Ghon

F#@KING UP EVERYTHING, a rock musical comedy, began it’s DC run as part of the Capital Fringe Festival last week. The show will be at Woolly Mammoth Theatre through August 14th.

It tells the story of a handful of Brooklyn hipsters looking for love amidst a backdrop of rock clubs, bong haze, and puppets. Unfortunately the plot is recycled rom com cliche, the songs are mostly forgettable, and the jokes… well, more about the jokes later. On the plus side, the performers themselves range from good to great, and everyone involved seems to be having a blast, so it’s hard to hate it.

I remember seeing some play years ago about a guy and his dog, and it was billed as a play for dog lovers. The dog was actually played by a woman, on all fours bouncing around on stage.  Yet, it was obvious to anyone who had owned a dog before that the woman playing the dog had not. She was just slightly off.  She did that front leg stretch they do when they want to go play ball, but you could tell she hadn’t seen it done a thousand times before. That was often the feeling I got during F#@KING UP EVERYTHING, like when everyone was drinking PBR from bottles instead of cans.  The play is hipster-lite. If you think Hipster Runoff is funny (I do), then you’re too much of a hipster to think F#@KING UP EVERYTHING is funny. But that doesn’t mean the play is not successful or you shouldn’t go. In fact, the entire audience was in fits of laughter and tapping their feet throughout the entire show. I’m glad that indie has gone so mainstream (really), but now that hipstery stuff like 500 Days of Summer, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and F#@KING UP EVERYTHING are the entertainment norm, my jaded elitist self needs deeper obscure alt references to satisfy my pretentious smugness. I mean, there is a Goldfrapp poster hanging on the wall of Riggins Rigs for christsakes, so simply name dropping Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Union Pool aren’t going to fly anymore for me. F#@KING UP EVERYTHING often forgets that culture references need context and commentary to be funny. That is why South Park is great and Epic Movie is not. Same goes for the F-word. Ahem.

The play is held in the smaller theater at Woolly Mammoth, where normally mics would not be needed, but since electric guitars must be amplified and the actors must be heard when they break into song, getting the sound right proved to be difficult. Loud buzzing feedback for three straight minutes during an important scene is forgivable on opening night, but the choice to use clear wire mics taped to their cheeks with medical adhesive gave the impression that everyone was just getting home from the hospital after having polyps removed from their sinuses. Numerous times during the show the tape would lose it’s hold and the mic would stick out awkwardly from their ears. And then there was this odd restrained yelling going on… like you know when you’re watching a TV show and they whisper, but you the audience needs to hear it so they whisper really loud? Well this was the opposite of that. Not sure why. And finally there was no punch to the music, everything sounded like it was mixed in the 90s.

But as the show went on, I started warming up to it. The songs got a little catchier, there were actually a few jokes I laughed out loud at, and my annoyance level lowered enough to appreciate the talents of the cast. Lee August Praley played the hilariously named Christian Schwartzelberg, the geeky out of shape puppeteer star of the show. He was endlessly likeable and had wonderful comedic timing.  His blushing when asking out a girl was probably real anxiety instead of top notch method acting, but either way it worked.  His love interest Juliana, played by the adorable Crystal Mosser, had the most genuine fake laugh I’ve ever heard. Dani Stoller, as the slutty nerd Ivy, had an effortless command of subtle physical humor. John Fritz, playing the hot rock star frenemy of Christian was… wait, ok, I guess I didn’t like everyone.

At the end of the day F#@KING UP EVERYTHING failed for me, but if you’re one of those artsy 36-49 year olds who still tries to stay relevant, or if you’re a young fresh faced suburbanite getting into indie music, or if you’re a time traveling hipster from 2004 before Garden State came out, or if you’re sort of lame but not nearly as lame as all your other co-workers, you’ll probably love the fuck out of it.

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Performances begin on Friday, July 15 and run through Sunday, August 14 at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre (641 D Street NW).
Performance Schedule: Fridays at 5:00 pm & 10:00 pm; Saturdays at 5:00 pm & 10:00 pm; Sundays at 5:00 pm

Tickets will be available at www.capfringe.org, through the show’s website at www.fuckingupeverything.com, or by calling 866.811.4111. F#@KING UP EVERYTHING is presented as part of The 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, a program of the Washington, DC non-profit Capital Fringe and is produced by Jeremy Handelman/Off The Leash Productions, LLC.

The production is presented by The New Musical Development Foundation, founded in 2007 by co-Artistic Directors Charlie Fink and Matt Wolf, who work to further the development of new musicals through commissions, readings, and workshop productions, the cost of which is typically borne by the artists. All rights are retained by the authors throughout the process, the goal of which to enable new work to mature enough to produce for wider audiences.

Originally presented in the 2009 New York Musical Theatre Festival. Isaac Robert Hurwitz, Executive Director & Producer.

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