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Fringe With a Sexual Survey on Top

August 31, 2011 By:
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Produced by Tel Aviv's Tmuna Theater, "Smiley" obviously has a leg up (or two) on other offerings at the Philly Fringe Festival.

Sex and the (Sister) City?

It's enough to have Carrie Bradshaw say a brachah.

But this isn't Sex and the Siddur, either: What's coming to the Philly Fringe Festival is an edgy offering from Philadelphia's Sister City, Tel Aviv, putting a Smiley face on sexual sensitivity and sensibility that would shake Jane Austen to her core.

Smiley (How About Some Emotional Pornography) will be staged Sept. 4 to 7 , in repertory with Paper Cut, a romantic fantasy, by Tel Aviv's Tmuna Theater; both will be performed under the aegis of the Israeli consulate in Philadelphia at the Media Bureau Networks in Northern Liberties.

In a way, Smiley frowns on traditional tried-and-tired treatments of contemporary sexual themes, using monologues that bespeak multiple concerns about modern-day trysts and treats: Some ask Generation Y; Smiley says, Generation Y not?

Director Allon Cohen generates some answers. He acknowledges that Smiley puts a face on sexuality as current as today -- even if it's been running since 2007 at the Tel Aviv theater -- because "it has explicit language, which is something that's still rare in the theatre."

Get real: "But in terms of our reality, and the media to which we're exposed, it's actually not so controversial anymore," especially in an age "when reality TV leaves very little to the imagination."

Been there, done that -- or done them? Bed and bored? "These days, when thousands of Israelis put up tents in order to protest the cost of living, when they take an active stand and there's a true feeling of change in the air -- people see things differently," notes playwright Eyel Weiser.

"They go outside and make things happen. There's something out there that they don't like and they're not hesitant to protest and let their voice be heard, to react to whatever it is that goes on around them."

Let a Smiley be their umbrella? The play, he contends, "puts up a mirror to the reality that led people into action, that brought them to such a point where they could no longer 'stay inside' and occupy themselves with only one thing -- themselves."

Mirror, mirror on the wall, it's not just about me after all, he reflects. But, is it an expansion of that old Carpenters' song: "Love, look at the -- three of us?"

Say what? That reaction is accorded some of actress Natalie Fainstein's multiple organic monologues, that risk jumping off the edge of the risqué.

Interestingly Interactive

Indecency indicted? It's all interactive. "As the one asking all the questions in the show" to the audience, "I always try to walk the thin line between using people's answers for the benefit of the show and not making them feel too uncomfortable," she says.

What -- them worry? She may use an audience member's shrinking from the spotlight "for my own agenda in the show, but the person himself will not be put on the spot. People need not worry."

It's 11 p.m., do you know where your hang-ups are? "We've had some very unusual shows thanks to this audience participation part," she teases.

Will Generation Z have the same problems and frustrations as Generation Y? All three agree that "it won't."

Make book on that, they say -- and book tickets, too: "It'll have an entire world of problems -- about which they'll be able to do fringe shows."

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