Imperial Fizz is a play where not an awful lot “happens” on stage. Now, I’m well aware that sounds distinctly more like a fizzle than a fizz, but I assure you, Renegade Theatre Experiment’s Fizz, pops. It’s actually quite a feat when you consider that you essentially have 75 minutes of glib, witty banter between two people, presented in a decidedly aristocratic, certainly affected, stylized roaring 20’s kind of way with no initial indication of who or even where they are. And, while there is nuance and humor and plenty of layers of emotion throughout, at the end of the day, when examined, there isn’t action or forward motion the way a “normal” play usually progresses. But, RTE has never concerned themselves with something as trivial as “normal” and as the South Bay’s Voice for Alternative Theater they completely rises to the challenge of this rhetoric-centric, atypical dramatic concoction.
Yes, the word challenge is certainly applicable here across the board, but in the good way. This play is a challenge from a design, acting and a directional standpoint, because it IS so ridiculously reliant on wordplay and the page. It is rich with metaphor and wickedly dense with brilliant jokes that require precise timing in order to work. This extends the challenge to the audience as well, as they have to keep up with the cadence and complexity of the repartee. This play absolutely necessitates alert mental alacrity from those onstage and in the seats. Like a tennis match, the actors serve up a wicked back and forth and if you blink you’ll miss something. You’ll miss something anyway, but be prepared for every exchange to have substance. Please make sure you are well caffeinated and ready to rally, because they bring their A game.
Set against the rich hues and art deco angles which function well as the singular backdrop, our Man and Woman are perfectly cast with debonair savoir faire and cheeky bourgeois sparkle from snifter to wingtip. Their smashing, dry delivery of endless quotable gems, rival the sharp skills of the now quintessential Dowager Countess. While you might feel like you’re at a party listening to small talk, there really isn’t anything small about it, for even the smallest of eye movements or slightest of shoulder shrugs during a delightfully random dance interlude are exacting and carry genuine impact. There’s exquisite, effervescent chemistry between the two and it’s easy to see how lesser actors could destroy this play faster than it takes to shoot patron.
I really enjoyed the production, but fully recognize the complexities of staging this play. While the result is a marvel, this is clearly not going to be everyone’s Long Island Iced Tea. Think No Exit with significantly more hope and a veritable plethora of mixed drinks. Imperial Fizz is a great example of wonderfully produced unconventional theater. A discerning 4 jewels out of 5 in the review tiara for this astute theatrical cocktail. Go with an open mind and enjoy the decadent romp. Imperial Fizz plays through February 23rd at the Historic Hoover Theater in San Jose.