SHOW TITLE: Tales from Cafe Inferno
PRODUCER: Holey Theater
HAILING FROM: Minneapolis
SHOW DESCRIPTION: Dante got one thing wrong: there is an independent coffee shop in Hell, and it is frequented by demons and sinners alike. Come for the coffee, stay for a front row seat to damnation. Welcome to Café Inferno!
CAVEAT: One of the actors in this show, Siarde Evans, was my comedy partner for many years.
Some quick background: I’m a huge fan of Dante’s Inferno – not just the original but its various parodies, subversions, and inversions – and as it’s one of the more popular subjects of appropriation at Fringe, I’ve seen no shortage of them. (I’m no purist, and for that matter I don’t think that Dante gets enough cred for his whimsy.)
But, yeah, the title’s a bit misleading in this respect, because Dante’s barely there, outside of a handful of one-liners – the premise of this is more “What if there was a coffee shop in hell?”
There is – barely a plot. Characters run in and out, mentioning the things going on outside. It feels, weirdly, like a show composed of a series of reverse cutaways in a single location.
It’s definitely zany. I rarely find that to be the same thing as funny. For example, here’s a joke from the show:
ONE: What should we do?
TWO: Blame it on the Church!
ONE: That’s harder, with the last three popes!
…what does this joke mean? No, seriously, what does it mean? I’m Catholic, I follow those guys, and they are ideologically all over the map. But wait, you say, you’re overthinking a one-liner! But nobody in the audience laughed. It was dead silent. If there’s a joke here, it didn’t land.
I picked this one because it’s pretty representative. They reference things like Gamergate, and misogyny in comic-book culture. These are things that exist. But mentioning them isn’t actually making jokes about them. It feels, weirdly, like watching this.
It takes the expected dramatic twist, which unfortunately hinges on the idea that we’re laughing so hard that we’re shocked when things get dark. “Getting dark” in this case means doing a couple fight that seems to be lifted from one too many readings of Lewis’ Great Divorce.
The show is enacted with great gusto and enthusiasm, but the script feels strangely hollow. I have a hard time evaluating whether or not it’s successful, because it’s unclear to me what it’s trying to accomplish. Jokes about the afterlife? Some kind of theological statement? I don’t know if I’m overthinking this or not giving it enough credit, because it was just so damn all over the map.
Questions? Comments? Enraged invective? Check out my answers to occasionally asked questions in Notes on Notes, or the contact info linked from that page!