PHX:fringe Week 2: Circusy, Gross-Out Humor in Tight Assets from the Bay Area's AlulA Ensemble

The cast of Tight Assets, clockwise from top: Amelia Adams, Alex Corby, and Michael Cavanaugh
The cast of Tight Assets, clockwise from top: Amelia Adams, Alex Corby, and Michael Cavanaugh
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Oakland, California's AlulA Ensemble proves with their PHX:fringe show, Tight Assets, that you can be kind of up your own ass about your art and still make things that people want to see. For all the crunchy, first-world-problems tweeness of their vision statement and CVs, they're a solid, hard-working, entertaining bunch.

Tight Assets is another one of those Fringe shows I have to forgive for misleading me a bit. You write stuff for a program deadline, and then, after one thing and another, the actual performance might not quite match up.

Assets is extremely light on social commentary "inspired by local and global hardship" -- it's a very traditional commedia dell'arte plot with a banker character, a few money jokes I didn't get, and a couple of low-key Occupy moments (e.g., "We won't return your money unless you improve our wages and working conditions!" "Oh. Okay." Would it were so straightforward out in the world).

That may be an overly harsh judgment, though -- the AlulA folks practice "physical theater," which means the text is not as important an element as the action, which is perfectly legitimate but may mean that the heavy messages were non-verbal. And I'm not sure whether electrical-taped nipples represent the 1% or the 99%.

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The troupe's physical control, as they slapstick around Space 55 like billiard balls, is breathtaking. The action is relentless, the characters are sassy if stereotypical, and the quick changes are so smooth that I was surprised to see only three people take bows. There's also a cool musician/sound effects guy who played the audience in with nifty, fresh singer-songwriter stuff. His thoughtful lyrics were one of the evening's highlights.

In general, Tight Assets is really crude, a poopy, vomity, ass-shaking romp that is simultaneously good-natured and innocent. That might be your thing. No matter what, it's something we don't typically get to see -- and if these people don't sell enough tickets, they might have to stay here.

Tight Assets continues through Saturday, March 10, at Space 55, 636 East Pierce Street. Admission is $10 at the door, or call 602-254-2151 or click here for tickets in advance. See the full PHX:fringe schedule here.

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