“Looking for Fun(Bags)” at the Minnesota Fringe Festival: Can you love a cad?

“Looking for Fun(Bags)” at the Minnesota Fringe Festival: Can you love a cad?

Looking for Fun(Bags), now being presented at the Ritz Theater Studio as part of the Minnesota Fringe Festival, raises a lot of red flags before the lights even go down. For one thing, both the writer (Vincent S. Hannam) and the director (Philip Muehe) of this play about “mammary intercourse” are men. For another, the director’s note begins, “I almost said ‘No’ to directing this piece. As a proud feminist, I wasn’t sure I wanted my name on something so inherently sexist.” Then there’s the playwright’s note, which avers, “I will challenge you to look beyond the…boobs…and discover that these people’s actions—however awful—are still guided by love and friendship.”

Really, though? If the two men in this play have any redeeming qualities aside from a certain louche charisma, they must come out in the other act, which Hannam writes that he’s completed but which isn’t seen in this production. The tone of Looking for Fun(Bags) is a mix between Kevin Smith and Neil LaBute, as two misogynist slackers make their manipulative ways through life with the occasional support of their sometime lovers.

The plot is poked into motion by the spectacularly ill-conceived decision for Brandon (Hannam) to try to woo his college girlfriend Shirley (Alyssa Brooke) back—despite the facts that (a) they haven’t seen each other in four years, (b) she broke up with him after he cheated on her, (c) she’s now engaged to another man, and (d) he doesn’t want a relationship, he just wants to “fuck her in the titties.” Somehow, after the predictable debacle that ensues, Shirley is willing to give Brandon another chance to explain himself, so she agrees to meet Brandon at the apartment of his friend Bud (Mike Swan), who just happens to be dating the server (Diana Jurand) who witnessed the earlier scene between Brandon and Shirley. What could go wrong?

All four actors are skilled, and have a nice onstage anti-chemistry—including during the cute Meghan Trainor dance number that closes the show. Still, the two guys get the best comic material; Brooke and Jurand end up playing the straight-women to offset the guys’ wacky antics.

While the play certainly doesn’t apologize for these two pricks, when the two central characters, who get all the best lines and the majority of stage time, are flagrant jerks, the reprisals from the female characters somehow feel hollow. Since Hannam doesn’t seem interested in exploring the inhumanity of man the way LaBute does, it seems unclear why misogyny needed to be brought out and paraded around for yuks. Director Muehe made the most of this material—but maybe he should have listened to that first impulse.

Jay Gabler