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Rochester Fringe Festival, Day 3: RIT Wearable Technology Fashion Show, "Howard & Emily" reviews

We truly do suffer for fashion, but book nerds will find love in a hopeless place


If RIT's Wearable Technology Fashion Show, held at the Little Theatre Friday night, had been presented by students at critique, they likely would’ve received a poor grade. There were stops and starts each time there were technical difficulties with the light and motion capabilities in the costumes, or when one of the too-few models had to change costume. The presenter was not remotely enthusiastic, and none of the LED light additions to the designs particularly blew me out of the water. But it was not presented by students, it was presented by faculty and staff of RIT and Brockport. Of the 45 minutes slated for this event, only about 20 minutes were used for the halting presentation, followed by a few members of the audience crowding toward the front to ask questions (no formal Q &A session).

I learned at the show that some of the LED-spangled gowns were to star in the “Spirits Within” event held at Christ Church later in the evening. This presentation should have been a post-“Spirits Within” optional extra-interest opportunity for audience members to check out the light-up dresses used in the performance, because as a stand-alone presentation, it was not impressive.

Next I stopped over for the staging of “Howard & Emily” at Writers & Books, where Dr. Kielbasa-Funk (Robert Kulik), a sex-obsessed Polish Freudian acolyte who spoke with a German accent, addressed the audience as “class” while he described his fixation upon discovering a connection between writers Emily Dickinson (Alexa Scott-Flaherty) and H.P. Lovecraft (Rick Scott), and more than once hinted at how badly he wished he could get either yearning yet repressed soul on his couch and “treat” these ailing spirits.

The good doctor's presentation was interspersed with quotes by the “ghosts” of the writers, also present on stage at lamp-lit desks, who spoke up to recite bits of poetry, prose, and letters in order to punctuate the doctor's points about their lives. Before long, the doctor sat between them silently, watching the pair trade quotes with similar subject matter back and forth, describing of her reverence of and his horror in the alien-ness of nature. Dickinson’s words are injected with a love of living weighted down by the despair of multiple losses of loved ones, while Lovecroft’s belie an obsession with pantheons of monstrous deities which were “profoundly uninterested” in us, or else “actively hostile” toward humanity.

The parallels in their recitations sped up until they were both speaking of an unnamed love in a near conversation before the doctor spoke up to tell the audience that the writers knew truth through the negation of belief and the negation of fact, and that love was all that was required for truth.

This quizzical little experiment of a play, though pretty contrived in the concept of comparing the works and experience of two sensitive souls whose lifespans didn't overlap at all, will certainly delight literature nerds, and got some good chuckles from the audience. But it might be a bit too slow-paced and far-fetched for the non-bookish types. (NOTE: “Howard & Emily” also takes place Saturday, September 22, 4-5 p.m. at Writers & Books. Tickets cost $10.)

On Saturday I'm seeing “Beyond the Spheres” and “Signal” at the Little (2:15 and 3 p.m., respectively), “The Solitude of Self: Elizabeth Cady Stanton” at 5 p.m. at Blackfriars, and “Dragon's Lair” at 9 p.m. at Christ Church.