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Like with most other Late Night shows, I REALLY do not know what to expect when I walk into Three of Strong to see “Distracted by Penguins.” The synopsis I have been given is that 30 plays are (hopefully) going to be performed in 60 minutes, & there is going to be some kind of penguin-throwing involved. If the standing-room-only crowd in the bar & the line spilling out onto Diamond St are any indication, I am far from the only person who was at least intrigued by the idea. Upon entering the venue, I am given a new name (“Really Nice Shoes”), a “menu,” and a raffle ticket. (We did get the raffle but I guess I’ll never know what the name was all about.) Chris DeFilipp explains that he, along with Kat Moraros, Nate Speckman, Tarra Bouchard, Lauren Gamble, and Zack Handlen, will indeed attempt to perform 30 devised pieces in 60 minutes. The order of those pieces will be determined by the audience screaming out numbers from our “menus” to indicate which pieces we would like to see, and the cast members pulling the first (or loudest) number they hear off of a clothesline – on which we will also notice a few sheets of paper with penguins printed on them. If, at any point, we shout “penguin” instead of a number, the cast has to perform a “distraction” printed on the back of the penguin – including but not limited to adding to or subtracting from their time, or drinking water. (I admittedly feel a little misled when I realize that the “throwing penguins” part of the synopsis wasn’t literal, even while recognizing that there may have been some safety concerns around throwing penguins in a crowded bar, or maybe the ongoing supply chain issues made it difficult to get a large quantity of penguins.) With 60 minutes on the clock, the stakes high, we are off and running – the audience shouting numbers, and the cast diving into a chaotic assortment of pieces at a breakneck pace. The performances range from social commentary on rainbow capitalism to making each performer say nice things about themselves to an anecdote about “marrying” the ashes of deceased grandparents to collective existential crisis in the form of a raffle winner announcement. The cast is boisterous, the crowd engaged, the material funny in that “this is too real I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry” sort of way. While we didn’t get to all 30 of the pieces (I believe the final total was 23) every one that we did get to witness was a delight and I’m so thankful that we got that experience. (Also I hope you all tipped your bartenders extra well to make up for the headache that we no doubt gave them with all of our screaming.)
Anonymously submitted: PF23 Independent Review Team