Orlando Fringe 2017 review: 'The Merkin Sisters'

Who are the Merkin Sisters? How do they do what they do? What exactly is it that they do do? Those questions and more are asked, but few are answered in what might well take top honors as the Fringiest Fringe Show of this festival. Monologist Stephanie Morin-Robert (whose Blindside, a sweet and slightly sickening solo show about having a glass eye, is also playing at the Fringe) has teamed up with puppeteer Ingrid Hansen for an hour of yonic performance art that pushes the boundaries of taste, sense and hygiene, even by Fringe's liberal standards.

I know (mostly from reading the press release) that the Canadian "sisters" were former stars turned recluses who have re-emerged to tour; in their one-piece bathing costumes, they reminded me of the Charles Sisters from Pushing Daisies. Beyond that, there's not much I can share in terms of character, motivation or plot. All I can say for sure is that I watched a singing vagina give birth to a glove baby, and things only got weirder from there. At various moments, hairs were plucked from audience members' heads; the girls had a belly bump fight with balloons; and tiny doll bodies were used to perform an Irish step dance.

By the end of the show, the pair look like the love children of Brave's Merida and The Addams Family's Cousin Itt, bewigged in red curls from head to toe — including their namesake pubic toupees — and performing an anatomically improbable lip-sync act that will never let you listen to "Kiss From a Rose" the same way again. As a brand-new work at the beginning of its tour, there's still time for Morin-Robert and Hansen to develop a story structure or payoff, which may help ease audiences through mid-show moments where the bizarro bits begin to stray from amusing to self-indulgent. I'm still not sure what The Merkin Sisters is all about — aside from a satire of the phallocentric shows we've seen so often — but I am certain it will be one of the "Did you see that?" productions people will talk about for Fringes to come.

The Merkin Sisters
SNAFU — Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Pink Venue
Wednesday, May 24, 9:00 PM
Friday, May 26, 11:59 PM
Saturday, May 27, 8:30 PM
Sunday, May 28, 2:30 PM

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