Dance for Grandma has a setup that's practically genius: On his deceased grandmother's birthday, doting Scott Whittemore ascends into her attic, where he rifles through her personal effects while awaiting a sign that she's doing OK in the Great Beyond. And get this: We're all the ghosts of his other family members, sitting in wait with him until the old girl arrives.
So it's a great idea for a show; what really counts is that it's a great show, period. Whittemore is a beguiling performer who presents himself as a geeky, overgrown kid – the perfect mouthpiece for a script (by Paul Tomayko and Whittemore) that balances wistful remembrance with utterly up-to-the-moment snark. One minute, our protagonist is earnestly enumerating the virtues of a homemade sweater; the next, he's facetiously pondering the bad treatment his absent grandma might be receiving at the hands of overzealous Fringe volunteers. At regular intervals, he breaks out into song while accompanying himself capably on the ukulele (thus rescuing said instrument from the clutches of Zooey Deschanel and pulling it back into respectability).
As director, Tomayko cleverly turns the Patrons' Room into a cozy hermetic environment, enabling him to create and sustain a mood of all-enveloping nostalgia – nostalgia for a time in everyone's life, but maybe also for a particular time in our American life that might now be coming to an end.
Dance for Grandma feels like it should be longer, which means it's just the right length; it feels like an out-of-town show, which means it's about as good as homegrown Fringe entries get. Whittemore may be a first-time contributor to this festival, but he and Tomayko know exactly what they're doing. If you do too, you'll join them in their attic as soon as possible.
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