2016 Philadelphia Fringe Festival Review: ‘Jungle’ at Bradley’s Bucks

Man and beast struggle and evolve in the post-apocalyptic world of Jungle, the latest work and first Fringe offering of the all-male dance troupe Bradley’s Bucks. Created and directed by dancers Teddy Fatscher and Tommy Schimmel (both accomplished members of Brian Sanders’ JUNK) and produced by co-creator Dave Morreale, the imaginative company employs movement, acrobatics, dance, and design to trace the beginnings of a new civilization after the collapse of the old.

Tommy Schimmel and Teddy Fatscher in a promotional image for Jungle. Photo by Nicole Fatima.
Tommy Schimmel and Teddy Fatscher in a promotional image for Jungle. Photo by Nicole Fatima.

Performed on the second floor of Franky Bradley’s, the pub space has been transformed into a derelict urban jungle, filled with graffiti, the noise of industrial music, and flashing colored lights. Then suddenly, the decaying city gives way and we are thrust into the primal eco-system of a natural rain forest, covered in mist and dangling vines. Through a series of short vignettes, the audience, seated within inches of the performers, watches its inhabitants awaken and grow, as they grapple, confront, discover, and relish the dangers and wonderment of life, coexistence, and the emergence of a social order.

Leading the herd are Fatscher and Schimmel, performing their signature moves on aerial ropes, bars, poles, and trapeze with physical prowess, strength, and beauty, as their primitive characters, with dark greasepaint on their faces and bodies, explore the environment and develop their confidence and agility. They are at first tentative, but then learn with and from each other, showing off, competing, partnering, and fist bumping as they master their skills with a combination of humor and increasing  complexity and finesse.

Ryan Stauffer and Misha King join the head Bucks in entertaining scenes of proto-lingual grunting and stomping that become more coordinated and rhythmic as they progress. They move gracefully through imagined waters as jellyfish, followed by an intrigued and captivated Schimmel. Ultimately the four men meet under a real waterfall, where they shower, cavort, and slide, till their adapting group of newfound friends lies down together to sleep. All the while, the industrial music that characterized the ruined metropolis shifts to songs with relevant lyrics and harmonious melodies.

The evening’s co-hosts Nick Reeves and Falon Joslyn Pattani contribute comical introductory comments and funny bits with the audience before and after the two acts. Pattani also does a seductive belly-dance in the show, which awakens the sexual desires of the men as she tempts, teases, and runs her hands through their hair.

Tommy Schimmel and Teddy Fatscher. Pre-production photo by Nicole Fatima.
Tommy Schimmel and Teddy Fatscher. Pre-production photo by Nicole Fatima.

While the props and costumes of Jungle are makeshift, they are clever; the stage is small-scale but intimate; the show is short but smart; and the performers are amazing—they will leave you wanting more! Luckily, you can catch more of Bradley’s Bucks beyond the Fringe, at their regularly scheduled performances throughout the year at Franky Bradley’s.

Running Time: 75 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

Jungle plays through Thursday, September 22, 2016, performing at Franky Bradley’s – 1320 Chancellor Street, Philadelphia, PA. For tickets, call (215) 413-1318, or purchase them online.


Watch a preview video by Scott R. Johnston.


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