In a society where everyone has a terrible break up story, Joni’s is quite possibly the worst. Her long term boyfriend of five years, Noah--a rock star--does the deed by inviting her on stage at one of his shows and recounting, in harrowing detail, a night when they fell asleep eating Thai food in bed. He gets down on one knee, and Joni clearly expects him to propose. But instead, Noah goes on about how he deserves better, someone with more self-awareness, who takes baths in Sriracha, etc., as Joni, genuinely confused, is dragged offstage by security.
Did it really go down like that? Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill, a new work written by Steph Del Rosso and performed by The Flea Theater’s resident company The Bats, constantly plays along that edge of surreal nightmarish fantasy where you're never quite sure if what you're seeing is actually happening in reality or inside Joni’s head. The dialogue and acting flip between completely realistic and hyper-stylized, as though each character were the most heightened version of that type. There are lots of laughs, some at the ridiculousness of the characters and their actions, some at the many awkward and uncomfortable moments that happen to Joni.
The play is a series of fast-paced tableaus of post-breakup Joni (Sarah Chalfie) as she, with a blend of saintly patience and exasperation, tries to figure out who she is without Noah (Roland Lane). There is the flurry of anxious activity immediately following the breakup, where she feels awkwardly out of place everywhere, as though she is full of holes and can’t identify the source, then the eventual failed rebound with waiter Todd (Ben Schrager). There’s a hilariously blundering threesome with Lisa (Valeria Avina) and Ray (Joseph Huffman), whose secret to marital happiness is having sex with other people. There’s the obligatory intrusion by her college friend, Kate (Monique St. Cyr), decrying how she hasn’t seen Joni in so long, and then introducing her own happy relationship to golden boy Doug (Jonathon Ryan), a game show producer. All this culminates in Joni participating in the ironically titled but “extremely feminist” game show, “The Perfect Woman.”
Director Marina McClure has a talent for pacing and The Bats gleefully charge through Del Rosso’s fascinating material, barely pausing to take a breath. The result is a whirlwind but with an ease and familiarity that make it totally enjoyable to watch. Similarly, the set (You-Shin Chen), lighting (Reza Behjat), and sound (Ben Vigus) design all blend seamlessly so the transitions are well-paced and contribute to the overall staging.
Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill Fill is mostly lighthearted but anyone going through a breakup is likely to keenly feel the soul-crushing aspects of being a dumpee as lived through the main character. We’ve all been there and, even if we haven’t, the play reenacts it in the best way possible: through humor. No matter what heartaches we suffer, there’s always catharsis in laughing over it.