2010 Edmonton Fringe Review Day 6

The human brain has an immense capacity to fill needed gaps in our psyche. This is what is explored in Fortress Mentality, where a man struggling in a post-apocalyptic horror defeats solitude by letting his brain invent a Nymph, a gorgeous piece of fairy-tail who loves him and helps him out and gives him the companion that some slow disease seems to have taken away. For the first 1/4 of this play, the man and his nymph talk about his collection of books which line "the fortress", in which he lives. He also had some vinyl records kicking around, though its unclear how he would enjoy them without power. He collects river water to boil until its safe to drink, keeps a lookout on the horizon for a civilization that is destined never to come, and with the help of the girl that doesn't exist carries his mental state along fairly well.

Until he learns there is another survivor.

By halfway through the play we are at the meat of the production: arguments and discussions and personal revelations are let loose between the man and this stranger. The stranger builds a bridge between their houses (putting to rest our wondering if this was a real "fortress"), and tries to converse, and in general provides the companionship that the first man's brain has finally gotten around to convincing itself wasn't ever coming and would never need to be dealt with. Nymph slowly fades out of the picture as the two men come to grips with the concept of talking to real life people (its indicated that the stranger himself has his own nymph which he seems to be harsh with for much of the work).

While an interesting idea, with the mental stresses of solitude being worth exploring, Fortress Mentality seems afraid of confronting it. The play ends on a decidedly unsatisfying conclusion: having built up a sense of impending mystery and plot-twisting, ultimately nothing happens. A Three's Company style misunderstanding at the end serves as the denouement which hardly seemed fitting. There's a brief message about the perils of being true to yourself in a social world, but now that they live in a world without a society neither man tries to fully embrace their identity.

Loriel Medynski is quite hot and approachable as the nymph, though I would have tried to cast identical twins as "Nymph" in identical outfits and have the stranger's nymph turn out to be exactly like the first man's when we got to see both simultaneously. Alas, was never to be. Mat Simpson, who plays the protagonist, looks like Dave Foley...actually no, he looks more like the kid I went to highschool with who looked like Dave Foley. Meanwhile the stranger, played by Justen Bennett, had a very Scott Bakula look to him. This is one of those off-the-beaten-track plays, so be prepared to hoof it to 100th street and 80th avenue when your showtime comes up.