Note From Jon


Monday, July 23, 2007

On The Fringe

It turns out I planned my trip to Africa one week too early because I leave before the Fringe festival and Tour de France finish. In fact in less than twelve hours I will be on a plane bound for Senegal (well it will be bound for Atlanta, but after a layover I will be bound for Dakar). So unfortunately I won't get to devote as much time to my thoughts on the 2nd Capital Fringe Festival as I'd like.

Overall the shows I saw (and it was a limited selection) fell into the middle range compared to last years shows (upper middle actually), with no play quite as impressive as Bartleby (though Trixie Tickles was awfully close) but nothing nearly as bad (alright, as unenjoyable for me personally) as The Play About the Hurricane.

Here's what I saw in roughly the order I appreciated them:
- Cautionary Tales For Adults and the Many Adventures of Trixie Tickles put on by Bouncing Ball Theatrical Productions (7/22 9:30pm at Source Theatre). From a pure enjoyment standpoint this did actually top Bartleby (although I appreciated some of the ensemble and staging elements of Bartleby more). I particularly loved the second play with Trixie Tickles (Casie Platt) who Darren and I now both have a little crush on (along with her mom - Alessandra Migliaccio). Highlights included the creative use of the red rope during Cautionary Tales, especially as the entrails of the lion eating Tammy, mother of twins Timmy and Tommy. The opening song of Trixie Tickles was amazing, as was the song Trixie's mom sings to her about not pooing with lines such as "You lose a little part of you, when you poo" and "Everyone who's ever died is watching you, when you poo". Added bonus for sitting in the same front row as Regie Cabico, who is one of the poets on HBO Def Poetry Jam and who's poem "You Bring out the Writer in Me" was on my cell phone (but for some reason it wasn't playing or I might have really creeped him out by walking over and showing him his video on my phone!).

-Abstract Nude by Gwydion Suilebhan (7/20 5pm at Source Theatre). This was a last minute decision when I saw a post writeup from last year's fringe that the staged reading of this show was "The find of the Festival". It was well worth the early trip up to U St. and I was amazed to find the show nearly packed for a 5pm performance. The show was great and was Darren's favorite since he felt it was more challenging to pull off well than Trixie Tickles. Everything worked well for me except for the very end where it felt a little overly theatrical to have each character come forward with their monologue, the final monologue was especially jarring since it seemed out of character for the son. However the point of the final monologue - that the painting which was causing so much trouble for everyone didn't mean anything to any of them was a good one - although it would have been nice, as Darren pointed out, if somehow the audience could have come to that realization on their own.

- Breadhouse presented by Journeymen Theatre (7/20 8pm at Ebeneezer's Coffee House). First off, it was great to discover Ebeneezer's Coffee House tucked next to Union Station. We had high hopes for this show after Journeymen set the bat last year with Bartleby (did I mention I liked Bartleby :-p). Unfortunately the material just didn't have the same potential. This show seemed to me to be an example of excellent execution of a below average piece. The script didn't have particularly standout dialouge and the plotline was about as straightforward and uninspiring as I remember. Thankfully the actors really squeezed just about every last laugh out of the show and as negative as the review may sound so far, it was a lot of fun to watch. My favorite part was when the "director" of the play within a play gives the horrible "actors" masks to wear and they are suddenly transformed into brilliant performers. Loved Teresa attacking Chad with her lighter. And, of course, the witch trying to blow out the fire in the oven that she was just pushed into was classic.

- Kuon Kukki: The Legend of Hamachi and Unagi presented by The Informall Theatre Company (7/20 10:00pm Wooly Mammoth Mainstage). Despite having the most potential to pull a "Hurricane" on us, Kuon Kukki wound up having plenty to appreciate. Overall I think if the show were cut from 1:15 to 45 minutes and the acting tightened up a bit, it could really shine. In particular I would edit down the Bush/Cheney scenes (and not because of any political issues I have with it, as would be obvious if you know me) because they seemed to drag quite a bit. Highlights for me were the scene changes done in traditional Japanese style with deliberate rhythmic steps (or quite humorous shuffling). And the scene which I appreciated most of the entire festival was the Dragon Kufuku, with it's ensemble movement, eating of the Samauri, and then shitting the Samauri right on through. Good Times!

- Nutshell presented by DC Dollies & The Rocket Bitch Revue (7/21 9:00pm Woolly Mammoth Mainstage). I had some problems with this show... but there were some great lines and moments and although the play as a whole didn't work for me I was glad I went (especially when I found Mimsi had auditioned for it). My issues: I couldn't find the benefit (or even the connection) of all of the Hamlet lines. Things like the male "spam" beating up the female "spam", and the death of the expedition leader felt the most "Hurricane"-like of anything we saw this year. The show was too funny to be a drama, but too serious at parts to let you fully enjoy the comedy. It was too absurd to be a normal play, but also too normal to really be the kind of experimental theatre that I appreciate. All that aside, here were some of the lines/ideas that I did like: The elephants referring to Peanuts as "Golden Infinity Nuts", Eliot getting trunk slapped for joking that Asian elephants are better at math, "Privacy is something Americans want for themselves... but not for others", "Preventative Tuskectomies" (although here is where the drama/comedy line blurred to the point where I didn't know if this was a joke or a legitimate proposal! - research required), references to the Woolly Mammoth play about "the dysfunctional family" which fails to narrow anything down, the director coming up with the whole "Hamlet is dyslexic" thing and ostrich tipping, the hyenas as the office cleaning crew, and Mundy Spears portrayal of the Tall White Bird.

Well, I hate having to wait until next year for another Fringe festival but at least if the attendance and overall quality of the shows I was at is any indication Fringe should definitely be back and stronger than ever in year three...


jmc39 said...

Fringe baby, yeah!

Darren said...

Well Jon I'm glad you got the culture covered! I don't know if I will see some more Fringe or not. I Like the write up, and I think I totally agree with it.

Telecomedian said...

Have a good time in Africa. Can you bring me back a tsetse fly I can give to J-Lo as a pet?