Fringe Reviews – Days 2, 3, and 4

AllegraMy Fringe attendance was a bit down over the weekend. Not only was I involved with the opening of three different shows, there was also Guardians of the Galaxy to be considered.

Fringe is a delightfully random experience at times.  Over the weekend, I found myself going to shows simply because they were close to the venue I’d be performing in next.  The result was a few gems and a lot of things that were…OK.

Here’s the reality of the Fringe.  Most of the shows are neither great nor awful.  Most of them are somewhere in the middle.

As a fellow artist, I have great respect for anyone who produces a show at the Fringe.  They are all aiming to produce something of merit and with very few exceptions, there is merit in everything that appears on stage.  Reviewing a show, for me, should be an act of encouraging them to get better rather than tearing down their efforts.

Trying and failing is something we’ve all done.  The best producers at the Fringe have failed.  At something.  I hope.  Otherwise they suck.

So I saw a lot of stuff that didn’t really impress the heck out of me this weekend.  And that’s OK.  If any of the producers read my reviews, I’m sure that you are happy with your show.  If you find something in my review that will help you with your next show, great.  If not, keep writing shows (if you want to) and remember that the best reviewers out there aren’t trying to tear you down – they are trying to make you better.

…which implies I think I’m one of the best reviewers and I don’t think that but anyway on to the reviews…

Fotis Canyon

It speaks to Mike Fotis’ amazing ability that a guy sitting at a table reading stories is always a must-see show.  He displays a deft comic sensibility that always impresses me.

It seems a little silly to say that this is one of his best storytelling shows yet because every one of them feels a little better than the last.  He engages the audience in his stories and digs deep to explore his own issues and challenges without ever losing his sense of humor.

There is a vulnerability inherent in the way he shares himself with the audience.  That vulnerability is, to me, one of the signs of a really gifted humorist.  And Fotis is, without question, a gifted humorist.

Mainly Me Productions’ Our American Assassin; or You Can’t Handle The Booth

Much like Fotis, Josh Carson has what seems like an effortless ability to write really funny shows.  Without exception, they move from punchline to punchline at breathless pace because there are just so many of them.

As an audience member, this can be a little frustrating because you don’t want to laugh too hard or you will miss the next joke.  I can’t beat Josh up for being too good at what he does, though.  That would just be obnoxious.

This particular show felt like it dragged just a touch in the middle.  As a friend of mine pointed out, though, Josh Carson dragging is a lot like the normal pace of almost any other show.

As always, Josh has some of the best talent at the Fringe on stage with him and the end result is a show that is nearly perfect.

Again.

I hate him.

Fireflower

I watched this show because the timing worked out well with my other shows.  I knew nothing about what it was about or the artists who produced the work.

The show is about a teenager who gets transported into an eight bit video game that looks suspiciously like a Mario side scroller.  Songs are accompanied by an eight bit style score.  So there’s definitely an 80’s nostalgia thing going on.

All of the performers were young and unpolished.  They weren’t horrible actors by any means but they were inexperienced and it showed.  The score was cute but it was sometimes hard to hear the lyrics (I know what that’s like).

My main critique would be the story.  It was a fairly standard hero’s journey storyline with a few 8 bit video game jokes thrown in.  The immaturity in story development was the reason I ended up being lukewarm on the show.

I was in some original shows in high school, though.  And they were not as good as Fireflower.  By that measure, this company shows definite promise.

Bang-Bang Miss American Pie

Boy oh boy.  I really didn’t like this show.

The premise is four archetypes sitting down to write a eulogy for America.  It is billed as a comedy but it isn’t funny.  It doesn’t work as a drama because I’m not convinced the playwright knew what she wanted to say.  If she did, I’m quite certain she didn’t know how to say it.

I’ll be honest that one of the reasons this play really didn’t work for me is a main character who is the stereotypical angry feminist.  Her character was offensive to any of the feminists I know, who are nothing like that.  I’m sure there are some women like her out there but there aren’t enough for her to represent all feminists.

She didn’t work as a parody of feminists, either, because her character was too earnestly serious.

The show’s pacing was slow and the dialogue fairly uninspired.  At one point, one of the characters was being chastised by America (who was a character in the show) and while I think I was supposed to side with America, I thought the character in question was a right and America was wrong.

The actors did their best but the script was what torpedoed this show for me.  It just didn’t hold together.

Simply put, if you have something to say, you need to say it.

From Here to Maternity

This show is a re-mount from Joshua Scrimshaw and Shanan Custer.  That information alone should be enough to sell anyone on attending.

I saw it in 2007 and while there were a few tweaks, the majority of the show seemed about the same.  That isn’t a critique of the material because there’s no need to spend a lot of time tinkering with something that already works.

Joshua and Shanan are gifted comedians and the only reason to skip this show would be if you have seen it before.  Even if you have, though, it is a lot of fun the second time.

Comic-Con Clue

As a writer, this show is in my wheelhouse (pop culture parody).  From that perspective, it fell a bit short.

The jokes were frequently heavy-handed (jokes about George R.R. Martin eating because he’s fat) and given the fertile ground being tilled, I felt they could have done more with the material they had chosen.

The biggest issue with this show was the fact that it lacked any sort of third act. Far too much time was spent on developing the theories for who could have committed the crime but once the culprit was revealed, the show just ended.  It was abrupt and unsatisfying.

Also, audience members were presented with a clue style sheet on which they could try to deduce the solution.  Problem is, there was nothing in the script that would have allowed the audience to deduce anything.  It was cute but a little bit dishonest.  My son was actually quite disappointed to discover the solution sheet was nothing more than a gag.

The acting was earnest if uneven.  A lot of stereotypes were substituted for depth but, to be fair, the script demanded nothing more.

I saw flashes of cleverness in the script but it just never came together and the ending was sloppy.  This show needed several more revisions.

The Genealogy of Happenstance

If you know Allegra Lingo, you shouldn’t need anyone to tell you to go see her show.

I’m going to tell you to go see it anyway because in all the years I’ve watched her, I’ve never seen her do better work.

While much of her work is deeply personal, there is a lot more vulnerability to what she is talking about this time.  She is sharing a journey that a lot of people have taken but very few of them ever talk about.

Because she knows that story is not being told, she takes pains to tell the story well.  And she does.

Really, this show is something special. Allegra nailed it.

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About Petsnakereggie

Geek, movie buff, dad, musician, comedian, atheist, liberal and writer. I also really like Taco flavored Doritos.

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