Fringe Reviews – Days 5 & 6
I have a lot of friends, old and new, who produce shows at the festival. I’m never sure how to review their shows because I would like them to continue to be my friends even if I didn’t like the show.
I try to remember that most people who write and produce work want to hear honest feedback because it helps them get better. When I wrote “Shroedinger’s Apocalypse” last year, I knew I was working far outside of my comfort zone. While I felt good about a lot of the writing, I also felt that it was an imperfect work and I really wanted my peers to help me explore what I could have done to write a better show.
All this is to say that I saw some shows by friends and I’m going to write reviews. The shows weren’t perfect, but they all had merit.
One of two shows that were sponsored by Fearless Comedy in this year’s Fringe. It was written by my friend Dave Walbridge.
I was familiar with a lot of the material in this show because it was pulled from scripts written for Big Fun Radio Funtime. The scripts were knit together with a loose story about two guys trapped in a radio station during a blizzard. To pass the time, they read a bunch of old radio scripts they find lying around.
The radio scripts themselves were good, although I think the presentation was a little bit rushed, especially given the actors were playing multiple roles. I had no trouble following the scripts because I knew them intimately but establishing the different character voices might have helped audience members who weren’t already familiar with the material.
I found myself wanting to know a more about the characters who were trapped in the radio station. The structure of the show really didn’t allow for any development of who they were or their relationship with each other. As such, there wasn’t a narrative arc to speak of.
In all, I enjoyed the show but I was never invested in the characters.
In style and execution, this show was nearly flawless. It is a musical revue show built around men singing songs that were written for women.
The singers were all very good. They were well cast, well rehearsed, and executed the show concept really well. Anyone who enjoys this kind of show will be highly entertained.
What I’ve discovered over the years is that I think this kind of show is…OK. I love musicals so it just doesn’t make any sense.
I think my central issue with this type of show is the focus on ballads. I enjoy a good power ballad but I grow tired of them quickly. A show that is 75% power ballad is too much for me. I like the big production numbers in musicals. I’m far more about “One Day More” than I am about “Bring Him Home.”
All that is personal baggage and there were a lot of parts of the show I enjoyed. Mostly the upbeat stuff. Which should come as no surprise.
Also the audition medley was a ton of fun.
So I guess what I’m saying is the show is perfect for the kind of person who likes this kind of show.
I have no idea why this show didn’t work for me. The actors were all experienced and very talented. They all have great comic timing and know how to get the best out of the written gags. The show was written by an experienced pro. Everyone executed the show very well.
But this comedy sketch revue show just felt like it was taking everything too safe. The jokes didn’t aim high enough. By that I mean, it didn’t feel like the show was aiming for belly laughs, it was aiming for chuckles.
There were a few segments that were very funny. I especially enjoyed the drug ad parody.
I’m going to note that the majority of the audience at the show was a lot more engaged than my companion and I. It is possible our response was, at least in part, a failure of expectation. Given the name of the show, we expected more of a Jane Austen vibe than we got.
This show is a re-mount but I missed the original production.
Most of it is laugh-out-loud-until-you-pee-yourself funny. Ryan Lear and Rachel Petrie are gifted comic actors who have absolutely fantastic facial control. Ryan had the greatest slow take in the history of slow takes in Four Humors’ “Lolita” last year.
Though there are some slow takes in The Finkles’ show that come remarkably close.
I appreciated the depth to the characters on stage. Yes, they were awkward and nerdy but they were also very charming. Underlying the broad comedy was a sweetness that endeared the audience to them completely. The show could have been all about the audience laughing at their ridiculous nature but in the end, it became a celebration of their enduring spirit. Kind of cool, that.
Because they are at the Bryant Lake Bowl, I expect they will sell out their remaining shows. They certainly deserve to.
This show was a Californian take on A Prairie Home Companion.
It featured music, that I really liked, comedy scripts, that I thought were mostly pretty good, and improvisation, which was not very good at all.
The improv segments, which were too long and only mildly funny, were the biggest problem with the show. They could have had an off night but I got the feeling that these folks weren’t the best improv performers to begin with.
Because there was a serious over reliance on what was, to me, the weakest part of the show, I walked out unsatisfied. The performers exhibited far more talent in other areas of their show and I was disappointed they chose to rely so heavily on something that was not their strong suit.
Again, they may have had an off night but what I saw didn’t convince me of that.
Full disclosure: I’m friends with everyone involved in this show.
When Bob first explained the concept of the show to me, I thought it was fun but feared it may not be interesting to an audience. I feared the whole thing could have ended up being pretty messy.
The evolution of the show from that first conceptual spark, though, really turned it into something more meaningful. By exploring the idea of typecasting and bias, he created a show that spoke to the audience much more than simply pulling some colored balls out of a hat.
What Bob did with this show is truly what the Fringe is all about. He had an idea and he gave it a shot. He made adjustments in the rehearsal process and the end result showed a lot of thought and promise.
It is not one of the best shows at the Fringe. But it is a very good show and one that rose above the initial concept in a delightful way.