Fringe Reviews 2017 – Day 8
We have reached the point in our Fringe experience where everyone is talking about show ideas for next year. Plans are being hatched and somewhere around ten percent of them will actually be entered into the Fringe lottery this fall. A smaller percentage than that will actually be picked and/or produced.
Right now, I’m being recruited to write no less than five Fringe shows next year. And I have ideas for three of my own. I don’t imagine my experience is much different from dozens of other artists.
Creativity breeds more creativity. The Fringe generates it’s own content as artists meet and mingle and come up with ideas they may never have conceived if left to their own devices.
I love the creative engine that is the Fringe. I have become a better artist because of the ways it has pushed me over the years. I never thought I would do a storytelling show. Or a dance show. Or a musical.
All of these things became possible because the Fringe allows artists to take chances on the cheap. You can succeed or fail big and either way, you come away with ideas for next time so you can succeed or fail all over again!
I saw three shows last night and while I wasn’t completely satisfied with any of them, they all gave me ideas.
While I think this was my favorite show of the evening, I was still a bit unsatisfied. I wanted to really feel the horror of the situation and I never got taken in. I also found the ending didn’t work. That the characters all reacted in the same way to the same experience simply didn’t make sense to me.
I actually found myself wishing the show had been presented as a radio play. The staging, I felt, detracted from the experience. There were long speeches filled with exposition, actors playing multiple characters without sufficient delineation between them, and a lot of rather dull scenes that preceded the moment we understood the nature of the threat.
The staging was, at times, very interesting and I think that the inclusion of live accompaniment helped. I feel some additional sound effects might have helped create more of an immersive environment. I also feel that more could have been done to make me connect with at least a couple of recurring characters.
I don’t feel this show was a failure but I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted more. I wanted to be taken in to the situation and I always felt held at arm’s length.
I think the acting in this show was some of the best I’ve seen at the Fringe. Much like “The Last Bombardment,” though, the horror elements of the show left me unfulfilled. I think the issues were with the text more than anything.
For me, horror needs to create a sense of increasing danger and the characters should understand that danger. By the time the nature of the threat was perceived, it was too late and the remainder of the show was given over to an outcome so inevitable, we were left to merely wait until it arrived.
As I said, I think the cast was very strong and Lana Rosario has some especially heavy lifting to do late in the production. I think the staging was also pretty strong with my main complaint being the amount of action that took place on the floor. Sitting in the back row, I could see almost none of it.
That complaint is more on the limitations of the space, which it is hard to know ahead of time. The overall work of an inexperienced director was very strong.
While both shows left me unsatisfied, they both inspired me because I think horror is really hard to do on stage and I’d really like to give it a try. I mean yes, the Twin Cities Horror Festival is all about doing horror on stage. It is clear such things are difficult to do well and I have no fantasies that my first attempt would be stellar.
But seeing these two shows and feeling they had the potential to be great made me ask myself how I would approach the same problems. Which helped me recognize the challenges such material presents. Which made me appreciate these two attempts a little more than I had before.
I have several friends involved in this production, including the writer/lead actor.
That makes me wish I could come up with some way to say I liked the production. I thought the performances of most of the actors were strong.
One big issue (though there were many), was in casting the writer as Obi-Wan Kenobi. Having someone inexperienced playing the lead was a huge problem. As a script writer, it is frequently important to think about whether or not you should play anyone in your show. Most of the time, the answer is “no.”
Because this project is clearly a pet project, I don’t think he could let go of the part and the result is the central character of the piece is the weakest link. At one point, he forgot his lines and dropped character to apologize to the audience. That’s tough to get past.
The rest of the show had some fine performances, especially Matt Saxe as emperor Palpatine. But it was too talky and disjointed. Mostly it was some sort of alternate take on many of our favorite characters that had no payoff.
R2-D2 and C3PO talked about how droids are basically slaves, but there wasn’t any payoff. There wasn’t a call back.
Basically, there were too many theories. The show needed to focus on something and stay focused on that thing. It needed to cut back on almost verbatim reenactments of scenes from the films we all knew by heart. Adding two or three lines to change the subtext of the scene didn’t add enough to justify their inclusion.
I don’t think this play succeeded but hell, it swung for the fences. The biggest problem is it was swinging for all of the fences instead of picking one.