2018 Fringe Reviews – Day 2
Generally, the opening few days of the Fringe involve a lot of shows by people I know. That way I can front load with stuff I know I want to see either to support my friends or because I have a lot of confidence in the company who produced the work. Then I can listen to audience members and read reviews to find the shows I didn’t know about but should have.
There isn’t a right or wrong way to do the Fringe. At times, I’m just at a theater and decide to see what’s next. Sometimes, that decision is a great one. Sometimes, it is….I’m going to say less successful.
For day 2, I’m still watching the shows I already knew I wanted to see. But we’ll rapidly start transitioning to the experiments. And the experiments can be a lot more fun. Because you just don’t know what is going to happen.
I love everything about the concept of this show. A build your own space opera with live music that is also a choose your own adventure? I’m in.
Where this show had a little trouble was execution. I’m not talking about actors having trouble remembering lines because that happens in a lot of shows on opening night. The issue was the show really promised to be something with a lot more action and what took place on stage was really static.
I lost count of the number of times the actors formed a straight line across the stage and basically didn’t move from that configuration. The audience voted for “action” twice and the end result was something that wasn’t active. In a choose your own adventure, that is doubly frustrating because it feels like a tease. As an audience member, I was given a choice but the result of that choice isn’t what I thought I was going to get (note I voted for the non action option both times).
The actors were enthusiastic and grasped the silliness of the concept. I love the fact the cast was diverse and all women. I still love everything about the concept. I got lost, though, because the show needed urgency. It needed to feel kinetic. But (for me at least) it just didn’t.
I note that there were, apparently, some audio issues that may have caused some challenges.
Having produced a few radio plays in my time, the concept for this show is right up my alley. Tim Uren, Eric Webster, Shannan Custer, and Joshua English Scrimshaw present classic radio plays in their original format including music, sound effects, and commercials. That’s it. Aside from an introduction to put the plays in context, it may not sound like much.
But it is so good.
The cast is great at what they do and the choice of plays about Nazis was timely and smart. Watching the creative ways that audio artists solve sound effect problems is always a lot of fun for me (I want the tube they use to simulate a telephone).
The simplicity of the staging really allows the audience to focus on what this is supposed to be – a radio play. At times, I closed my eyes just to experience the audio free from the distraction of sight.
Talented actors presenting something like this with confidence really make all the difference in the world.
As a co-writer on this script, it feels odd to write a review for my own show but my involvement with the show ended when we finished the rehearsal script so as much as I was happy with the product, I had no way of knowing just how good the finished product would turn out to be.
The process for writing this show was a little out of the ordinary for me. Angela Fox came to me and Jason Kruger and told us she would like us to write a show using music she had written. So we needed to come up with a cohesive story that tied together existing music.
The process was great but I admit, I’ve never written a musical where the songs were not written with any sort of narrative in mind.
The end result, though, as directed by Jason Kruger, really moved me. As I mentioned elsewhere, I cried at my own damn show. Because the kids nailed it.
Yeah, I’m proud of what we did with the script. But 90% of what makes Next great is what happened in rehearsal. It was fantastic casting choices, good staging, and really nuanced performances.
So I’m telling you to go see Next not because I had any part of the development of the show. I’m telling you to go because it really is something special.
I don’t want to come off as hyperbolic but this show was perfect. I can’t just call it one of the best pieces of theater I’ve ever seen. It was one of the best works of art I have ever seen.
The show incorporates music, folk tales, history, dance, comedy, and tragedy to tell us the story of the Countess Bathory Erzebet, best known as the most prolific woman serial killer in all of history. Or is she?
This kind of show typically isn’t for me. I can recognize and appreciate the artistry involved but the theatricality is distracting. I’m so aware I’m watching a play that I can’t really connect to the play.
What Blood Nocturne did was immerse me in the experience. I was engaged. I wanted to know where it was going at all times. I was endlessly surprised. It used comedy to emphasize the depth of the tragedy. It used music to inform, evoke, and set the mood and tone.
I don’t really have all the words to describe what made this show resonate with me so deeply. But resonate it did. It is a great work of art.