Fringe Reviews – Day 1
I haven’t blogged for a few months because, I guess, the shit that has been pissing me off has gotten me down. I felt a need to recharge my batteries. They are mostly recharged and just in time for the Fringe Festival.
I try to review every show I see at the Fringe. This can be tough because I see shows by a lot of friends and sometimes, I don’t enjoy them. Which sucks.
But the thing is, it is all opinion so when I don’t care for a show, I’ll do my best to explain why I didn’t care for a show. Because criticisms aren’t particularly useful if there isn’t anything constructive about them.
In any case, it’s just my opinion. One noisy white dude on the internet who decided to write down his thoughts. So take my opinion however you would like. Use it or don’t. But I hope you go out and see a few Fringe shows because this Brigadoon of theater (yes I know what I just did there) isn’t around for very long and there is something for everyone. You just have to look.
Here’s what I did on day one!
I know everyone involved in this show and it is pretty much aimed directly at my strike zone. I’m about to start my 35th season at the Festival and I’m, you know, a nerd. The first scene was really strong and I was totally down for a Renaissance Zombie show. But it never really found its groove and it took me a while to figure out why.
I didn’t feel like the characters grew at all. They were freaked out by the zombies at the beginning. They were freaked out by the zombies at the end. The asshole was always an asshole. He didn’t learn. And the other two didn’t learn to cut him loose. I felt like the show needed to lean in to making fun of the Renaissance Festival, strange as that may sound.
The decision to do the zombie bits as shadow puppets didn’t work for me for a couple of reasons. It took the most dramatic and potentially scary moments of the show and rendered them a little toothless. The puppetry also needed to be better if it was going to be used. Too many characters being manipulated and not enough hands doing the manipulation.
I liked this concept so much and I wanted to like this play. The audience was, even for a Thursday 5:30 crowd, tiny. And that made a difference. When an audience isn’t getting loud and into the show like this, it can really mess with the energy of the show. It needed that energy. A more full audience that is more vocal would definitely help.
The actors did very well. This is a wordy show and Sara Bogomolny is tasked with playing several different roles. The three main characters have a LOT to say and Jason Kruger, Brynn Berryhill, and James Fairbairn were completely committed to squeezing everything they could out of the roles.
Even though I wasn’t sold on the show, I’d recommend it. I feel like a different audience would make for a better experience.
Wilhelmina and Theodore’s Exquisite Victorian Adventure
This show was produced by Fearless Comedy Productions and I am the Artistic Director of Fearless Comedy Productions. I had nothing to do with the writing of the show and the first time I saw any part of it was on opening night.
Now that I’ve gotten those caveats out of the way…I loved this show. The jokes were sharp and made fun of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, steampunk, the patriarchy, Stargate, History class, and a great deal more. Things were coming at me so fast, I was concerned the show was going to run over when, in fact, it landed at just around 50 minutes.
The casting on the show is really top notch and the choices for which actors played which characters impressed me a great deal.
I think if you are going to parody something, you can’t be shy about it. I mean, you can try to make sure people who don’t know the source material have a good time (I think they will) but you can’t pretend you aren’t making a parody. The writing team on this one did a really great job. So did the director. So did the actors.
So yeah, everyone did a great job on this show. I really enjoyed the hell out of it.
News flash! I don’t just write reviews of Fringe show, I also produce and write Fringe shows!
The Lunch bunch is my ninth collaboration with Jami Newstrom and this show was a hard one for me. I was trying some new things, I was writing a character whose voice was far removed from my own, and when I watched the source material, I realized The Breakfast Club isn’t all that funny. It has funny moments but it’s a serious film.
So I had to write a show that reflected that. And it had to acknowledge some things that happen in the original film that were not OK. I couldn’t pretend they didn’t happen so I had to deal with them. And ask myself what those things might have done to those characters.
The cast for this show completely nailed what I was trying to do. Our audience on opening night was fantastic. They laughed at all the right moments and one thing about writing dramatic work is hopefully getting your audience to laugh because they are more emotionally primed to cry.
I’m really proud of this show. But it’s my show. So it’s hard to judge fairly.
Frankenstein: Two Centuries
The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society has, for the last few years, produced live performances of classic radio drama that is some of the most compelling theater at the Fringe.
I know, I know. It is just actors (very good actors) standing in front of a microphone reading a script and that sounds super boring. Trust me, it isn’t.
This year, rather than reading classic scripts, two of their company (Tim Uren and Joshua English Scrimshaw) wrote original tales inspired by Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. To make the task more difficult, they each wrote the story in the style of a classic radio series. Because they are inhuman machines and I hate them.
Anyway, the scripts themselves, one more creepy and one more comic, were both great. The two different tones complemented each other well. The introductions showed a reverence for Shelly’s novel as well as the shows to which they were paying tribute. It was both a history lesson and really great theater.
So that’s day one! I’ll try to keep up. If you are Fringing, I hope you have a great time!