Fringe Reviews – Day 4
I know a lot of people who create a Fringe schedule and stick to it. Planning on seeing a show everyone has told you is bad? It’s on the schedule! Turns out there is a show that you hadn’t heard of and it’s really good? Too bad because it’s not on the schedule!
I don’t want to harshly judge that plan because if it works for those people, that’s great. It is how they do Fringe.
My technique is typically to plan each day as it comes. Look at the schedule in the morning and make decisions. And if I can’t make up my mind about a particular slot, go to whatever is closest.
Choosing a random show is what I call “fringe roulette.” You don’t know what you’ll get. Sometimes it’s spectacular. Other times it…isn’t.
I played a little Fringe roulette on Sunday. The results were not great. But that’s the way Fringe roulette goes.
I’m currently working on an idea for an escape room show for a large audience. Escape rooms are typically for about 3-10 people and I want to write it for 150. As a result, I’m going to a lot of things with escape room themes.
This show, about four people in an Escape room that has a lot of puzzles requiring people to answer embarrassing personal questions, was a little bit of research for me. At least that’s what I told myself.
The show wants us to laugh at how the escape room operators are airing the dirty laundry of these characters – a couple that has been together for a while and a couple that has been together for a few weeks – but it just wasn’t all that funny. I know Fringe shows are only an hour long but if you want me to care about the characters, you need to make me care about them before you start damaging them.
One character also bore the heaviest burden of blame in the show. Virtually every embarrassing reveal was for the “new” character. The one the others didn’t already know.
That’s boring. Of course she would have the most embarrassing secrets since the others knew each other already. Better to have the people who know each other be the ones who had the most damaging secrets.
Escape THIS has good performances but I feel that the characters weren’t really given any opportunity to be interesting. Which is a shame because the basic concept was interesting. It fell down in execution.
If the title plus the show image is giving you an idea of what kind of show this would be, you are almost certainly exactly right.
This show is a broad comedy in which there are a lot of deaths, a lot of strange bible verses, and a lot of flashlights. I like the show a lot but there were a few obstacles that kept me from loving it.
First was the volume of some of the actors. I just couldn’t hear their lines. Second was the use of flashlights for a lot of scenes. From the front of the house, the audience could probably make out a lot more. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see much at all. I feel like there needed to be a blue wash whenever characters were using flashlights. Sometimes there was a dim wash, but it needed to be a bit brighter.
And there were times the show slowed down with a lot of dialogue that felt extraneous. Where Escape THIS made me care about the characters, I don’t really want to care about characters in a parody of a slasher film since you are going to kill them off anyway.
But – the show is silly. And not as sacrilegious as you might think (which isn’t a problem for me anyway).
The show we’d planned to see sold out so we ended up here. Fringe roulette achieved! The result? Well….
Basic premise of the show: Three one act plays in which there is a waiter, an agent and an actor. They are all about addiction. Each play is written by a different writer but the same three actors are in all three and they switch roles.
OK. Fine. The result was…kind of awful.
I feel like I could get any three people I know who write plays to sit down and write this show and they would manage to come up with three scenes that were different. This show had three scenes that were, basically, the same. Actor is addicted to something (cell phone, gambling, alcohol) and pissed agent can’t get them work. Agent basically tells actor “I can’t get you work because of your addiction.” Actor says “it’s not my fault you can’t do your job.” Waiter mentions that they act (ha ha). Conversation goes around in circles for another ten minutes.
The blocking was also the same for all three. Two people sat at a table and the waiter showed up every now and again. They hardly stood up at all.
So for an hour, we were watching two people sitting at a table having the same conversation.
Addiction is a serious issue and whether you are writing a comedy or a drama about it, it deserves better treatment than it received here.
Let me begin by saying this show image is absolutely amazing.
John Heimbuch, who is one of the most gifted playwrights I know, performed this solo show but it was written by Charlie Bethel. I don’t know Charlie but he recently passed away and John wanted this show to live on.
It’s a great show. And Charlie’s writing is great. It retains a lot of the lofty language of Beowulf but somehow manages to make it accessible. It is dramatic and grand and uplifting and funny and scary and sad. All the things a great script should be. So I understand why John was so drawn to it.
But I need to reserve some praise for John. Because great writing is nothing without a great performance. And John, fully committed in both body and voice, sold this show.
He has some history as a dancer and that makes his movements powerful and dramatic. As he shifts characters, you can see that he is not playing the same person in the way he carries himself and the way he speaks. He is, not to put too fine a point on it, damn good.
I would go see this show again. Props to John for wanting to keep Charlie’s work alive. But props also to him for recognizing that he needed to bring something special to the show to give it a chance. He did.
Monster Science is Matthew Kessen’s brand. He is very good at it. One could criticize him for coming up with a concept in which he simply reads from a book, both educates and amuses with tales of monsters, and puts together a deck of mostly hilarious power point slides.
The only reason one would criticize him for that, I imagine, is because one is pissed that he thought of it first.
You shouldn’t be though, because I can guarantee if you thought of it first, Matthew would still do it better than you. His deadpan delivery is the key. The way he treats everything like a real lecture and he includes real information as if he could somehow help you become a vampire.
And I believe if anyone could, it would be him.
For Fringe, Matthew has added an assistant (Elora Riley) and if I have a quibble with the show, it is that this addition just isn’t quite solidly integrated into the show yet. The exchanges between Elora and Matt sometimes slowed the momentum.
I liked the add, mind you. And I think it can only get better. Because what Matt does is, all on his own, really great. But I appreciate that he looks to evolve his show into something even grander. This addition may not have been perfect. But I still liked it a lot.
Man’s Guide is not a show in the tradition sense. It is a series of conversations about important social topics featuring diverse panelists. The talk I attended was supposed to be about gender, sexuality, and intersectionality.
Host Scot Forelich, on the advice of his panelists, opted to change the conversation based on the fact two mass shootings had occurred in the previous 24 hours. So the conversation still touched on gender and intersectionality but it ended up focusing a lot more on race and societal oppression.
If I have a critique about this show, it is only that one hour is not long enough to have these conversations. I wanted more time to hear what these panelists had to say because it was important.
It is good Scot is giving these people visibility and amplifying their voice. I’m glad I went. If anything, my disappointment came from the fact that I had to leave.
Our third performance at 10:00 PM on a Sunday. Not a great time slot. But the audience was of decent size so that was nice.
I had a couple of friends whose opinions mean a lot to me tell me how much they enjoyed the show afterwards. That was nice to hear because this show was a challenge for me to write. There are a lot of reasons for that but one was because I had decided to make one of my characters transgender.
That isn’t a spoiler. You find it out in the first five minutes of the show.
It felt right. In watching The Breakfast Club, I heard a lot of language that I’d heard from friends who are transgender. So I made the character transgender.
I had never written a transgender character before and I’ll be honest, it scared the shit out of me because I didn’t want to get it wrong and it isn’t my story. Fortunately, my director and the actress playing the role are both transgender and were willing to give me honest feedback on where I needed to go with the character.
I’m not going to say I got it right. But I do believe I got it less wrong than I otherwise could have.
Two more performances of this one to go! 8:30 Wednesday and 7:00 on Saturday!