Fringe festival conquers city, proclaims benevolence

Thursday marks the opening of this year's Fringe festival, a theatrical orgy of more than 800 performances of 160 productions, wrapping up (sweaty and exhausted, one presumes) on August 9. As usual, it would be sheer madness to try to encapsulate everything on offer, but a number of shows have elbowed their way to the part of the field labeled "of interest."  In no particular order:

"Squawk": Walking Shadow is coming off a hit with "Robots vs. Fake Robots," and this rising small company brings appropriate oddball weirdness to the Fringe. It's a tale of an elite military intelligence organization, and a penguin. I always knew those feathered bastards were treacherous . . .

"Something Witchy": Partizan Theater presents a story taking place sixteen years after the Manson murders, with a former "Family" member haunted by her past. Written by James Vculek and with a cast including Catherine Johnson Justice and Chris Carlson, this one should be smart, dark, and intense. 

Something Witchy

Something Witchy

"Oops!": A gay man and a straight woman, in a presumably atypical moment, do the thing in which we reproduce. And she does (get knocked up, I mean). I heard some positive buzz about this one from a Fringe preview, and it mixes comedy with drama (both elements being absolutely essential when pregnancy and childbirth are involved).

"Two Short Operas: Mr. Berman's Bath-Size Bar and There's a Mastodon in My Backyard": Yeah, opera, rendered Fringe-style: in English, with comedy, performed with the energy of youth. Local composer Stephen Houtz, um . . . composes. 

"Thrower of LIght": The description of this dance piece by Cathy Wright promises "tales from the hidden corners of the human psyche," which, for my money, is pretty much what it's all about. Wright blends movement, film, and sound to apparently dig deep into the latent centers of the collective cranium. 

"Slow Jobs: Servicing America for $12 an Hour": Curt Lund and Laura Bidgood return to the Fringe with a spoken word comedy about wage slavery. Most of us have been there; most of us know that it was funny, except for most of the time, when it wasn't at all. But there's a good chance this show will pull out the funny bits and help you forget the drudgery.

"Strong": Dominic Orlando's play for the New Theatre Group is a new crime story in which three characters grapple and parry with the squishy bits of their past. Orlando has an acute yet somehow sprawling voice, and this company puts on stuff at the Fringe that has made me squirm in discomfort. Which is, needless to say, a hearty recommendation. 

"This Show Will Change Your Life!": This comedy, with David Mann and Scott Jorgenson, is apparently for the poor, depressed, and friendless. It promises to make you rich, over-sexed, and immortal. Which all of us are already, of course, but it never hurts to check in on how the other half lives.

"Comedy Go!": An ace improv offering, in which a couple of jokers from the Brave New Workshop who call themselves Ferrari McSpeedy explore the yang of improvisation to the yin of sketch comedy. Joe Bozic and Mike Fotis are funny, funny men. 

So I've tried to point you in the direction of some worthy shows, and even after all that, I've probably missed the best one of the year. The Fringe is like that: it's big, it's full of outlandish creative energy, it's an experience. 

If you've had a hankering for some theater this year but haven't made it work, get out there this weekend. Single tickets are $12, and there all all sorts of multi-pass deals. The shows are all an hour long, which you can fit neatly into a night of elegant city-hopping. Bottom line: there is a universe of performance out there between now and August 9. Remember what makes this city worth enduring the winter doldrums. 

Other stuff:

The Jungle is remounting "The Syringa Tree." I didn't dig the script the first time around, but Sarah Agnew is always worth the price of admission, and seeing her work in a small space is a clinic in the bond between performance and reality. 

And we have two quite solid musical biographies playing simultaneously, "Always . . . Patsy Cline" and "Ella." If you're a fan of either, go see them. They are good. If you don't understand why anyone would like their music, well, you might be seduced, but you might not. 

Over and out.

In Another's Size

In Another's Size