Fringe: “Freakshow” and “Bare Breasted Women Swordfighting”


Over the weekend I caught three shows; One was Riding the Bull, which Jenn already reviewed. The other two were Freakshow and Bare Breasted Women Swordfighting. I enjoyed both overall, but both had some issues.

Freakshow’s problems were 100% venue-related. If you haven’t partaken of a Fringe show or just haven’t been over to Fort Fringe, the Fringe powers that be have set up a large tent in the outdoor area next to the former AV Restaurant. It’s a colorful and fun space and a neat idea.


The tent also houses the bar; in fact you pass through it to enter the performance space. Like most bars, keeping the noise level consistently down below a dull roar requires divine intervention. Fringe’s direct line to the almighty is just as flawed as anyone’s, and consequently the noise spills through at random points. At several points I found myself leaning forward and straining to hear. Freakshow’s last performance is this Thursday at 6:30pm, meaning most of the 80 minute performance will overlap with the last hour of Fringe’s happy hour.

Unfortunate, because the show is worth your time. Andrew Mitakides has an intense stare that makes you instantly believe he could be the barker and head for a traveling freakshow around the turn of the century and Allyson Harkey wonderfully inhabits the armless and legless Amalia, only out of our sight briefly during the entire show. Personally I’d have had to itch my nose long before the hour and a half had passed by. Everyone else is similarly good, though poor Edward Daniels doesn’t get much to do as the feeble-minded “Pinhead” character. If the end falls down at all it’s in trying a little too hard to create some sense of closure. We come in with a situation already set, albiet in transition – I wish the playright had trusted us to walk out with the same sense of continuinty.

Bare Breasted Women Swordfighting, on the other hand, had a fine venue but I had some serious problems with the content.

Here, let me answer the question about 2/3 of you are asking: yes, there’s actual bare boobs and no, that wasn’t my issue. If that question is all that’s keeping you from the show, head on over.

My problem with it was that I felt like there was an uncomfortable amount of misogyny in the production that never gets condemned or shown to have any consequence. Is that the point? I don’t know. The bits I found skeevy never intersect with the nudity in the show. Is that deliberate or because I don’t find anything inherently sexist or objectionable about the naked form?

I do have a problem with beaten women, however. So when the Amazing Rubber Woman demonstrates her ability to bounce back from the physical punishment dished out by one of the performers – dressed up as a man – I couldn’t just enjoy the staged violence without wondering where exactly it was going. Which was, apparently, nowhere in particular – it simply concludes like any other vaudeville act. Same for the comedy routine, which had jokes that would make Andrew Dice Clay reach for his notepad.

Was it meant to make me question the entire work? Am I supposed to simply turn off those concerns and enjoy it as light fun? I’m not sure. There’s plenty of other things to like and enjoy. Chairty Pomeroy as the announcer has fantastic presence and is a wonderfully saucy and energetic ringmaster. Becca Bernhard and Rachel Grossman back her up during her announcements almost entirely wordlessly and do so fabulously. When they take their place as the actual swordfighters in the last act they’re  stunning to watch. Their swordplay is similarly enjoyable. *cough*

I’m glad I caught it, but it left me with more questions than answers. Perhaps that’s the point.

Freakshow will run once more on July 23rd in The Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar at Fort Fringe
Bare Breasted Women Swordfighting will have 5 more performances between the 22nd and 26th at Source Theater

Well I used to say something in my profile about not quite being a “tinker, tailor, soldier, or spy” but Tom stole that for our about us page, so I guess I’ll have to find another way to express that I am a man of many interests.

Hmm, guess I just did.

My tastes run the gamut from sophomoric to Shakespeare and in my “professional” life I’ve sold things, served beer, written software, and carried heavy objects… sometimes at the same place. It’s that range of loves and activities that makes it so easy for me to love DC – we’ve got it all.


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