Dizzy Miss Lizzie's Roadside Revue presents The Oresteia at Church Street Theater as part of the 2009 Capital Fringe Festival
Though I still stand by my original thinking that one of the chief joys of Fringe is seeing theater in the raw, as it were, scrappy and imperfect in rough and ready locations – sometimes I have to admit that can hinder as well. Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue Presents The Oresteia, a funny and subversive retelling of the Aeschylus play, suffers from venue pains. Contained in the run-down Church Street Theater, it’s hindered by the confines of a proscenium stage. Despite the best efforts of a lively cast, the location really clips its wings. Chief among the venue problems is the sound quality – it’s plagued by bad miking that jars the ears and disconnects you from some truly great vocal pipes.
But, if you can get beyond that, there’s meat here. A lot of gusto in the retelling by company members Steve McWilliams (music) and Debra Buonaccorsi (direction), which takes the classic Greek tragedy pitting the old forces of matriarchal blood revenge against the new forces of patriarchal justice (or as my poker-faced drama professor called it, “the rise of the phallus”) and shakes it up with rock-n-roll, burlesque, and lots of profanity. The cast makes a valiant effort to get you in the mood upon entering, by busking cheap beer and flirting with the audience. But the theater’s not built to encourage much interaction and that’s a pity. Once the show starts the action is pretty much confined to the stage, and almost seems crammed in those confines. It erupts through in a couple of places where the gutsy singing just can’t be cramped.
courtesy of ‘LaTur’
I know some of our readers are regular and devoted Fringe-goers (as well as some performers). Those of you who are have no doubt already dug through the marginally painful Fringe Festival online database of shows, read every description, plotted out what you want to see and when you can see it, and come up with a schedule allowing you to fit in as many of your desired shows as possible.
This is not for you.
This is my reaching out to those of you who are sitting between “well, I’d kinda like to see what this is all about but I’m not sure…” and “huh?”
If you’re on the fence or not normally someone who takes in live performances I say this to you: Go. Take a shot. Live performance – whether it be theater, dance, or music – has a quality all its own and when it works it’s better than anything you can get recorded. The nice thing about Fringe is that, for the most part, even when it blows it’s still usually different and interesting. The fact that attending helps us keep a more vibrant local arts culture is icing on the cake.
I’ll do my best to point you at the resources to let you pick something that’s not a stinker. Let’s take a look, shall we?
I skipped it last year, but two years ago I had the pleasure of seeing the Gilbert and Sullivan Youth Company perform at Fringe. They’re back again this year and I have no doubt they’ll be just as enjoyable. You’ve only got a couple of hours to get to the Mt Vernon Place United Methodist Church if you want to hit their 5:30p show today but they’ll be there tomorrow at 2:45p and Sunday at 6:45p. It’s a good show and helps support and encourage some talented youngsters – the 2007 show featured players as young as 12.
Jason McCool as GL Mitchell in "Riding the Bull," photo courtesy Riot Actors of Washington
One of the chief joys of going to a Fringe Festival performance is the bare bones aspect. Sitting in the hot upstairs of a townhouse shell, a minimal set against peeling plaster and paint, no frills, no pyrotechnics, just actors and text battling it out for your attention. I love it. And when the acting is top-notch, there is no better joy.
“Riding the Bull” is a morality play about a rodeo clown whose naivete and greed bring about his downfall in aptly named Godsburg, Texas. Um, wait. A rodeo clown? Yes, this is a dark comedy complete with a banjo player, accents worthy of “Deadwood,” and even Elvis himself. Oh, and Jesus gets molested. Sorry. It’s Fringe, leave your squeamishness at the door!
Jason McCool is GL Mitchell, a clueless rodeo clown with an Oedipal complex a mile high and a repulsion/attraction to Lyza, played by Kate Debelack with a lusty grip on life and a habit for rearranging nativity figures into orgiastic configurations. Oh, she also can predict the winning rodeo cowboy on orgasm. All GL wants is to make his Mama happy, and all Mama wants is Elvis. The real one, who’s been hiding out in an insane asylum. Naturally. Continue reading