Entertainment, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

Fringe 2011: hookups

I’m reviewing seven plays over the course of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, in collaboration with DC Theatre Scene. Get your Fringe button and join me!

hookups is about as naked as it can get at Fringe. A quintet of engaging actors make use of an air mattress and the barest essentials to create a series of vignettes covering every imaginable hookup through history and literature, all with a wry wink and a twist. It’s both cute and crass, like that girl dancing on the pool table you just can’t help but smile at even though you think she’s a drunken idiot. She is, but so are you, so get it on.

Starting off with the classic creeping-out-at-dawn hookup, writer Alexandra Petri’s scenes all have an undercurrent of dissatisfaction – there’s always one partner who either needs or wants to get disentangled quickly and painlessly. Even the Virgin Mary isn’t too thrilled with her situation, in one of the more subversive and very funny scenes led by director Laura Hirschberg.

The couplings get more bizarre as the play progresses, from the Frog Prince to an Arthurian menage a trois, even jumping into the Lincoln: Gay or Straight? debate. But it’s the pandas that steal the show, of course, in a hysterical scene detailing their woeful attempts to get the mechanics of sex right while being cheered on by obnoxious onlookers. Continue reading

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Fringe Beats the Heat

Photo courtesy of
‘morning water’
courtesy of ‘philliefan99′

Starting at 10am today, Fringe tickets will be cut from the usual $17 to $12 the whole weekend long, as a sweet special to help beat the excruciating heatwave our sins have brought down upon us. Promo code is BEATTHEHEAT, of course. It’s closing weekend and there are a lot of great shows still playing, so please help those performers out and go see the shows regardless of the sweat pouring down. Many of the venues are air conditioned, and those that aren’t, well, think of it as a communal steam bath of love.

In addition, the real heatwave banisher is the bottled water and vitaminwater now free at the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent to patrons as long as the temperature is over 100 degrees, which I hate to say looks like both Friday and Saturday. That free water saved my life last night. So go see some experimental theater, and don’t forget to hydrate!

Entertainment, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

Fringe 2011: Patrick and Me

Part of our continuing coverage of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, in collaboration with DC Theatre Scene.

Avenue Q asked the question, “What Do You Do With A B.A. In English?

Historian Anthony Cohen asks the audience a similar question, “What do you do with a history degree?” In his one-man Fringe show Patrick and Me he attempts to answer the question. Lost and unsure of what he should do after college, Cohen went on a cross-country journey to not only uncover a hidden part of history, but to perhaps uncover his own identity  in the process.

Unfortunately we are left as lost as he is in this “monologue.” Cohen doesn’t have the drama and the passion of a Mike Daisey, in the end Cohen is an academic and his one-man show feels like an hour plus long lecture- complete with power point slides.

Continue reading

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Fringe 2011: A Piece of Pi

I’m reviewing seven plays over the course of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, in collaboration with DC Theatre Scene. Get your Fringe button and join me!

There is no pie in A Piece of Pi.

I feel it’s necessary to point this out, because after all, there are clowns. So one might expect some pie-throwing with a show title like that. Or some mathematical musings on the nature of pi. But, there are neither. What you will find are three clowns having a hell of a time, and you will too. No really, you may actually be pulled up on stage for a contest of iron… will. Be brave!

Members of the Bay Area’s Pi: The Physical Comedy Troupe launch themselves across stage in leaping acrobatic feats of hilarious daring worthy of their clown college degrees. There’s “MONSTER STRONG” Jon Deline, whose fuzzy muscles are impressive but perhaps best appreciated when shimmying his coin belt, Continue reading

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Fringe 2011: Cecily and Gwendolyn’s Fantastical Capital Balloon Ride

I’m reviewing seven plays over the course of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, in collaboration with DC Theatre Scene. Get your Fringe button and join me!

True experimental theater breaks down the divide of expectations between performer and audience. Extroverts usually love this. Introverts, not so much. No surprise then that the long-form improvisation Cecily and Gwendolyn’s Fantastical Capital Balloon Ride positively delighted me. It’s like a sociological seminar on human nature, challenging you (ever so subtly) to actually be interested in the people around you.

Interested in your fellow audience members instead of the actors? Outrageous! The evening I saw the performance, one woman seemed almost hostile and offended by the nontraditional premise (though she may have warmed to it by the end). As your ears pick up on the whispering of Cecily (Kelly A. Jennings) and Gwendolyn (Karen Getz), circling round the perimeters of the theater, loopily costumed in Victorian crinolines, you begin to realize – they are talking about you. Get ready. Actual interaction can’t be far behind.

Long-form improv can be an incredible art. Jennings and Getz have got the requirements in abundance – with fearless intelligence and lightning quick reactions they mold the action into an intriguing hour, making random connections between people seem like cohesive observations about life. Well, they are. Each performance will be different (though I suspect there will always be at least one person unwilling to engage), depending on the mix of audience members, their backgrounds, and their willingness to share. Continue reading

Entertainment, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

Fringe 2011: Crave

I’m reviewing seven plays over the course of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, in collaboration with DC Theatre Scene. Get your Fringe button and join me!

Every heartbreaker eventually gets their heart broken. Cosmic justice, karma, the wheel of fortune – whatever you call it, the seesaw of relationships will always go from up to down and back again. But there’s a journey there, from paradise to hell and all the shades of grey in between. As Editors put it, “even an end has a start.”

Sarah Kane’s extraordinary play Crave dives into that ebb and flow, the descent from attraction to repulsion, the rise and decline of the chemistry that drives our desires. And above all, the fact that we cannot escape our pasts, that wounds don’t ever truly heal, and that maybe, just maybe, we don’t really want them to – that pain is more compelling than fulfillment.

There’s a fascinating field about micro-expressions, the almost imperceptible facial signals we give each other. One of those is contempt. It’s said that once a couple begins to express contempt for each other, however slight, that’s the start of the end. Each character in Crave goes through that kind of journey, from micro to macro until the internal rage is externalized. It should be riveting.

Unfortunately, Avalanche Theatre Company’s production of Kane’s play fails to go on that journey – it’s all macro. Continue reading

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Fringe 2011: Sanyasi

Rabindranath Tagore's Sanyasi is performed by Namayesh Productions as part of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival.

I’m reviewing seven plays over the course of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, in collaboration with DC Theatre Scene. Get your Fringe button and join me!

Can you ever truly detach from the world? From emotions, like heartache, greed, love? From the mundane, the pettiness of every day existence? Is this truly liberation, or is renunciation of the world a different kind of bondage?

The Hindu tradition of the sanyasi could be described in the simplest terms as a man who chooses to live an austere life, his actions detached from emotion and desire, as the final stage towards achieving moksha – liberation. It’s far more complex than just that, of course, layered with different meanings explored from the Bhagavad Gita onward. Performed by Namayesh Productions, Rabindranath Tagore’s play Sanyasi is an achingly beautiful work examining whether the spiritual desire for liberation and the essential need for love can co-exist.

Tagore was a profound Bengali poet/writer/scholar (the first non-Westerner to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, in 1913) and the words of Sanyasi have a haunting power. Continue reading

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Fringe 2011: The Malachite Palace

Wit's End Puppets production of The Malachite Palace at the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival.

I’m reviewing seven plays over the course of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, in collaboration with DC Theatre Scene. Get your Fringe button and join me!

Though there’s definitely an element of raunchy radicalism about Fringe, it’s important to remember that there are performances suitable for all. If you have a small child in your life, a sweet outing for you and them would be Wit’s End Puppets presentation of The Malachite Palace.

Combining both shadow puppetry and marionettes, this adaptation of the children’s picture book Alma Flor Ada is also bilingual, with dialogue repeated in both Spanish and English in a flow that’s natural and unforced. Four puppeteers and one actor voicing all the roles take you through a simple plot easily understood by children – a princess’s quest to discover if she can make a caged bird sing, while she herself longs to be free of the confines of her palace so she can play with the happy-go-lucky kids below. Continue reading

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Fringe 2011: Tactile Dinner Car

John Hibey as Chef in banished? productions Tactile Dinner Car. Photo credit: Kristian Whipple.

I’m reviewing seven plays over the course of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival, in collaboration with DC Theatre Scene. Get your Fringe button and join me!

For a crash course on what to expect from Fringe, you can’t do better than banished? productions mad avant-garde experience, Tactile Dinner Car. It’s a crazy sociological experiment playing by its own rules, smack dab in the middle of the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent. Learning what those rules are is part of the fun, as is the surreal discovery of the “a la car(te) menu” you’ll nibble your way through.

Parts of the world have caught up with these ideas, first presented in Italian Futurist F.T. Marinetti’s 1932 book of culinary mayhem La Cucina Futurista (The Futurist Cookbook), but some have surpassed it. Minibar this isn’t. Don’t go expecting amazing displays of molecular gastronomy, but you and your fellow “diners” will definitely be challenged and delighted by becoming part of the performance. I wouldn’t want to spoil the fun of discovery by describing anything in too much detail, however, so consider this just an amuse bouche.

Served up by “chef” John Hibey and “servertron” Keira Hart, their complete zany dedication pulls you in quickly as you gather round the dinner car (and yes, it’s a car, polished gleaming white). Within minutes, though you may be doing the ordering, they are the ones in command. The initial anarchy then settles down into pop-art clockwork. Continue reading

Entertainment, Special Events, The Features, We Love Arts

2011 Capital Fringe Festival

Photo courtesy of

courtesy of ‘erin m’

Last night I got tied up to two people. We were force fed food through a syringe. Several people ate bugs. A couple needed the Heimlich. It blew all our minds.

Welcome to Fringe!

Judging by the happy crowd buzzing through the heat at the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent last night, the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival is off to a great start. Now through July 24 you can enjoy (or not enjoy, that’s part of the experience too!) 18 days of over 100 risky productions by over 2,000 artists performing genres from theater, music, puppetry and dance. It’s chaotic, and it’s meant to be that way – anarchic challenging fun. Venues are spread out from the core in the Mount Vernon Square, with home base at Fort Fringe, 607 New York Avenue NW. Tickets are available in singles of $17 a show or in packs of 4 ($60), 6 ($80), 110 ($120) or all-access ($300). A Fringe Admission Button is required as well, a one-time purchase of $7 (kids 12 and under don’t need one, and yes, though Fringe can be raunchy there are shows for kids too!). There’s also plenty of free events and crazy people-watching at the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent, which serves as the hub with food and drink throughout the festival.

Last year was my first time really diving into Fringe madness, reviewing eight plays over eight days in collaboration with the fantastic folks at DC Theatre Scene. It was exhilarating, because whether I liked a production or not, every one pushed boundaries in that way only Fringe can. This year I’ve got seven plays over fourteen days to tackle. DCTS has assembled a team of 21 crack reviewers (or, we’re all on crack, depending on your view) to ambitiously cover every show, with reviews going up within 24 hours of opening. Fellow WLDC author Patrick Pho is also in on the game, and you’ll see our reviews both here and at DCTS. We’re ready for a fast and furious immersion into the world of experimental performance. So get your button and join us!

Based on what I experienced last night (the futurist food frenzy of the Tactile Dinner Car), it’s going to be one hell of a wild ride.