‘DC Fringe Festival Button, 2010’
courtesy of ‘[F]oxymoron’
I’ve seen five plays over the first weekend of the 2010 Capital Fringe Festival. It’s my first time completely diving in to what’s on tap with the festival – in years past I just went to a show or two – and the results have been theatrical overdose. What’s crazy to me is that I ran into people who said they’d seen twenty shows already. That’s dedication to Fringe immersion!
Normally with my theater reviews, I see a performance, let thoughts sift in my mind for a few days, and then write. But because Fringe shows have very limited runs, for this experience I’m posting as soon as I can and being as brief as possible. It’s definitely a challenge! With over one hundred productions to choose from and a rather chaotic schedule, Fringe can be overwhelming.
So let’s recap what I’ve seen so far, what I’m seeing next, and my recommendations for enjoying yourself.
In my Fringe story so far, I’ve been:
… Flashed by Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx in Washington Shakespeare Company’s Secret Obscenities, a twisted tale of Chilean dissidents cleverly disguised as a play about perverts, featuring quirky physical comedy …
… Seduced by femme fatales and Russian spies in Happenstance Theater’s Handbook for Hosts, an alluring recreation of film noir glamour punctuated with quick wit and a poetic wink …
… Alienated by musical Nazis in the College of Southern Maryland’s Darfur: The Greatest Show on Earth! Well, I didn’t like it. Some disagree with me. You can’t win them all, kids, that’s Fringe for you …
… Haunted by rage and loss in paperStranger’s chillingly beautiful Medea, a creepy ode to the ultimate woman scorned and her hellish fury …
… Drenched in sweat with Ben Egerman in Do Not Kill Me, Killer Robots, a sweetly odd one-man-show featuring cardboard cut-outs and hilarious drawings of a gynecological nature (review coming soon!).
Next up this week, I will see puppet theater, burlesque and a rave. Oh my. I wish I could see more!
As far as how to get the best out of your Fringe experience, I do feel that though I was grateful for the air conditioned, more traditional theater venues where I’ve seen two shows, I didn’t really feel the Fringe vibe until I ventured into Fort Fringe and the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar at the epicenter of 6th & New York Avenue NW. Though performance spaces there are hot and sticky, even with portable cooling units, that’s what makes them feel more risky. Found spaces like Redrum, where you are wandering up stairs and through an abandoned warehouse to get to the stage, just have more of that gritty guerrilla theater feel that makes Fringe so raw and alive.
With the overwhelming amount of choices, you could spend a lot of frustrating time on the Fringe website trying to narrow it down – but here’s my advice. If you just can’t decide from any of the reviews you’ve seen (DC Theater Scene has a huge matrix going which we’re collaborating with as well), go to Fort Fringe and get help in person. There are a lot of volunteers stationed around to advise you on what to see, and simply hanging out in the bar will also yield results. Pick a night you’re free, or head over this weekend for a day, and just jump in.
The beauty of Fringe is the very thing that turns some people off – the chaos. But just relax and give in to the madness. You may see some duds during your day of theatrical overdose, as I certainly did, but that’s part of the excitement of Fringe, showcasing the highs and lows of live performance – joining in the essential risk taken by those on stage.
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