Day 4 Continued: Guns and Chickens

Another production out of CCM (don’t these kids study, or anything?), Guns and Chickens stands out from the rest of Fringe in it innocence. I knjow that sounds odd to say, particularly in a Fringe where we got a musical lecture in sexual technique from Ed Hammell, but Guns and Chickens is exactly what it seems to be: an intricately executed, movement-oriented children’s fable.

The main part of the fable was well-done, as was the subplot with the chicken, but the two didn’t really seem to come together in the way that I would have liked.

This is probably the tightest, best-rehearased large cast piece in the festival, and it’s probably one script revision away from being a top show in the festival. It’s well worth seeing.

Day 4 Continued: Body Language II

Another Fringe veteran, the True Body Project returns with a sequel to last years fringe hit. Body Language II: Phys. Ed. js a surreal lark through a nightmarish hybrid Physical Education/Drama class. Last year’s show focused on young women–this year takes the men along for the same trip.

The show is staged in a gym at the YWCA, and the location is used to great advantage. Just when you think that show is going to veer toward over-seriousness with a litany of statistics, it rights itself with a high-energy ending that delighted the crowd.

Allot extra time for this one. You’ll probably want to stick around for a bit afterwards. Trust me on that one.

Day 4: The Gayer Show

Well, here’s a show that doesn’t need any marketing help. The Gayer Show sold out its first performance… on a Saturday afternoon… on the second floor of a gay club. So, yes, this is probably going to sell out. Get your tickets now, if you want to see it.

You know, these guys deserve their success. They’ve been at Fringe repeatedly over the years, and the show is funny and closely observed. Even though it’s highly personal, you’ll probably find something to relate to. I certainly did (and, yes, I’m straight).

One thing that I would like to see, here, though. When Dan recited a quote from the Apostle Paul, illustrating a time when scriptures were used to belittle him and his sexuality, his performance took on real electricity. However, the duo spends much of the show reading their material. It’s not a devastating flaw, but this show has potential that could be realized by committing the material to memory and dramatizing it

With that said, there is a spirit of good will in the air at this show that you don’t normally get at theater.

Day 3 Continued: It Might Be OK

Seeing It Might Be OK immediately after Painted drew my attention to some obvious similarities between the shows:

  • Personal stories that are positioned as being from the actors, focusing on moments of personal challenge and/or pain.
  • Collegiate age performers, many of whom I have seen onstage at CCM.
  • Visually arresting images throughout.

While Painted definitely had elements to recommend it, It Might Be OK is one of the shows of the festival for me. Why?

It finds a style, a language of its own in the combination of pop songs and dances to create a topology of twenty-something psychology. There is a much a greater variety of personal stories, and It Might Be OK doesn’t attempt to create easy parallels between these personal experience and society-wide tragedies.

And, of course, the umbrella sequence is the most visually arresting image that I’ve seen this festival so far.

It’s reare to see a show with a cast this big maintain their energy throughout a full show–It Might Be OK is a great example of a fringe show that’s successful on every level that it attempts.

Day 3 Continued: Painted

Painted is one of the most visually arresting shows that you’ll see this festival, as it revolves around several performers dressed in all white as they mark themselves and each other with finger paint. The point is the pain that we inflict and that is inflicted upon each other.

The show is striking but I wanted more–the personal stories in the early part of the show pretty quickly gave way to more universal moments like the assassination of JFK, the Kent State tragedy, etc., and these elements felt tacked on. The show is about 35 minutes all told, so there was definitely room for more material. (The festival program suggested 50 minutes, so there has been some cutting here or something.)

There are some strengths here. I’d love to see a future iteration of it.

Day 3: No Stranger than Home

I’ve been using the phrase "review-proof" a bit throughout this festival, and No Strange than Home definitely fits that bill.

The show is made up of 10 closely observed stroies of travel abroad. There’s little to no theatrical artific–in fact, the writer/performer is telling these stories directly from her perspective, in her words, as herself. (This is something that I can say with some certitude, since I met the performer, Katherine Glover, at a festival afterparty early in the festival. This would suggest to wouldbe "real" reviewers–don’t go to the afterparties, unless you really want to have your takes colored by your interactions with the artists.)

The bigger question from a review perspective is: how do you review a show this personal? Aren’t you really reviewing the performer’s personality?

At any rate, the show suffered from the lousy attendance. The room at the Art Academy was sparsely populated with people, and I was the only one laughing at the jokes. You could feel the energy seeping out the room. If you go, sit in front. I know it’s a classroom, but it will be a better experience.

Day 2 Continued: The Terrorism of Everyday Life

It’s kind of nice to know that you have no influence over the attendance of a show. Ed Hammell (AKA Hammell on Trial) has his own following, has a show that generates its own word of mouth, and pretty much has it going on.

This is a brassy, loud, in-your-face show, an anarchist tour de force, balanced on perfectly between the glee in the simple pleasures (sex, drugs, and rock and roll) and the sadness and anger that everyday life brings.

If you’re not easily offended, find a way to scam a ticket and go.

Day 2 Continued: Incredulity

Incredulity is an improv show, which means prospective audience members fall into one of three categories:

 

  • People who hate improv. These people should stay away.
  • People who love improv. These people should see it–may be more than once.
  • Everyone else. These people should take note that the show is only 40 minutes and give it a shot if it fits into their Fringe schedules.

 

I’m in the third category. I have a fairly limited experience with improv, but it passed the main tests: I laughed pretty consistently, and I laughed really hard three times.

Day 2: Cemetery Golf

I started Thursday at Cemetery Golf, the first of the solo shows that I’ve seen.

If Fringe shows in general are difficult to review, solo shows are even harder since they tend to focus very tightly on one person’s experience. I really liked Cemetary Golf–but then my experience is close to the writer/performer, in that we both grew up evangelical in small towns. So, it likely shouldn’t be a surprise that I liked the production more than most of my group.

One thing that we did all agree on is that the performer/writer Jim Loucks nailed the characterizations. The script has plenty of humor in it, but it’s not set up to mock the religious character, even if Loucks doesn’t share their faith (and doesn’t expect you to either).

You’ll see many over-the-top shows at Fringe. This isn’t one of them. You should see it anyway.

Day 1 Continued: Empire of Feathers

It’s difficult to "review"Empire of Feathers, in that it’s exactly what you go to Fringe to see: aggressively experiemental work that pushes the boundaries of theatre and of conventional thinking.

Although it starts out with the actors talking to the audience, once the action starts, the play has a relatively linear narrative. Of course, advancing that narrative involves projecting images on the ceiling and behind the audience, the use of old toys and found objects, and some pretty catchy songs, and other performance tricks.

The tone? Think Dr. Suess crossed with Howard Zinn. It’s not for children, but they do a commendable job balancing the subject matter with the tone.Maybe they take the twist too far at the end…but you’d have to see it for yourself to make up your own mind about that.

My prediction for this show: it may or may not win any Festival prizes, but it will one of the most talked about of the Festival.