Let the Fringe Begin!: One Fringe Friday
From the Audacious to the Absurdly “Austen-esque”
And a Pre-Fringe Recommendation
30 Minutes from Om - Half and Hour from MO
Theater relies on “the willing suspension of disbelief” and one of the joys of the Fringe is that audiences willingly suspend their usual expectations. The Fringe serves to showcase small groups, with big ideas and limited budgets, who aim to challenge a wider audience than they might draw on their own with their non-traditional theatrical concepts. If you can temporarily unhinge your “Huh?” reaction, 30 minutes from Om - Half and Hour from Mo, by Tim Sawicki, and directed by Mindy A. Beers (the Cardboard Collective’s production at this year’s Fringe), makes an intriguing and thought-provoking offering. Sawicki’s piece, ably acted by Matt Dell’Olio, Julie Gorham, Shannon Runion, and Griffin Stanton-Ameisen, explores the dangers and responsibilities of decision-making. In his abstract world, Calliope, is a “has been” classical music conductor and the fate of humankind rests on whether he can achieve artistic perfection or not. Either way, the world will be changed. As I said, “Huh?”
The production is well mounted, with a talented cast and director, wonderfully bizarre music, and vocal stylizations by Alyson Gaul, Daniel Little and Tim Sawicki. At the Pageant: Soloveev Gallery, September 1,2, 6-9 and 10. Contact the Fringe Box Office for more information – www.livearts-fringe 215-413-1318.
Austentatious - No Pride and Extreme Prejudice, The Musical
A new musical by the 11th Hour Theatre Company, directed by Megan Nicole O’Brien. Book by Matt Board, Kate Galvin, Luisa Hinchliff and Joe Slabe, Music and Lyrics by Matt Board and Joe Slabe
For those who love Jane Austen (and even those who don’t) Austentatious gamely presents what happens when sloppy amateur thespians strive to represent the mannered world of one of Britain’s most precise and subtle British authors. Cut from the same ilk as the mechanicals in Midsummer Night’s Dream, a community theater group attempts to stage a production of Austen’s novel that somehow includes an ocean voyage, tap dancing at Broadway and 42nd Street, and the repeated threat of clogging on Amsterdam’s canals. It makes very little sense and relies heavily on the stereotypes of community theater that were so brilliantly satirized in Waiting for Guffman. The premise here is that if Hollywood and television triumphed with Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, community theatre can, too. It’s an original concept but you are left wondering if the 11th Hour Theatre Company’s energy and talent couldn’t have been used for better material.
Musically and as a script, the show seems too ambitious for its slender joke. Megan Nicole O’Brien does her best to keep the insanity alive. The company sings and plays with a verve and enthusiasm that Miss Austen (preparing for a ball) would appreciate. Kim Carson as the Stage Manager who just loves her job, Robert McClure as Dominic the incompetent yet “feeling your pain” director, Mathilda McCommon as the overweening writer who seems to be channeling Martha Graham, and Justin P. Klinger as the actor inspired by mind-altering substances all have wonderful moments and I look forward to seeing the entire talented company again. But the show needs either an intermission or a major edit to not wear out its audience.
At the Society Hill Playhouse, September 1-16. Contact the Fringe Box Office for more information – www.livearts-fringe 215-413-1318.
A Live Arts Pre-Opening Recommendation:
“Low” Should Rank High on Your Live Arts Fest List
In March, I attended Humana Festival - The Actor’s Theater of Louisville Festival of New Plays, the 30th anniversary extravaganza, and “Low” was on my list of productions I particularly liked. Here’s what I wrote about it in April:
written, produced and performed by Rha Goddess
Directed by Chay Yew
This one-woman show examines the plight of an inquisitive, opinionated and passionate, black teenager whose descent into homelessness, addiction and madness is almost predetermined by the schools, social agencies, and economic assistance in place to help her. Performed in rap , hip-hop, dance, poetry, and exceptionally fine acting, Rha Goddess manages to make an individual’s plight universal and reminds us that we are all the victims and the perpetuators of the system.
Don’t miss this new voice of the American theater – she’s extraordinary!