Friday, July 27, 2007

Fringe Experience: Part 1

Last night, my friend J and I went to see a DC Fringe Festival play, The Misanthrope, which was supposed to be a “modern update” of the Moliere play. A friend of J’s was going to be in this production, which is one of the reasons we picked that particular Fringe event to go to.

The venue was at a tavern in the Northeast quadrant of the city, in a “transitional” neighborhood – let’s say just like Logan Circle or U Street, circa 1995. (This reference will probably mean nothing to anyone outside the DC area.) Venue was located just down the street from a place called “Cluck-U-Chicken” . . .

So we go into this tiny tavern, which actually seems like a very homey-type pub. The place has a New Orleans theme with lots of red and black and Mardi Gras trinkets lining the walls. The play doesn’t start for another hour and we are starving, so we ask about their dinner menu. They are supposed to have several fine dishes of Louisiana cuisine, but at this point in the day, they only have a few sandwiches and some gumbo left. However, the barkeep raved about the gumbo, so we gave it a try. Of course, it was the worst gumbo we’ve ever had – watery and bland YET overly spicy too – but we were so hungry we’d have eaten anything at that point.

The room for the performance was up a winding flight of very rickety stairs. It was a cool small space though, with a small stage in front with a mike and speakers. Also on the teeny stage was a podium, a stack of TV sets and a recliner. Looked pretty low budget, but hey, it’s the Fringe! Anything goes!

There were about 30 folding chairs set up in the dark, tiny room. As 8 pm approached, the room was actually getting pretty full. As 8 pm passed, we were getting a little restless.

At around 8:15, a tall, dark-haired man walked up to the stage, stood at the podium, and started talking.

The story was thus: He talked about how 9 months ago he started to write an adaptation of the play, and was really excited, and then he broke his wrist. It took several months to heal only after which he could start writing. He finally finished a rudimentary script . . . then he had problems finding actors. He then finally found some actors, but then he couldn’t find any rehearsal spaces. Once he was able to find a rehearsal space, none of the actors’ schedules would mesh to have a full rehearsal, so he had to meet with each actor separately and run over all of the parts with each of them. While doing this, he found he was having trouble with some of the actors. For example, one of the characters gets strangled during the play, but whenever he would practice strangling the guy, the guy would always start giggling. Um, that wouldn’t do . . . so finally he gave up on the production altogether. He did however, want to share the story of what happens when you try to take a play idea and shepherd it to fruition and how sometimes that just doesn’t work out . . .

His whole monologue took about 25 minutes. When he was done, he walked off the stage and left the room. We all sat there wondering was this the end? Was it intermission? Shortly thereafter, the house lights went up and we all got up and either hung out in the bar area or, as J and I did, just left. (We then went to IHOP to eat because we were still really hungry after trying to eat the horrible gumbo.)

The thing about this is . . . the playwright’s little monologue was actually pretty entertaining. He acted out some of the scenes of the play he was trying to write. He was pretty personable. We laughed at parts. We all paid attention with the full sprit of the Fringe: withholding judgment, waiting to see how the experiment played out, going with the flow.

Plus the tickets were only $5: I’m sure if we paid more, there would have been bloody heck to pay. J is going to talk to the friend and find out what happened – when he told J about the play a month ago, presumably the cast was still practicing in good faith . . .

I can honestly say that was the most “Fringe”-type production I’ve ever been to, other than the costume-free Macbeth.

I am really looking forward to the Fringe play we’re going to see on Sunday . . . Nothing can surprise me now!


Virginia Gal said...

That's fringy alright! Glad someone is taking in the fringe festival, it seems I'll be missing it again.

CS said...

Wow, what a strange experience!