Tuesday, July 29, 2008

2008 Fringe Festival Experience – Part 4, 5 and 6

Subtle as a Brick to the Head: Ball and Chain – Journeymen Theater Ensemble

J and I went to this one last Wednesday night. It had been threatening rain that evening, but I had incorrectly surmised that it probably wouldn’t start until much later. I was terribly wrong – it poured down rain right before the show and I only had a scraggly little cheap umbrella to protect me from the elements. The rainstorm turned out to be the most dramatic part of the evening.

Ball and Chain consisted of five very short one act plays, all focusing on the subjects of love, marriage and relationships. I had high hopes for the evening because I had seen this company’s performance of Bartleby (from the Melville story) during the first Fringe festival and was quite impressed with what the scrappy group could do. Going into this year’s Fringe, they were coming off of a well-regarded season and I was rather excited to get to see them for cheap.

There were only two actors in this evening’s offerings, and after each short play they would move the sparse props around to set up for the next scene. The segments weren’t well written, and they weren’t very deep and so I was very disappointed. Luckily the whole thing lasted less than an hour, but afterwards I wished I had made another performance choice with my scarce dollars.

Written by a Hill Rat for Hill Rats: McSwiggin’s Pub – One Man Show

Mr. Random picked out this show for us to see together on Thursday. The guy who put together this one man show had worked with Second City for a while, but eventually got a job working on Capitol Hill. So most of the show consisted of a lot of Hill in-jokes which were really funny, but unless you knew that world – or watch a lot of C-SPAN – you would have sat there wondering what everyone else was laughing about. For example, you needed to know that a “Senior Legislative Correspondent” for a Congressman means just a step above “intern” and is a lot more gopher and glorified receptionist than anything. You also had to be able to recognize a dead-on Barney Frank impersonation. A lot of insider type stuff.

There actually were some tourists in the audience, which was awesome to see folks doing something so daring – especially since this venue was in a back alley in Dupont Circle, in a tiny artist’s studio. But a lot of the time they seemed confused by what people were laughing at, and I felt kind of bad. The show was really entertaining, but I would only recommend it for hardcore Hill folks and the people who love them.

Subtle as a Brick to the Head - Part 2: One for the Road – written by Harold Pinter

Sunday was the last day of the Fringe Festival, and I ended it by going to see this rendition of Harold Pinter’s One for the Road. This play was supposed to be a commentary on state-sponsored torture. The acting was amazing – the room was freezing, but one actor was able work up a major sweat during an interrogation scene – but all you took away from the play was . . . yes, torture is bad. Evil people are evil. Innocent people get hurt. But, um, we already knew that, and it didn’t have any nuance or complexity. Is all of Pinter’s work like that, I wonder?

2008 Fringe Festival - Final Summary

Thus ended my Fringe experience for this year. So I saw two excellent plays, one “OK, but fun” play and two uninspiring plays. I am glad that I got to see so many, but bummed that I was not able to see more. I didn’t get to see any “train wreck” plays like last year, when one guy didn’t even bother to put on a play but talked to the audience for 20 minutes explaining why the play wouldn’t work. There are also a lot more wacky, weirdo works that it would have been nice to experience, such as cabaret shows and more experimental/experiential plays. I’m just going to have to save up my money to buy an All Access Pass for next year!

Thanks for humoring my amateur theater reviews, everyone! The 2008-2009 theater season starts up in September, when I look forward to seeing a new set of Shakespeare plays. Hope you all are having a wonderful and exciting summer!

1 comment:

Virginia Gal said...

all I can say is interesting...