Hog Riot! at Theatre of Arts @ Arena Stage
by Danny Rangel~
It’s not altogether surprising that a cast made up of teenagers and tweens wouldn’t hold much water in this year’s Fringe. Perhaps one day they’ll find themselves in a better vehicle for their burgeoning talents, but the unfortunately named Hog Riot! is not that show.
Hog Riot! chronicles a forgettable moment in American history: in 1825, residents of Manhattan were free to let their pigs run wild around the city. That is until the city council decides to rid the city of the meandering hogs by passing an ordinance banning the practice. This sparks a fury amongst a group of young girls working in a slaughterhouse, who then gather up the will and the outrage of the local populace and riot in the streets.
This is indeed a curious play, and not only because of the subject matter. The actresses are so young, so ready to be in the limelight that they often step on their lines to do so. Unsurprisingly, there is little intent in their delivery and their movement—everything seems frightfully unguided. Milan Learned, in the role of Abigail, submits a brief but elegant performance, one of the few bright spots. But the cast of Hog Riot! may need a few more years to work on their talents.
Hog Riot! plays June 25 at 2pm.
Group at Stella Adler
by Vana Dabney~
Group is an exciting new musical about a counselor, Dr. Allen, who starts an experimental therapy group in which 6 group members have to sing their feelings. The theory is based on the idea that music is closer to our emotions and gets us out of our heads enough to reveal ourselves, which ideally is where therapy can take us. The live band is addressed in a way that almost satires musicals that simply ignore that there is a band and even acknowledges the idea that it is strange to break out in song. After addressing that fact, the play wasted little time in getting to the group members’ serious issues, no doubt the most successful part of the play.
Group could have benefited by finding its own voice and musical style; instead it felt like it was imitating other musicals and current rock operas. However, the music and lyrics became more heartfelt and dimensional in the second act and the actors also seemed to really come into their own. Isaac Wade, as Dr. Allen, fearlessly shows his vulnerability as an actor and leads the well-cast and solid group to an emotionally successful finale. By the end, the audience had developed a true connection to these people and best of all, you felt like you knew them.
Group plays June 23, 24, and 25 at 8pm.
Booze, Boys and Brownies; A Musical Journey at Theatre Asylum
by Danny Rangel~
Veronica Mannion’s one-woman show, Booze, Boys and Brownies, is a hilarious look into the life of a struggling actress in Los Angeles. That sounds like plenty of other shows you’ve seen, but Veronica carries this show with a vivacious performance complete with some singing, some dancing, a slam poetry session and about fifteen different costume changes.
Veronica is a struggling LA actress, starving for work but also starving for love. We follow her through her various (and unsuccessful) adventures in romance and excursions in show business, and we laugh alongside her as things never really seem to fall into place.
A one-person show is always dangerous, easy to envision but hard to execute. Booze, Boys and Brownies is good enough to make one forget all that, as Veronica’s animated performance keeps us on our heels from start to finish. In a show like this, you need someone talented and vibrant enough to get you past the finish line. This show makes that look to easy.
Booze, Boys and Brownies; A Musical Journey plays June 26 at 2:30pm
Rock in Her Pocket at Theatre Asylum
by Erin Scott~
Rock in Her Pocket means that the Hollywood Fringe Festival finally gets fringy. Performer Alix Angelis and director Vincent Cardinale bring an experimental and edgy hour long work to life, to the surprise and delight of the audience. For an audience member, it’s always a little unnerving when the speech before the play not only reminds one to silence phones but adds that there will be a game, audience participation, and catharsis in the end. All this happened in a magical way that walks the ridgepole of humor and provocative dialogue.
The show makes bold choices in use of all theatrical elements. Lighting design uses color at choice times to create depth and an abstract element that the material calls for. Rock in Her Pocket also incorporates movement, audio, projection, song, and prop playing in a way that makes sense and drives the story along.
Rock in Her Pocket explores the difficult times a college undergrad goes through as she researches Virginia Woolf for a term paper and contemplates suicide-of herself and that of Virgina Woolf. Alix Angelis seamlessly moves from character to character, and the show questions what would one’s life be like the few days before attempting to end one’s life.
Rock in Her Pocket had its last performance for the Fringe on June 26
The Dumb Waiter at The Complex Theatres
by Marcus Kaye~
Presented in the round- right on the stage- director Landon Johnson’s production of Harold Pinter’s play, The Dumb Waiter, was unique, captivating, and at times, a little maddening.
Set in the basement of an abandoned cafe, Ben (Jordan Randall) and Gus (Kristopher Lee Bicknell) are two hit men waiting on their next assignment. With his type-A personality and word economy, Ben is clearly the one in charge and knows more about the job than he lets on to the charmingly aloof Gus. Randall and Bicknell are cast perfectly in their roles- wonderfully subtle and believable in such a close proximity.
Brilliantly designed by Matthew G. Hill, no detail is left out. The set (comprised of a bed, chair and dumbwaiter in the basement) and costumes are perfect for the period, and even the program is designed to look like an old-timey newspaper, effectively putting the audience right there with Ben and Gus. Coupled with being presented in the round, this is what makes The Dumb Waiter so maddening. As they wait for instructions on their hit, time passes excruciatingly slow and as tension rises on the stage, so too does the tension in the audience, who can’t help but share in the emotions of our hit men.
The Dumb Waiter played June 10, 11, 12 at 7:30pm, June 18, 25 at 4:30pm and June 26 at 8pm.
Pedestrian at Actor’s Circle Theatre
by Joel Elkins~
Sherry (Olga O’Farrell) and her husband (Ryan Moriarty) have a typical, nay stereotypical, marriage. He comes home from work, plops himself of the couch and plays video games. He forgets to empty the garbage, which she ends up having to take out herself. When she speaks, he listens with one ear and, by virtue of being a man, has no clue how to respond appropriately. What’s more, he doesn’t even seem to care. I was not surprised, therefore, to discover that the play was both written and directed by women (Rita O’Farrell and Mildren Lewis, respectively).
The one-act play takes place on one of these typical evenings after work, as things are dysfunctioning as usual. Two things make this evening slightly out of the ordinary, though. First, his sister (Natalie Ciulla) and her latest loser boyfriend (Kurt M. Peterson) stop by to drop off a virtual forest for the couple to plant-sit while they are backpacking through Europe. And, second, Sherry announces that, on the way home from work, she was flashed in the subway station. In further stereotypical fashion, the flasher was written as a black man (Nathan Witte).
Even this simple premise could have worked, misandry, racism and all, if done well. Unfortunately, it was undone by stilted dialogue and substandard acting. In short, a production that was, well, rather pedestrian.
Pedestrian has no more performances at the Fringe.
Porter’s Macbeth “A Parody” at Fringe Central
by Geoff Hoff~
The Porter at the gate of Macbeth’s castle, one of the minor characters in “The Scottish Play” (first seen when Macduff pounds on the castle door arousing him from his drunken sleep), has a desire to tell the story of Macbeth as the comedy it should have been. Seven figments of his imagination help him do so, with choreographed movement, song, slapstick and other shenanigans, using folding chairs as everything from beds to tables to stairs to rocks and mountains to weapons to sound effects, including Macduff’s raucous knocking. Of course, the tragedy of Shakespeare’s play keeps thwarting the Porter’s intentions, imposing a dark mood until he can drink enough beer to get control again.
He dispatches the first act of Willie’s script in about three minutes, then gets to the good stuff with witches and murder. Because of the superstition of ever mentioning the titular character’s name in a theatre, whenever anyone refers to him, they call him, “Lord Scottish Play.” Very funny.
The performers in this production are all first rate, with wonderful comic timing, great voices, both sly and slapstick chops and moments of really good acting, but the credit for the overall success must probably go to director Turner Munch, who stages this drunken fever dream with a surprisingly light hand. Special mention must also be given to Alex Hunter for what is credited as “Composer”. By this, I assume they mean the original a cappella music, but they may actually mean the script itself, which is otherwise uncredited in the program.
A tale told by an idiot, indeed. But what a delightful tale.
Young Hearts Alone on Stage at Lounge Theatre and Fringe Cabaret Stage
by Joel Elkins~
Debra De Liso runs a class through the American Academy of Dramatic Arts on developing one-person shows. Young Hearts is the culmination of this year’s class. Eight young actors have taken some aspect of their lives and have developed short 12-minute pieces based on it. By the time of the final performance, however, this number was down to five as one (Emily Opalka) had broken two toes during dress rehearsal, one (Ryson Sparacino) had suddenly developed hives, and a third (Shawn Paul Couch) was out of town.
The remaining performers, though, were up to the challenge. Mihui Kim started off the evening with a lovely piece called “Movie Night,” in which she acts out facets of herself depicted through various movie styles (Disney, chick flick, Korean drama, etc.). In “So You Want to Have a Baby,” Mathew Suhr confronts his fear of becoming a father by adopting the character of a cynical, sardonic life coach. In “Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover,” Tanner Anderson explains why he feels more comfortable playing basketball with homeboys than he does traveling in the privileged circles of his white-bread upbringing. Alyssa Van Veldhuizen offers a dark and ultra-serious view of her world in a piece called “Boxes.” Damien Siemer finishes off the evening on the complete opposite side of the spectrum with 12 hilarious minutes of scatological memoirs in “What a Load!”
De Liso has done a wonderful job with these kids, guiding them how to craft theater that is both true to themselves and intrinsically entertaining, satisfying to the performer and audience alike.
Young Hearts Alone on Stage has completed its three-performance run at the Fringe.