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Fringe 2011 – Day Six – Tuesday, June 21

by Vana Dabney~

100 Saints You Should Know, tremendously directed by Lindsay Allbaugh, and solidly written by Kate Fodor, explores the loaded and already well-covered topic of the Catholic’s church’s stance on homosexuality. But, luckily, the play goes much deeper than that and covers this delicate subject in a way that almost anyone can relate to: by bringing a gamut of perspectives, one of which is bound to be relatable. It doesn’t try to answer any questions; it simply leaves the audience thinking about human needs in relation to our concept of God, especially the inherent need for unconditional love.

The play is about two very different families, the unreligious Theresa (Cheryl Huggins), single mother of the angst-ridden teen Abby (flawlessly played by Kate Huffman) and the Irish Catholic Colleen (Pamela Roylance), mother of Matthew (amazingly acted by Brendan Farrell), a priest forced to leave the church to sort out his sexuality. The families are brought together when a neighborhood accident involving the naïve Garrett (convincingly played by Marco Naggar), forces them to look at their own beliefs and brings the characters, along with the audience, to a new understanding of how we think about religion in our evolving times.

There were some moments where subtext became heavy-handed and phrases repetitive, but overall a well-crafted play, amazing cast, and beautiful set and sound design.

100 Saints You Should Know plays June 19 and 26 at 7pm and June 24 and 25 at 8pm.

Honor and Fidelity: The Ballad of a Borinqueneer

by Tracey Paleo~

So vibrant, so passionate and so complete in love and remembrance. Tanya Perez is captivating and vivacious in her one woman show, Honor and Fidelity, dedicated to her Puerto Rican family history.

What begins as a vehement pleading with an airline agent to educe late boarding on a flight to her parents’ home-land, becomes, all at once, a rapturous, melodic, tale of music, memories, love, loss and reconciliation.

Honor and Fidelity is completely unique in its multi-dimensional presentation featuring, on screen imagery and live music, gently and beautifully played by the talented Carlos Cuestas hailing from Bogota, Columbia via the concert halls of Alice Tully and Avery Fisher of New York City.

This performance had me often in tears of joy and sadness reliving the memories of visits to Old San Juan, listening to the soft dialect of elders recounting days gone by, lively dance and eating rice and beans at The Hibero. Ms. Perez is powerful and spontaneous, a theatrical delight in every way in her portrayals of her mother and father, her grandfather, his optimistic military buddy and especially of her grandmother, falling in love and living out pain over the extraordinary and beautiful man of her dreams, after his service in the 65th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army changes him.

Enough cannot be said about this offering except that you make it a point to share a journey you will not regret.

Playing at the Fringe Mainstage: 6/22 @6:30pm and 8:00pm; 6/24 @10:00pm; 6/25 @1:30pm

Yellow Dress at ComedySportz LA

by Danny Rangel~

Yellow Dress, a powerful and brutally honest one-woman show performed by Marissa Lichwick, is an arduous affair for any audience, but ultimately, this show is deserving of great praise.

Lichwick’s story doesn’t need much in the way of props or sets or fancy lights. Yellow Dress is a deeply personal story of a young Korean girl, abused and unwanted by her parents and caretakers, and her journey to a new life as an adopted daughter in the United States. We follow Lichwick through the horrid experience of her very early years in Korea, we laugh alongside her stories of baffling wonderment in America, and we watch as she returns to Korea, a young woman searching for answers.

No doubt, a one-woman show is a gutsy undertaking. But Lichwick is a star. She creates a world unto herself and carries this show the way a solo artist should: with confidence, practice and immense talent. Yellow Dress is not for the faint of heart. Some audience members may find reason to cringe at moments—you may have surmised Yellow Dress is no comedy—but this show is a genuine and satisfying, thanks to Lichwick’s hard work and her compelling life story.

Yellow Dress plays June 24 at 7pm and June 25 at 9pm.

Chela at Complex Theatres

by Erin Scott~

Emerging playwright and performer Dulce Maria Solis brings to life Chela, a story based on her mothers’ life. The play opens and closes with the title character, Chela, in a hotel room talking about the man “her body chose” versus the other men that come into her life through often unfortunate circumstance. This is a play of love, chaos, and about living through and beyond domestic violence.

The story recaps a large portion of Chela’s life from a poor girl in Mexico, to the moments leading up to illegal immigration to the states. The story continues as Chela is tricked and trapped in a violent marriage and later, to a loveless one. The play closes, as the poster tagline states, with her third husband and her first orgasm.

Although the playwright’s method for writing and story-telling often incorporate the use of camera/video, the multi-media portion of the show becomes a distraction from the performance. It’s as if there is a lack of confidence that the audience doesn’t hear the words from the playwright. Beyond that, Dulce Maria Solis’s strength as a comedienne means that as heavy as the subject matter is, there are many points of humor and the audience is laughing for much of the performance as Solis slips through multiple characters in Chela’s life.

CHELA stops over at the Hollywood Fringe before appearing at the New York International Fringe festival this August.

Chela runs Friday and Saturday, June 24 & 25 at 7:30 pm.

American Addict @ The i.O. West

by Tracey Paleo ~

Epiphany rises when four universal truths which are powers we all have, come together at the same time: consciousness, the ability to observe truth; humility, the release of judgment; empathy, the ability to see from another person’s point of view; courage, to take action or simply meet the need in the moment. This is the summary of one actor’s gritty struggle in American Addict.

American Addict describes itself as a character-study and coming of age story of how a fucked up kid from Hollywood moved to New York City and matured into a fucked up man. Being a former New Yorker and actress myself, I humorously recognized each character and situation brilliantly and insightfully, if not emotionally portrayed by actor Ricky Butler, from the East Village roommate to the Washington Square chess hustler. While locked up in a psych ward he is forced to confront himself in every way, a self he resists owning up to – alcoholic, drug abuser, judgmental, angry at his struggle and eventually a very selfish psychiatrist who attempts to use this boy’s folly for his own rise to fame. What Butler’s changes all boil down to, however, are epiphanies. And in those epiphanies, some brutal, some surprising, his realizations allow him to finally become vulnerable to loving himself.

Well written and directed. Edgy. There is not a single shallow or empty moment chronicled in this very New York City tale.

Directed by Francesco Campari. Assistant Director, Ilaria Amadasi. Written and performed Ricky Butler.

Playing at the I.O. Theater West: 6/24 @8:00pm; 6/25 @8:00pm

Lucky: A Burlesque Tragedy at Paul G. Gleason Theatre

by Geoff Hoff~

With a promising premise and an intriguing poster, I was looking forward to Lucky: A Burlesque Tragedy. The show, however, is a mess. It took me some time and energy to figure out exactly what was going on. To save you that trouble, here, as far as I can tell, is the story: Lucky, played by Minerva Vier, is a down-on-her-luck stripper at Big Daddy’s burlesque house who discovers she is pregnant. She was raised in the Philippines by a lesbian couple, one of whom is an abortionist, but talked Lucky’s mother into having her, the other, an island which who put a curse on Lucky’s mother so she thinks she is Marilyn Monroe, Linda Carter as Wonder Woman, Cher, Miss America and someone else I couldn’t understand the name of. Lucky’s mother and the witch are both trying to find her, while Lucky is trying to decide if she should have the baby or just kill herself.

Lucky keeps running up the stairs to her dressing room, then sliding down a pole to the strip floor. The “strip show” ends, but then keeps on going. There are several (fairly awful) original songs. It feels like they are making it all up as they go, but sadly, it’s all scripted.

The best thing that can be said about this production is a rather good trapeze artist, Kennedy Kabasares, who starts the show with much grace and aplomb.

Sunday, June 19th was the final Fringe performance.

Girl Band in the Men’s Room at Fringe Central

by Joel Elkins~

Choosing quality over quantity, Dirtie Blonde Productions presents a tight, 45-minute one-act, Girl Band in the Men’s Room, about, as one might expect, a female musical group in a lavatory for males.

The group, an undiscovered rock foursome, has been approached by a record executive who claims he’s interested in signing them to a deal, but wants to hear them perform one more time. Before that second performance, Rachel (Katherine Skelton), the group’s guitarist with a decided Kurt Cobain obsession, has called an impromptu meeting in the men’s room of the concert hall to discuss matters.

The rather simple script by little known playwright Robert A. Ford does not rely on action and plot twists, but rather focuses on the girls’ varying personalities and the delicate balance holding the group together. Producer Kat Primeau has assembled a talented cast which, under Michael Kortlander’s direction, manages to squeeze the maximum out of the realistic dialogue. Primeau herself plays Mercé, the self-appointed manager of the group, who has taken a “meeting” with the executive at the hotel. Lisa Marie Summerscales plays Murphy, the lowbrow and uninhibited drummer, while Erin Boyes fills out the cast in fine fashion as Lindy, the more restrained but equally uninhibited bass player. All give wonderfully authentic performances.

In a delightful innovation, prior to the show, audience members are invited to add their own graffiti to the walls of the set.

[Primeau is a former writer for LA Theatre Review]

Girl Band in the Men’s Room plays June 22 at 5 p.m., June 24 at 6:30 p.m. and June 25 at 9:30 p.m.