fauxklore: (Default)
I did other things this past weekend, but first let me write about the final two fringe shows I saw (both on Friday night), with a quick dinner (veggie bun from Jenny's Asian and gelato from Dolcezza) at the Wharf in between.


An Unhealthy Man Lectures You on Medical Issues: This was Vincent Clark’s one-man show (with some assistance from a silent nurse at various points) about his miserable health. It was a multi-media show, with powerpoint slides and a clip of him performing a song that ran, in part, "I don’t know why / there’s no leg beneath my thigh / diabetes" to the tune of "Stormy Weather." He includes various gruesome details about post-operative complications and calls one drug with nasty side effects "tormentizone." There were some funny lines here and there, but I found a lot of it rather cringy. I think the problem was that it was hard for me to care about him as anyone other than a random sick old man. I needed more context, particularly with respect to the mental health issues (depression and OCD) he mentions more or less in passing. It wasn’t a terrible show, but it could have been a lot better.


Tales of the Mysterious and Grotesque: The Works of Edgar Allen Poe: This was an amalgamation of 7 Poe pieces, some (e.g. The Pit and the Pendulum) more familiar than others (Berenice). It was performed by four young actors. The performances were good, but the show was just oddly put together. Admittedly, I have deeply mixed feelings about Poe to begin with. And I am not crazy about audience participation, though it was actually fairly minimal and more or less avoidable by not sitting in the front row. There was still one person who completely failed to understand what he was being asked to do at one point. Overall, this was interesting, but it just wasn’t my sort of thing. I should note that it didn’t help that it was completely full and I was next to a manspreader who kept shaking the leg that was encroaching on my seat.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Christian Menn designed the Zakim Bridge in Boston. Elbert Howard co-founded the Black Panther Party. Sergio Marchionne oversaw the merger between Chrysler and Fiat. Donald Kaul co-founded RAGBRAI, a famous bicycling event across Iowa. Warren Brown wrote about cars for the Washington Post. Mel Rosen was a crossword constructor and co-wrote an influential book about how to create crosswords. Bill Loud was the father in the TV show An American Family, which was arguably the earliest example of a reality show.

Hexagon 2018 – Tweet Land of Liberty: Hexagon is a political satire troop, who do variety shows for charity. This is up my alley to begin with, but another reason for going is that I know one of their members. The premise of this year’s show was that a couple in 2118 is touring the National Museum of American History’s exhibit on the Trump Era. Some of the highlights of the songs and skits were "Trump Girl Left Behind" (about Tiffany Trump), "Spending More Time" (about Paul Ryan, though spending more time with one’s family is a time-honored Washingtonian excuse for quitting or being forced out of a job), "These Colors Don’t Run" (about the Metro), and "Thoughts & Prayers" (a Roy Zimmerman song about mass shootings). The low light was a cringeworthy sketch about a couple on a date who have their lawyers getting signed permission for every step they take. I should also note that the sound quality was uneven, with some of the wireless mikes apparently not working, making some of the singers nearly inaudible. Things tend to be funnier when one can hear them. But, overall, I thought this was worth seeing.

Musical Therapy: I chose this show largely because I like musicals. And there were, frankly, not many musicals in this year’s fringe to choose from. Fortunately, it proved to be an excellent choice. The premise is that Theresa is a couples’ counselor, who has her own relationship problems. She’s infatuated with the guy whose office is next-door and tries to manipulate her clients’ relationships so she can end up with him. She uses sock puppets in her therapy, and they provide an amusing chorus for various numbers. There are also a truly astonishing number of euphemisms for a penis. The show is definitely quirky and requires a certain amount of suspension of disbelief – but it is also extremely funny. The music was nicely jazzy and worked well to tell the story. It was also well-performed, even though the performance I saw had a last-minute understudy (who had to carry a binder with her script) for one of the parts. There was no program but looking at reviews on line leads me to call out Katie Rey Bogdan as Theresa. And I want to give a big shout-out to Joey Katsiroubas and Dan Hass who wrote this. All in all, I loved this show.
fauxklore: (Default)
The Capital Fringe is going on and I bought a 6 show pass. Here are my comments on the first two shows I saw:

America’s Wives: This play is sort of based on a Yoruba folktale. I think I actually know the folktale in question. I definitely know related ones from a number of cultures in which one family member is rewarded with gifts and another one tries to get the same gifts but misunderstands the whole process and is punished. The twist is that this version, in which the two family members are co-wives, is tied to American racism. The first wife of America is a white woman, while the second is a Nigerian woman, who the first wife abuses. The second wife’s child is stolen by a bald eagle, but she refuses riches and keeps begging for her child back. Not only does she get the child returned, but she gets to keep the riches. The first wife then tries to set up the same situation, but places the riches above the child. The other catch is that it wasn’t her own child, but one she stole from another (Native American) wife. She gets worthless items (e.g. rocks instead of jewels) and, finally, just the bones of the child.

That’s an interesting concept and the notion of dealing with race via the multiple wives of America is intriguing. A lot of the language was poetic (including rhyme). However, the whole thing was a bit too heavy-handed for me. I don’t think that, say, shopping at a Columbus Day sale inherently makes someone a racist. And I don’t buy the implication that white people don’t have conflicts over how they feel about America.

I liked the concept, but a touch of subtlety would have made this a much better play. Getting hit over the head isn’t likely to change anyone’s minds.


Shopworn: The writer of this play, Derek Hills, is also a storyteller and he and I have several mutual friends, though I don’t think I actually know him. The play is set in an antique store in a Southern country town. The store’s owner has died and left the store to her two sons and the young woman who worked there with her. The two sons are very much unlike one another, with part of the tension based on their feelings about their Southern heritage. The one who now lives in Brooklyn has a black girlfriend who comes down to share in the eye-reolling. And then the dead woman speaks, via an Aunt Jemima cookie jar. Which is not the only racially questionable item in the store, leading to more of the conflict.

This sounds like it could get preachy, but the humorous interplay of the characters balances things out well enough to save it. There’s some backstory about the mother that isn’t as developed as I’d have liked it to be. And the woman working in the store sometimes seemed quirky without any good reason. Still, this was a funny show and I thought it was worth seeing.
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I went to three Capital Fringe Festival shows over the weekend. (I had previously seen Mr. Taken.) Here’s the run-down, plus a note about the neighborhood.

NoMa: All three shows I saw this weekend were at Gallaudet University, which is at the edge of the NoMa (North of Massachusetts Avenue) area. Since I hadn’t been over that way before and had heard that it’s the hot and trendy neighborhoods, I took advantage of good metro connections to walk around a bit before the first show I went to. Unfortunately, a couple of friends saw me walking in the wrong direction (i.e. away from Gallaudet) and called me, panicked that I was horribly lost. Now, to be fair, I do spend a good percentage of my time horribly lost, but I probably should have answered the phone and reassured them.

The highlight of the area is allegedly Union Market, which is pretty much hipster central. I wasn’t all that impressed with it, though it did provide good ice cream. There is a promising looking coffee place there. There are also some charming row houses along M Street Northeast. And the newish REI in the Uline Arena, which was the site of the first concert The Beatles played in the United States. Still, there isn’t really a lot to draw me into the neighborhood.


Ready to Serve: Ellouise Schoettler’s story is about a group of nurses from Johns Hopkins who volunteered to serve in France during World War I. Her research was extensive, based largely on letters from the nurses themselves. There was no shortage of drama, with descriptions of the nurses having to wear every bit of clothing they had to cope with the cold and mud, as well as patients with horrifying injuries that they could do little for. It’s important to tell the stories of women’s history and Ellouise does this splendidly.


Constructive Fictions: This play tells the story of Rabbi Barry Freundel, who is serving a 6 and a half year prison term after pleading guilty to peeping on and filming women in the bathroom of the mikveh. The set is his jail cell, which is rotated (without much real point, in my opinion) by four women, who comment on his explanation of his actions. They outline their stories, and, while they are supposed to be composites of his victims, there is a lot that seems identifiable to anybody who followed the media coverage. That’s a concern, since the playwright, A. J. Campbell, apparently didn’t talk to any of the victims. A bigger problem with the play is that Matty Griffiths, who played Freundel, didn’t seem to know his lines very well. That was obvious partly due to closed captioning, but also had the effect of throwing off the timing of the women.

Despite those problems, the play was interesting, with a shocking ending. Even more interesting was listening to people discussing it afterwards.

Life: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts: Neal Learner’s light opera was the highlight of this year’s Fringe for me. Act One dealt with birth, as Joan is screaming in agony and Charles tries to reassure her everything will be fine. They reminisce about their meeting and reflect on how their lives will change. And then the twins show up, in a very cleverly staged way. Act Two has the kids growing up and asserting their personalities. Act Three dealt with death. This doesn’t sound particularly interesting, but it was well-written and well-performed. There were some questionable rhymes here and there, but I can forgive this in what was otherwise a quite charming and enjoyable show. This has been selected for the Fringe Extension, by the way, so you still have a chance to see it. I will definitely look for other works by the writer / composer, Neal Learner, in the future.
fauxklore: (theatre)
First, a couple of quick celebrity deaths. Bel Kaufman wrote Up the Down Staircase, an amusing novel of public school life. She was also, of course, Sholem Aleichem’s granddaughter. Margot Adler was an NPR reporter and wrote Drawing Down the Moon, a work which documented and may have popularized modern paganism.

This isn’t very timely, since the Capital Fringe is over, but I haven’t had a lot of time for writing over the past couple of weeks. Due to various events out of town, I only went to 4 fringe shows this year.

The Hello Girls: Ellouise Schoettler is a friend and I have heard her talking over the past several months about her developing show about women who served as bilingual telephone operators in France during World War I. This is a bit of history I (and I venture to say most of the audience) knew pretty much nothing about and I found it intriguing. Ellouise focused in on three women, representing each by wearing a different pair of eyeglasses. Her telling was straightforward, but the material is strong enough that the audience gasped at particularly outrageous details. Well done.

The Goddess Diaries: A group of 11 women performed stories about women’s lives. These were not their own stories, but might well have been. The idea was to follow the seasons of a woman’s life, with the pieces linked by a musical interlude about the goddess, Persephone. As one would expect in a piece with this sort of structure, the stories varied in quality and tone. I have a certain bias towards humor, so particularly liked "Snake Girl," about a rebellious teenager, and "Meeting Mark" about a woman in her 30’s who finds love but faces conflict over registering for wedding presents. Overall, I thought the show was worth seeing. I want to particularly commend the performance of Alexandra Bunger-Pool, who sang the Persephone song and led each of the other women off the stage.

Feisty Old Jew: This was, essentially, a storytelling show, with Charlie Varon performing a short story about an elderly Jewish man named Bernie who ends up hitching a ride to Marin County with three 20-somethings. I thought Bernie was an appealing character and there were some funny lines. But this was very obviously a written piece and would have benefited from some thought about the differences between written and spoken language. I’d be interested in reading more of Varon’s work, but I wasn’t left with a desire to see more of it on stage.

The Fever: I went to see this one man play because I thought Pat O’Brien’s performance in Under the Lintel last year was extraordinary. This play was by Wallace Shawn, which should also have been a good mark. Unfortunately, I found the whole thing to be a humorless and incoherent political screed. O’Brien did a good job with what he was given, but the script itself had no appeal to me.


Overall, I'd say I did well with 2.5 out of the 4 shows I saw (the half being for Feisty Old Jew. That's good enough for my money.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I realize it is too late for other folks to see the rest of the Capital Fringe shows I saw, but the timing of everything else I was doing meant that most of what I saw was the final weekend of the festival.

In Search of the Perfect G-String: Oh, to stroke that elegant neck, to trace the curves of that body . How can anybody doubt the sensuality of a cello? Yvonne Caruthers, a cellist for the National Symphony Orchestra put together an interesting mix of music and stories. Her stories range from the finding musical passion at Tanglewood to touring the world as a performer, from sexist conductors to finding the right rhythm in relationships. Caruthers may have been a newcomer to this sort of solo performance, but I hope she will continue to pursue it because she has a unique voice and uses it well.

Arlington National Cemetery: My Forever Home: This show gets the friend disclaimer. Ellouise Schoettler is an active part of the storytelling community and I've seen several of her previous fringe (and non-fringe) shows. This piece filled in a part of her story she had hinted at before - the death of one of her children. She ties that into gravesite visits, continuing with later visits to her husband's grave. I liked her idea of "getting to know the neighbors" in her own future home. But I wish the stories of other Arlington "residents" were more developed. I suspect they will be in the future, as this is a work in progress.

Underneath the Lintel: This one man play has been making the round of fringe festivals and is starting to show up on more mainstream theatre stages. The story involves a librarian, a book that is 123 years overdue, Les Miserable, a ticket from a Chinese laundry, and a lot of other "evidences" that lead the librarian on a complex journey. I have to admit that I didn't know quite what to make of it. It did hold my attention and had some humorous moments. Pat O'Brien did a convincing job as the Librarian. But his descent into obsession was decidedly uncomfortable to watch. Interesting but disturbing.

Urban Legends: This was basically a bunch of teenagers telling urban legends. Most of the stories were familiar, though there were some I didn't know. It was a bit overdramatized at times, which is an obvious temptation of youth. The more straightforward direct storytelling was more effective. Fortunately, that was most of the program.

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: The Musical: I enjoyed Mike Daisey's monologue, but the idea of musicalizing it would never have occurred to me. This worked surprisingly well, though it is a rather different beast than the original. I'd suggest seeing the original first, because this version skips a lot and is, therefore, a bit hard to follow. My major qualm had to do with one performance. Steve Isaac, who played both Mike Daisey and Steve Jobs, is a fine actor, but his singing was not always on key.

Our Boys: I went to see this because I always go to see what the Victorian Lyric Opera Company does at the Fringe. They've taken the path of pulling out (non-musical, non-operatic) Victorian era plays. This one, by Henry James Byron, was the first play ever to run for over 500 performances. It has to do with two fathers trying to manipulate their sons into marrying. But each of the sons is in love with the woman who is supposed to be destined for the other young man. It was silly, but quite funny. It's the sort of thing VLOC does well and you already know whether or not you like it. I do.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Much of what has kept me occupied the past couple of weeks has been the Capital Fringe Festival. It makes sense to actually write about Fringe shows while they are still going on, so people can follow my recommendations (or not – there are critics I read specifically so I can do the opposite). In the interests of that, here are write-ups of a few fringe shows, but I am seeing more this weekend.

I did a couple of non-Fringe things, too. It was easier just to stick them in chronologically.

Celebrity Death Watch: Several people have noted the deaths of MIT Professor and acoustic researcher Amar Bose, anti-Semitic White House reporter Helen Thomas, and sex researcher Virginia Johnson. I have seen less mention of modeling agency founder (i.e. glorified pimp) John Casablancas or of Nixon attorney Leonard Garment.

Fringe – The Burlesque of Broadway: I love Broadway and this got good reviews. I had not quite grasped that the dancers performed to recorded music – and, for the most part, didn’t even lip synch. I did appreciate that they were not all rail thin. In fact, one of the best of them had an actual belly. But I still think burlesque is the sort of thing that would be more fun to do (uh, for a very carefully selected private audience) than to watch. In short, this was not really my sort of thing.

Fringe – Funny Stories 2: Two of the three stories James Judd told were funny. One of those involved a childhood book report and how it led to his discovery of soap operas, with a particularly amusing description of what he learned from them. The other had to do with a shark diving trip. The third story he told involved his obsession with a dermatologist, who turned out not to be what he seemed. While not funny, the story was interesting, but the gimmick of presenting several alternative endings didn’t work for me. Still, the show was well worth seeing and that third story is new, so I am sure he will polish it as he goes on telling it.

Fringe – Impossible to Translate but I’ll Try: My disclaimer here is that Noa Baum is a friend, so I am not an entirely objective reviewer. Still, I think it is fair to say that her collection of true life Israeli stories was well structured and well performed. I particularly like her story about how she met her husband. I also appreciated her framing of the stories, with the final piece echoing the first one. This was quiet, straight forward storytelling of the highest order and very enjoyable.

Ann Arbor Art Fair Do: As I have mentioned before, a Do is a flyertalk party. This one involved having a room in the downtown library for discussion of miles and points and such, plus a dinner and a brunch. I had a weather delay getting into Detroit, but it didn’t matter because it just resulted in a shorter wait for the Michigan Flyer bus from DTW to Ann Arbor. The bus runs several times a day and is only $15 each way, so is quite a good deal. I took advantage of the trip to shop my way through about 2/3 of the art fair, which is huge and varied. I even found a few odds and ends to buy, restraining myself largely via by having taken just a small backpack for the trip. I learned a couple of things and enjoyed seeing some folks I had not seen in a while (and meeting others). There was a lengthy delay getting home, which meant having to take a taxi from DCA home, since we arrived after the metro stopped running. I emailed US Airways for compensation and they only took a couple of days to send me a voucher for 50 bucks (which is about what my taxi fare was). That’s not fantastic, but it’s satisfactory. (United is generally more generous with compensation – e.g. I got a $325 voucher for the Denver fiasco, part of which addresses the hotel charge I incurred as a result of the late cancellation – but they also take longer. I’ve never succeeded in getting as much as an apology from American.)

Fringe – Old Time British Music Hall: Old jokes, bawdy songs – exactly my sort of thing. This was extremely entertaining, with my only quibble being a minor one about the ordering of the musical numbers. Since "Lost It at the Astor" and "Yo-yo" involve pretty much the same joke, it didn’t really benefit the show to put the two of them together. The funniest piece is "A Fowl Lament," which involves the dilemma of various people associated with the pheasant plucker. This is my favorite of what I’ve seen so far this year.

Miniature Golf at the Building Museum: The National Building Museum has miniature golf in the summer. Within minutes of finding that out, I sent an email to several friends (basically, techie women I don’t currently work with day to day) with the subject line "We Have to Do This." Fortunately, they agreed and a group of us went on Wednesday night. There are two courses and we did the Green Course. It was pretty entertaining, with the holes designed to address futuristic views of the city. We also ate at Hill Country’s Backyard Barbecue just outside the museum. I would definitely go back and do the Blue Course.

Fringe – Social Media Expert: This play involves a group of people who work for a burger chain, plus their friends and their twitter feed. There are some interesting questions about the meaning of social media and what kind of power people and companies do and don’t have as a result of using tools like twitter. I particularly liked the mockery of Powerpoint in a few of the scenes. But the script could be tighter, particularly in the final 20 minutes or so., where it got a bit preachy. I felt like I was eavesdropping on millennials. Sorry kids, but you are not as profound as you think you are.

Fringe - &Afterwards: This was another pure storytelling piece. Kevin Boggs grew up in Jonesborough, Tennessee (home of the National Storytelling Festival) and moved to the gay mecca of Dupont Circle in the 1990’s. This is essentially a coming of age story, about Boggs finding out who he wanted to be. The most interesting story mixed in with his own involved a Bosnian refugee waitress and how she got to "go home large." Overall, this was an interesting piece which I would have enjoyed more had it not been for the noise outside the theatre sometimes drowning out the soft-spoken performance inside.

Catch-up

Jul. 28th, 2011 08:46 pm
fauxklore: (Default)
I haven't really been anywhere - just been too busy to write. And, then, the other day I intended to write and couldn't get in. Presumably there is another DDoS attack on LJ, sigh.

First, the obvious celebrity death to note is Amy Winehouse. It wasn't actually surprising, but what a waste of talent. I thought she had a great voice, infusing her music with real jazz sensibilities. Sadly, the comparisons to Janis Joplin continued to dying at age 27. I will also note the death of General John Shalikashvili, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Most of what I was busy with was the Capital Fringe Festival. I saw four shows. The first was Pun: (n) a play on words, chosen largely for its title. The characters were a group of words, all of whom turned out to be keywords in the dictionary, i.e. the words at the top of page that serve as a sort of index. Rational does not quite live up to his name and pals around with Floccinaucinihilipilification. Creepy makes poetic pronouncements in the style of the three witches. Other characters are Barmaid, Insanity, and Bullshit. The crisis the play revolves around is the admission of Ain't to the dictionary, which will knock the others (except Afterthought) out of keyword status. While the concept was interesting and there were some amusing jokes (e.g. a bit about beers at Romeo and Juleps being named "This" and "That" leading to a sort of "Who's on First?" routine when people, er, words try to order them), the script could have been tighter and the performances could have been more polished. This wasn't terrible, but it wasn't brilliant either.

Next up was The Victorian Lyric Opera Company's production of Foggerty's Fairy, a non-musical play by W. S. Gilbert. The story involves a young woman who wants to marry a man who has never known love before. She thinks she's found one in Foggerty but there was that woman in Australia who makes a regular practice of getting engaged to men and suing them for breach of promise when they escape her. Guess who shows up just before the wedding? Foggerty has a fairy who makes it all right by making things as if he had never met Miss Delia Spiff. That turns out to have other consequences, including one that provides the eventual loophole that makes everything turn out all right. It was reasonably amusing, though dragged a bit in the middle. The VLOC always does a good job and I want to particularly note the performance of John Marclay Burns as Talbot.

The other two shows I saw were storytelling performances by friends. I'd heard about half the material in Geraldine Buckley's Destination Slammer before and enjoyed them. I do wish, however, that she had done a bit more to pull the pieces together into a unified whole, instead of just leaving them as stand-alone stories. Ellouise Schoettler's Finding Gus, a piece about how she unraveled a mystery in her genealogy and learned about her grandfather, was very satisfying. She used subtle changes of voice, combined with changing her eyeglasses, to switch between characters. The glasses were particularly effective.

All in all, I was reasonably satisfied with what I saw. I'd have liked to see more shows, but had limited time due to other commitments. The fringe started when I was in Providence. Then, Robert was here. He saw Foggerty's Fairy and Destination Slammer) with me. He liked the former more and drifted off during the latter. (To be fair, it started at 10 p.m.) And I had to go to Lynchburg for a Virginia Storytelling Alliance board meeting this past weekend. I am looking forward to a weekend wtih nothing scheduled. (Well, not quite nothing. I have tickets to see the Nationals play the Mets on Saturday night.)

I should also mention that while Robert was here we had dinner one night at Elephant Jumps,, a newish Thai place in Falls Church. It was reasonably good, but too much of their menu is deep fried. The next morning we had brunch at Original Pancake House, which was complicated by their having moved. They are actually slightly closer now so I may go there more often. I do think they're much better than IHOP. The only better buckwheat pancakes locally are the blue bucks at Eastern Market and that is decidedly out of the way for me. Finally, we had dinner on Saturday night at Acadiana, with the special treat of their having an early bird special offering three courses for $35. It was good value and they always do a good job with gumbo and redfish. The beignets I got for dessert were also fine, but I think that their bread pudding (just about my favorite dessert, though I could also argue for creme brulee) is better.

I do have things to say about my relationship with Robert but, no, not publicly. The basic problem comes down to his being incredibly bad at reading my signals. And, yes, I know it is unfair to expect men to be mind readers.

Finally, I am relieved that the heat wave has broken. It is really pathetic when a high of 93 is considered a relief.

Engaged

Jul. 24th, 2010 09:29 pm
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The final show I saw at the fringe festival was the Victorian Light Opera Company's production of W. S. Gilbert's Engaged. This was the most successful of Gilbert's non-musical plays in its time, but it's not very well known these days. Which is a pity as the show was really quite engaging.

The plot involves a young man, Cheviot Hill, who has this unfortunate tendency to propose marriage to every woman he meets, each of whom he describes in flowery language as "the tree upon which the fruit of my heart is growing." He is rich (but stingy) and there is additional money that goes to his friend, Belvawney, so long as he is unmarried but which will transfer to his uncle, Mr. Symperson, if he marries or dies. Belvawney, due to his strange eyes, has an odd influence over Cheviot Hill and has managed to keep him from getting married - so far. Symperson, of course, wants the young man to marry - and has a daughter, Minnie.

The first act takes place on the border of England and Scotland, where Angus MacAlister makes an honest living from a bit of poaching and causing rail accidents which lead the victims to stay at the cottage of his fiancee, Maggie MacFarlane and her mother. Among the victims of the latest rail accident are Cheviot Hill, Mr. Symperson, Belvawney, and Belinda Treherne, who loves Belvawney but won't marry him so long as his income seems so unstable. She is also supposed to be marrying Major McGillicuddy and Belvawney is trying to use a peculiarity of Scottish law to marry her as protection against him. Unfortunately, it's Cheviot who protects her by declaring that she is his wife and she agrees. That legal peculiarity? A mutual declaration in front of witnesses is enough to constitute a Scotch marriage. As if that isn't complicated enough, Cheviot has already fallen for Maggie (and paid off Angus, accordingly).

The rest of the play takes place three months later in London on MInnie and Cheviot's wedding day. Minnie's friend - who turns out to be Belinda - shows up and declares her sorrow at having entered into a Scotch marriage, but not knowing who her husband is. To make things worse, the Scots characters show up, having been engaged as servants. Belvawney explains that the biggest complication is that the cottage was on the border of England and Scotland, so Cheviot and Belinda might or might not be married. So he might be married or might be engaged to two women. Belvawney and Mr. Symperson try to manipulate things to their financial advantage, of course.

This being Gilbert you know that everybody will end up married in the end - though you're never sure to whom. Fortunately, it doesn't much matter.

I'll note that the VLOC did trim the script to make the show run 90 minutes (versus the 2 hours and 15 of the unabridged version), but there weren't any noticeable gaps. All in all, this was a very enjoyable production.

As for the performances, David Dubov was a stand-out as Cheviot Hill. He was so earnest and flowery that it didn't even matter when he flubbed his lines a few times.

Love Noir

Jul. 24th, 2010 03:53 pm
fauxklore: (Default)
The first of two fringe shows I saw on Friday night was Love Noir: The Music of Lenny, Kurt & Harold. That would be Lenny Bernstein, Kurt Weill and Harold Arlen, of course, and very much my sort of music. The show was a straight cabaret performance by Lonny Smith and Maris Wicker, accompanied by Barbara Schelstrate on piano. Most of the songs were very familiar, though there were some lesser known pieces. For example, I can't imagine anybody in the audience not knowing "Mack the Knife" but "Tango Ballad" (also from The Three Penny Opera) is not performed as frequently. And that was a piece that I thought was done particularly well, with a lot of expression. I was also particularly pleased with the two songs they did from One Touch of Venus - "That's Him" and "I'm a Stranger Here Myself."

They didn't treat the other composers quite as well, in my opinion. Arlen's "Over the Rainbow" was mixed oddly with Bernstein's "Neverland". And I did not care much for the arrangement of Arlen's "Dissertation on the State of Bliss" (which should be familiar to more people from Tom Wopat's recording). Neither of the two songs from West Side Story - "Something's Coming" or "Cool" - sounded quite jazzy enough for me. On the other hand, I thought Maris Wicker's performance of "Ya Got Me" (from On the Town with Comden & Green providing lyrics for Bernstein's music) was excellent and the percussion accompaniment that Lonny Smith provided for that number was amusing.

Even with a few weaker numbers, all in all, my only real complaint about the show was that it was a bit too short. I could have used a little more banter between songs to get things up to a full hour.
fauxklore: (Default)
I saw three more fringe shows ths week.

Thursday night, I saw The Von Pufferhutte Family Singers! (the musical). I'd really liked this group's shows the past two years (I Like Nuts! and Captain Squishy's Yee Haw Jamboree!), so was looking forward to a very silly musical. I did get that, but I was somewhat disappointed in the show overall. The plot involves a family singing group who believe the Von Trapp family stole "Edelweiss" from them and come to America to become famous and get revenge. The family all gang up on one daughter (Goldfnger Von Pufferhutte) who keeps being referred to as ugly and stupid (and who non-family members address as "little boy", all despite her being a perfectly attractive young woman) and part of the plot has her running away and kidnapping Liesl Von Trapp. By the way, several of the other characters have equally silly names - Mom is Cookie Monster Von Pufferhutte, the other daughter is Octopussy, and one son is Ronald Reagan. Father is Helmut and the other son has the normal name of Klaus, but he carries around a pickled dead baby, named Heinz, in a jar of formaldehyde. (That name is one of the subtler jokes in the show, which mostly hits you over the head with its humor.)

The show worked best in its musical numbers - starting from the opening "I'd Rather Be Dead Than Not Be Famous" and continuing through "The Von Trapps are Hideous Demons Out of Hell", The most appalling song is "You Can't Un-eat a Baby" and the best is the Mexican number "Quiero te que mueros (I Wish You Were Dead)", sung after they adopt honorary son Pablo Neruda to take Goldfinger's place. Unfortunately, the material between the songs often dragged. It was still a reasonably entertaining show, but not up my expectations.

As for the performances, the most notable was Jesse Terrill's as Pablo. That may be because he is one of the few performers with serious acting credits. (He played Mortimer in The Fantasticks at Arena Stage this season, for example.) There weren't any notably terrible performances. I just would have liked there to be a bit more there there.
fauxklore: (Default)
I saw one more fringe show over the weekend. Tim Ereneta's "Chart Toppers of 1349" is primarily a straightforward storytelling show, with several traditional European folk tales. I won't say more than that since I'm reviewing the show for the Journal of Storytelling, Self, and Society.

All of the running around I've done, along with continued sleep deprivation, means I fell victim to another cold. I got over the one I had in Seattle in just a couple of days, so I'm hoping that having taken off from work and slept much of the day will get me over this one quickly, too. For added measure, I went out to the store and got some Tabatchnik chicken soup. Just like Mom used to thaw!

And if I am too sick to go to work, I am too sick to do housework, right?
fauxklore: (Default)
It's always difficult to choose which Fringe shows to see. I'll admit that this production, by The Little Theatre of Alexandria, would never have caught my attention had I not seen a recent review of another production of this show by [livejournal.com profile] cahwyguy.

The premise is that the Peanuts gang are in high school. The names are slightly changed, though easily recognizable, presumably to avoid legal issues. In the opening scene, C.B. is writing to his pen pal, setting up the situation. In short, his life has taken some strange turns ever since his dog died. His sister is a Wiccan, though she had been a fundamentalist Baptist not long before. She's also creating a theatrical piece about a caterpillar that wants to evolve into a platypus, providing some of the funniest moments of the play. His best friend, Van, is a pothead (and smoked the ashes of his blanket after his sister and C.B. burned it). Matt is a neat freak who hates being reminded of his childhood predilection for dirt, which had led him to having been called "Pigpen." Tricia and Marcy party and get drunk at school, Van's sister is on a locked ward for having set the little red-headed girl's hair on fire. And then there's Beethoven, who has been rejected ever since his father was arrested for molesting him. C.B.'s philosophical musings on his dog's death lead him to re-explore his relationship with Beethoven, triggering complex reactions from the other children.

Much of this is very funny, but there are serious undertones, with issues touched upon including drugs, sexuality, violence, and teen suicide. There's a hopeful ending, with a reply from C.B.'s pen pal. It's worth seeing, both for the parody and the reflection on what might become of familiar characters.

As for the performances, all of them were at least competent. I was particularly impressed with Keith J. Miller as Beethoven and Allison S. Galen as C. B.'s Sister.

I'll also note that this show made me more likely to see others done by The Little Theatre of Alexandria. In particular, they're doing The Visit, one of my favorite plays of all time, this fall.
fauxklore: (Default)
I went to see two fringe shows yesterday. Pushing Boundaries is Ellouise Schoettler's storytelling piece about the women's movement and, especially, the quest for the Equal Rights Amendment. The story is an important one, as I think a lot of younger women (and men) take their opportunities nowadays for granted. Ellouise was an unlikely activist, a housewife who had been happy to leave behind her time as a nursing student to marry a medical student. Her husband, Jim, brought home a copy of The Feminine Mystique and it helped her understand her discontent with her life. There was also personal tragedy (which she mentions, but does not tell the story of) and a friend who told her not to call again until she'd gone out and done something, leading her to return to school to study art. Her college experiences led her to activism (relating to the anti-war movement) and she discovered she liked it. Some of her work led to things we think of as routine today, such as choosing artwork without displaying the artist's name (and, hence, gender). She has some regrets for the fate of the ERA, but looks at today's world as an overall success for the women's movement. She ended with a Q&A, which was really more of a comment period. Perhaps because it was a rainy Saturday morning and the audience was small, she didn't get a particularly lively discussion. That's a shame as the piece should provoke more people to tell their own stories and fill in the history.

Chaidentity

Jul. 8th, 2010 09:44 pm
fauxklore: (Default)
I saw my first show of this year's Capital Fringe Festival tonight. I was a little apprehensive about Slash Coleman's Chaidentity because he had done a less than satisfying show on pretty much the same theme two years ago.

What I wrote at the time was "Things improved somewhat when he abandoned the costumes and shtick and talked about his conflicted feelings. His telling about his nephew's growing interest in Judaism was warm and could be developed into a real story." Fortunately, that is exactly the direction he took this new show in. It was a much more straightforward telling of his family's story and the two paths members of the family took after the Holocaust. His mother instilled a fear of his own Judaism in him, but he still felt compelled to explore his Jewish identity. This ranges from experiments in wearing a yarmulke (in rural Texas, where he imagines a woman sneezing is repeatedly saying, "a Jew, a Jew") to listening to his grandmother's nightmares about stormtroopers. It culminates in another generation (his nephew) being able to overcome the silence and bring things full circle.

I found the story satisfying and the performance warm. His obvious emotion and sincerity overcame a few minor glitches here and there. All in all, I'm glad I went.

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