2012 Hollywood Fringe Reviews
|Eric Davis is the "Red Bastard," at ArtWorks Theatre, June 18, 8 p.m.|
Check out our growing docket of 2012 Hollywood Fringe theater reviews after the jump, which are scheduled for publication June 21. Also, check out this week's Stage Feature, a wrap-up of the festival.
HOLLYWOOD FRINGE REVIEWS, scheduled for publication June 21, 2012
(Check back for more reviews as they come in through the weekend.)
GO ALL ATHEISTS ARE MUSLIM
ALTARCATIONS Writer/director Steve Julian's indictment of
the Catholic church's mass cover-up of child abuse allegations feels a little
musty. After all, the scandal broke almost 10 years ago. Special here, however,
is the focus. Instead of pointing the finger solely at gay priests, Julian
widens the scope to include heterosexual heads of power; instead of bashing the
abusers, he balances accusations with shows of the struggle to best temptation
and reconcile godly profession with Biblically-forbidden sexual inclination.
Worth the price of admission alone is the astonishing Travis Michael Holder's brandy-soaked
scene with homosexual Father Bart (Robert Keasler). Jeff Gardner's
design-on-a-dime projections and the theatre's church-pew-like seating quite
successfully create atmosphere. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., West
Hlywd.; Fri., 5 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; through June 24. hollywoodfringe.
THE ANNUAL MEETING FOR THE SOCIETY OF LONE FISHERMEN WHO HAVE FOUND DEAD BODIES
BEFORE THE RED TREES COME
GO BUTTON WAGON
CONFESSIONS OF THE WORLD'S WORST MISSIONARY
CRUSHED Somewhere in writer-performer-director Kiersten Lyons' chaff-cluttered autobiographical one-woman show, there lurks the whole grain of an edgy and genuinely funny coming-of-age confessional -- if only Lyons had the courage to thresh it out. It is not, however, in the toothachingly cute inventory of childhood crushes that the performer wastes over half of the evening reeling off. Rather, it emerges late in the show, when Lyons too coyly hints at her struggles as a boy-obsessed orthodox Catholic trying to make it to her wedding night with her hymen intact. While it's certainly medically possible for an aspiring Hollywood actress to be a 27-year-old virgin, Lyons still has miles to go in explaining the hows and the whys. Underground Theater, 1314 N. Wilton Place, Hlywd.; Fri., June 15, 7 p.m.; Sat., June 16, 11:30 p.m.; Thurs.-Fri, June 21 & 22, 7 p.m.; Sat., June 23, 11:30 p.m.; through June 23. Crushedplay.com, hollywoodfringe.org/projects/889. (Bill Raden)
GO DIARY OF A SOCIOPATHIC FREAKAZOID
GO THE DIVINE MADNESS OF ISABELLA
FOUR CLOWNS: THAT BEAUTIFUL LAUGH This one hour unfocused yawnfest has seven - not four - performers who, lacking any requisite skills, can't really be called clowns despite colorful clothes, funny hats and silly voices. Jeremy Aluma's new showcase for these darlings of the Fringe is a string of half-baked gags and pratfalls that are little more than wild screaming and repeated falling on the floor. The monosyllabically narrated shadow puppetry was the sole delight. Purportedly for kids, this show inexplicably has a melancholy finale - completely unnecessary had an absurdist surprise and upbeat ending been simply added. Strictly for people who think red noses are a laugh riot. Open Fist Theatre Company, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Thurs., June 21, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 23, 4 p.m. hollywoodfringe.org/projects/679 (Pauline Adamek)
FOUR FOR ONE A quartet of young writer-performers present solo pieces. Native-American Ernest Briggs tells about his beloved grandmother, who died while they were estranged. Ty Pickett charts a young gay man's learning to speak for himself. Hayley Ozalvo describes her lifelong ambition to be an entertainer, and her evolution as an actress. Domenican-American Roy Rodriguez grew up in Queens, N.Y., with a devoted and hard-working mother. His defining experience was a knife fight where he was stabbed five times -- and he has the scars to prove it. There's a degree of naivete in the writing, but that's no sin for a young writer. Open Fist Theatre Company, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues., June 19, 11 p.m.; Sun., June 24, 12:30 p.m., hollywoodfringe.org/projects/925 (Neal Weaver)
GHOST LIGHT Four college students meet up at a darkened theater one Halloween, get drunk, pull out a Ouija board and get themselves into a whole mess of trouble. A bit too expository, though largely well-paced, the play speeds from the usual jokey introduction to no-one-gets-out-of-here-alive in under an hour. Thankfully, it also eschews camp altogether. When it comes to horror on stage, it's all in the staging, and though it's a disappointment that Ghost Light concocted a perfect vehicle for pushing that element further than it actually did, the production deserves props for inhabiting the space effectively. Don't expect surprises or psychological dimensions from this straight up genre piece, but well-deployed low-fi effects and a well-executed campfire-style set-up contribute to a couple genuinely jumpy moments. The Visceral Company at the Underground Theater, 1314 N. Wilton Pl., Hlywd.; Fri., June 15, 10 p.m.; Sun., June 17, 10 p.m.; Thurs., June 21, 10 p.m., ; Fri, June 22, 8:30 p.m. hollywoodfringe.org/projects/834. (Mindy Farabee)
GO IF WATER WERE PRESENT, IT WOULD BE CALLED DROWNING
GO IS HE DEAD? The adventurous Coeurage Theatre Company lets down its hair in this lighthearted endeavor. Mark Twain's long-undiscovered 1898 farce premiered in 2007, adapted by David Ives. The rollicking mix-ups bring to mind Brandon Thomas'1892 drawing-room classic Charley's Aunt, though the cross-dress device has served comedies ranging from Plautus to Tootsie. In 1846 Paris, a fictionalized version of famous French painter Jean-François Millet (Deven Simonson) faces the wrath of a ruthless art dealer, André (Gedaly Guberek), who insists that the artist pays his overdue debt or allows this creditor to marry Millet's demure lady love, Marie (Sarah Perry). Some goofy cronies (played by Kurt Quinn, Collin Hurst, TJ Marchbank as sort of a cosmopolitan Three Stooges), cook up a scheme to fake Millet's death, to increase the value of his paintings. The initially reluctant painter dons petticoats and curls, impersonating the artist's nonexistent sister. Director Ryan Wagner demonstrates a deft flair for slapstick, as the clever script blends timeless satire about the art world with the conventions of madcap comedy. Simonson is a tad stiff in the early scenes, but his portrayal gains comic steam once the gender-bending antics begin. Others in the superb cast are Ruby Hanger, Jean Kauffman, Gregory Marcel, Lawrence Peters, and Tina Van Berckelaer. Actors Circle Theatre, 7313 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hlywd; Sat., June 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 17, 7 p.m.; Fri., June 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 23, 8 p.m.; Sun., June 24, 7 p.m. hollywoodfringe.org/projects/931, coeurage.org/plays/2012-season/is-he-dead. (Les Spindle)
GO JENNIFER ANISTON STOLE MY LIFE At first it's annoying but eventually it seems fitting that Jon Courie's 90-minute play should so resemble a sitcom. Set in a dreary North Hollywood apartment, the play gouges away at the cult of celebrity by depicting the psychotic behavior of an aging house-cleaner, Ru (Barbara Keegan), a former Hollywood bit player who aches to return to the screen. At issue is her mentally unhinged adult daughter, Lo (Jesse Holcomb), a former kiddie star and current depressive. Enter a boarder (Diana Wright), a marginally talented standup whose TV career soars, bringing into stark counterpoint the searing hideousness of the mother's desperation. Think The House of Blue Leaves. "My daughter is mentally ill," she announces, when it's clear, largely from Holcomb's tender performance, that Lo is the sanest character in this cauldron of vanity. Nice turn also by Barry Gordon as the apartment manager/resident porn producer, under Deborah Geffner's direction. Purple Turtle Productions at the Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., June 16, 3 p.m.; Sun., June 17, 7 p.m.; Mon., June 18, 8 p.m.; Thurs., June 21, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 23, 3 p.m. hollywoodfringe.org/projects/794. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Stage Feature.
GO LEPRECHAUNS & LIES
Despite occasional lapses in cohesiveness and a couple dead-end turns (why ask for audience participation when there is no point?), Chad Kukahiko's solo show tracing the events in his childhood that led to the shift in his worldview is a swift, mostly engaging journey. The collection of vignettes that explore our attempts to keep chaos at bay and from causing insanity is interesting: most powerful is "Math," in which he breaks down notes, chords and rhythm as an "orderly separation of time" before abandoning language altogether and using his body ala Stomp (he spent two years touring with the Off-Broadway show) to prove his point. Kukahiko is a likable performer, but his final revelation feels anticlimactic, and he fails to really sell it. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., 5:30 p.m.; Sun., 1 p.m.; through June 24. hollywoodfringe.
LOST & FOUND Writer-performer Nikki Brown opens her solo show with a soulful rendition of "Amazing Grace" via the character of a diabetic grandmother who, in the course of an hour, will channel sundry grandchildren and their friends, who comprise a portrait of broken homes that include a predatory stepfather, a kid with big dreams and a stripper who stumbles onto self-revelation in the VIP room. Brown's transcendent singing voice is matched by her transformational skills and perfect timing, under Phillip Edward van Lear's direction. Brown's story, however, is a de rigueur vehicle for showcasing her impressive stage talents, settling into one performer's homage to the craft of acting, wherein lies her purpose - a point already evident by her being on the stage, and in the quality of her performance. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., June 17, 2 p.m.; Sun., June 18, 2 p.m., hollywoodfringe.org/projects/847 (Steven Leigh Morris)
GO LOST MOON RADIO EPISODE 12 After claiming L.A. Weekly's Fringe Award and the Festival's "Best of Comedy" prize last year, this very talented sketch troupe and five-piece band return with a fresh installment of their serialized radio show, loosely themed "Night." Disc jockey Jupiter Jack (Will Greenberg) spins records and catches zzz's while the cast treats us to absurdist skits and songs featuring -- what else? -- sleep, sex, and drugs. Highlights include the barfly ballad "I Like Your Friend," a high-stakes game of truth or dare, and film noir-ish interludes from the back-up band. Sam Roberts directs the hijinks. Not to be missed. Lost Moon Radio at the Open Fist Theatre (Fringe Central Mainstage), 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Wed., June 20, 8 p.m.; Thurs., June 21, 10 p.m.; Fri., June 22, 8 p.m.; Sat., June 23, 11 p.m. hollywoodfringe.
THE LOVE POTION
GO MISSION TO MATE A trio of comedies written and directed by Colin Mitchell about courtship and virginity. See Stage feature. Sati Productions at Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.: Sat., June 23, 5:30 p.m.; Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sun., June 24, 2 p.m. hollywoodfringe.org/projects/860 (Steven Leigh Morris)
GO MIXED PERSONALITY DISORDERS
NATASHA MAIL ORDER BRIDE ESCAPE TO AMERICA: THE MUSICAL A cast of 16 features Canadian Brooke Forbes in this 30-minute lampoon of a mail order bride's escape from a chicken slaughterhouse in "Crapistan" (Eastern Europe) into the arms of the man (Jonathan Oldham), living in the basement of his mother's Bel Air mansion, who discovers her while masturbating to a mail order bride website. See Stage feature Wednesday eve. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd, Hlywd.; Thurs., June 21, 4:15; Sat., June 23, 4:30 p.m. hollywoodfringe.org/projects/907 (Steven Leigh Morris) See Stage Feature
NOCTURNE Co-conceivers/directors Kate Brown and Scott Dare's hour of company-created vignettes attempts to chart the life and death of a relationship from love at first sight to final separation. If their oddly bland and unmemorable evening succeeds at all, however, it is in raising fundamental questions about what makes an action dramatic (or language poetic) rather than merely banal. Having the couple portrayed by four actors (Valerie Bentson, Jocelyn Jolley, Jared Crossman, Will Nichol) is a clever conceit but no substitute for carefully observed and shaded writing. For the same story but told with considerably more power and half the cast, see Welles' masterpiece of metonymy and economy, the breakfast sequence from Citizen Kane. Alive Theatre at The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd.; Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 11 p.m., through June 23. hollywoodfringe.org/projects/927. (Bill Raden)
GO THE PORTABLE DOROTHY PARKER
GO RED BASTARD
Performer and co-writer Eric Davis shows up onstage wrapped in a kind of red body stocking, only his calves, feet and white-painted face exposed. Red paint around his eyes enhances the demonic glint that will inform his show, co-written with directors Deanna Fleysher and Sue Morrison. Davis' body wrapping is puffed out with balloons, so that with his nimble gestures and delicate strutting, he resembles a slightly psychotic chicken. The show is an extended improvisation with the audience, during which, in one performance, he devoted an entire segment of copiously varied facial expressions to one guy who couldn't stop laughing out loud. Morphing into a cross between Dr. Phil and a dark sorcerer, Davis solicits the audience's life "dreams" before ridiculing them with the philosophy that he only cares about "the power we all have to change but are too fucking afraid." He goaded one forlorn soul to quit his crappy job, there and then, via cellphone. The ambivalent victim stormed out of the theater. Unlike the enthusiastic audience of 20-somethings, I couldn't participate in the hour of theater-therapy games because I don't trust clowns, or relatives, who goad and mock. That said, like Shakespeare's fools, the clown tells the truth with piercing wit, and creates theater that's in the moment and on the ball. Art/Works Theatre, 6567 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Mon., June 18, 8 p.m, hollywoodfringe.org/projects/919 (Steven Leigh Morris) See Stage Feature.
GO RICHARD PARKER
ROUND ROCK One in a number of Western-themed shows in this year's Hollywood Fringe Festival, Aaron Kozak's play is a series of dust devils that never quite powers up into a tornado. Exploring the legend of the Sam Bass Gang in late 1800s Texas, and featuring a cast of 17, this "stage Western," with its numerous short scenes, feels much more cinematic than theatrical. What's missing, however, are the wide shots of distant mountain ranges, cactus, and tumbleweed, as two figures on horseback ride toward the setting sun: namely, the sweeping vistas that makes a Western a Western. So when just the interior scenes of such a story are cobbled together for the theatre (and a cramped one at that, given the constraints of the Fringe), the effect is nowhere near as resonant. Kozak definitely knows his oeuvre (complete with amusing Texan colloquialisms), and he directs a solid cast given the limited space, but one can't help but wish for more "action sequences" as the story plays out: lawmen firing rifles at the bandits who gallop away on horseback and such. What did enhance the show, though, were its nicely detailed costumes courtesy of the aptly named Zainab Outlaw, and Corwin Evans' excellent selection of transitional music. Theatre Unleashed at The Complex - East Theatre, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., June 22-23, 7:30 p.m., June 23, 7:30 p.m. (818) 849-4039. hollywoodfringe.org/projects/749 (Mayank Keshaviah)
SECOND CITY THIS WEEK Director Ron West marshalls an able and attractive eight-person ensemble- - Janel Benisch, George Caleodis, Robert Chan, Kristen Herbert, Derek Manson, Kevin Ocampo, Jim Staahl, Amanda Weier -- through a crowd-pleasing evening of satiric sketch comedy. Among those skewered are George Zimmerman, former Vice President Cheney, James Bond, a homophobic Superman and gay Green Lantern, Donald Trump, Wisconsin's Gov. Scott Walker, brainless blockbuster movies, woolly-minded economists and a porn star who wants to play Lady Macbeth. Not all the sketches pay off, but they kept the enthusiastic audience amused. Open Fist Theatre, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues., 19, 9:30 p.m. (323) 455-4585, hollywoodfringe.org/projects/892. (Neal Weaver)
GO THE SECRET OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
GO SO MUCH TO CELEBRATE
SOUND & FURY'S DOC FAUSTUS A trio of amiable comedians, named here Patrick, Ryan and Richard play out of spoof of Marlowe's Faustus as a western, set in Abilene, Texas. Filled with fitfully amusing literary, ethnic and sexual puns, and silly costumes, the comedy fired sparingly on the perf I attended, working best when the actors were droll, less so when they were too clearly amused by their own antics or when cues went strategically wrong. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., June 16, 11 p.m.; Sat., June 23, 1 & 3:30 p.m. hollywoodfringe.org/projects/775 (Steven Leigh Morris)
GO SPEED MERCHANT (OF VENICE)
TEXAS LOVES LYLA! "If you've got an issue, I've got a tissue" is the motto of Lyla's Listening, the web advice show broadcast from the South Texas backyard of its irrepressible host, the eponymous, copper-bouffanted cracker with a heart of gold lamé, Lyla. Writer-director-drag performer Jeffrey Wylie's gentle send-up of bigotry, bad taste and ignorance doesn't break new ground in the southern-fried cornpone category so much as it runs those clichés through the gender spin cycle. In the process, Wylie establishes himself as a master of milking laughs from shopworn shtick and one-liners as broad as the side of a barn from Hee Haw. Theater Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd, Hlywd.; Wed. & Fri., June 20 & 22, 7 p.m.; Open Fist Theater, 6209 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., June 23, 4 p.m., through June 23. hollywoodfringe.org/projects/798. (Bill Raden)
UNCLE JERMY'S SMYLE HOUR
VIRGINIA CITY In the Nevada Territory in the 1860s, young journalist Samuel Clemens falls in love with a vaudeville performer and finds his literary voice, going on to become renowned author Mark Twain. Unfortunately, the new musical Virginia City needs a significant amount of workshopping before this interesting historical backstory can shine through. David Wisehart's book and lyrics have yet to identify the central characters of the musical, which currently focuses more on miner Will (Till Wolter), his gal Rose (Tyler Olshansky), and other news reporters and showgirls at this Virginia City bar, than on Sam Clemens (Jake Kropac) and his inspiration Adah (Jennifer Bronstein). The show's structure suffers from underdeveloped characters and plotlines, as well as woefully unmotivated musical numbers that drag several choruses beyond necessity. Daniel Wisehart's music aims for a Sondheim-esque complexity, but instead makes the actors palpably uncomfortable with the off-kilter meters and melodic leaps outside their vocal range; the MIDI accompaniment further weakens the musical score. Still, the actors perform this one act show with laudable conviction. The musical is strongest in its tight barbershop quartet harmonies and layered choruses, which showcase the talents and the potential of the creative team and cast. Hudson Theatres, 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood: Mon, June 18, 8 p.m.; Tues, June 19, 8 p.m.; Sun, June 24, 3 p.m. hollywoodfringe.org/projects/809 (Sarah Taylor Ellis)
GO THE WOMEN OF TU-NA HOUSE