By Paul Atreides
Fringe Rebound Day 1
Fringe (adjective), is not part of the mainstream, unconventional, peripheral, or extreme.
As theatre comes sizzling back onto the front burner, it only makes sense that Fringe is on the menu. It’s a slow simmer as the festival pretty much has to build to a boil again after the two-year forced hiatus of COVID.
The 11th Vegas Fringe Festival at Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT) kicked off with two of the four entered productions. Original scripts used to abound here—and that’s part of what a fringe festival should be and part of the fun. This year, we’ve got a 50-50 deal with two original works. It’s a great place for playwrights to try out a new piece, see how it’s received, and look for what works and what doesn’t.
Crazy Eights and Baby Food by David Lindsey-Abair
There is no director credit given in the program, which is a shame because the two short plays (totaling approximately 35 minutes) are so well crafted and so laugh-out-loud funny, that you wish it could go on. That’s not to intimate that a director did it all.
Very able cast members, Gillen Brey, Kris Mayeshiro, Michael Blair, and Sabrina Close, all turn in stellar performances. Their timing is impeccable—even as they (rightly) waited for the very frequent laughter to fade.
In Crazy Eights, Benny, a parole officer, breaks into his parolee’s apartment. Mayeshiro plays the role with such precise understatement, and accompanies Brey’s outspoken parolee, Connie, it’s like steak and a baked potato. The perfect pairing. When Blair, as fellow former drug addict Cliff, comes in, it’s like someone just added a Crème Brulée for dessert.
With Baby Food, married couple Joyce and Marlon (Close and Blair) are new parents and have hosted a dinner to ask Danita and Gary (Brey and Mayeshiro) to be godparents. All is going well until…well, I can’t give it away. It would spoil the fun.
Here again, between the staging and the acting, it’s as if a team of master chefs has prepared the ultimate meal. Close it with Weird Al Yankovik’s “Eat It” and—no spoilers—it’s a brilliant choice.
The entirety will have you still laughing twenty minutes later.
★ Still Hungry
Producer: M-Wil Productions of Las Vegas
The curtain speech by playwright and director Matt Martello introduces the production by saying a short piece called Ghost Light will precede Community Theater. As the first could segue directly into the second, you wonder why. It would make for a perfect opening scene, with no explanation required.
The scripts are, at their base, a spoof of every bad community theatre you’ve ever attended or volunteered with. It’s a big satirical two-middle-fingers to the cliques, the egoist theater heads who insist on making all the decisions, the donors who get the shows and roles because of money. I know those companies. Anyone who has dipped their toe into local productions is familiar with them. So, it’s not the two scripts full of clichés that fail here. It’s not the stilted, over-the-top acting. It’s the direction and staging.
The initial placement of set pieces forces everyone to play down the center. Then unneeded long blackouts with furniture changing places slow things down. When the script calls for an actor to deliberately break the fourth wall, a change in delivery doesn’t happen. And it should. We should get a different character than the one who is supposed to be “acting.” Sometimes the other actors would freeze, other times they would mime speaking, sometimes lighting on them lowered, other times it didn’t.
According to the program, this is Martello’s sixth presentation at Fringe and could be a good piece if given over to the hands of a capable director, because the writing delivers what could be an amusing treatise.
What: Vegas Fringe Festival
When: Friday to Sunday through June 12; times vary
For exact curtain days and times, check www.lvlt.org
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff drive
Tickets (single): $20 (702-362-7996; www.lvlt.org)