While Las Vegas Little Theatre’s “VegasFringe Festival” features shows mostly meant for grown-ups, there’s also a fun-filled one-act for kids and the kid in all of us to enjoy.
‘The Wind in the Willows’ (*****)
Endless Productions gives the beloved 1908 children’s story by Kenneth Grahame, adapted for the stage by James Moran and Caroline Moran, a whimsical, high-spirited presentation. Director Timothy Burris and company lovingly evoke the sepia-toned illustrations of the book and its English countryside setting with a cardboard tree cutout, a ribbon of fabric for a river, earthy costumes, and warm, foresty filtered lighting. Creature characters Moley, Ratty, Toad, Badger, and Weasels come to life through the specific gestures, physicality, and dialects of the actors and with minimal make-up, usually a single dot on the nose.
Drew Yonemori has the uncanny ability to disappear into a role and he has a kind, gentle presence as the intelligent but lonely Moley, and Sam Craner is full of bombastic buffoonery and blubbery sound effects as the arrogant but lovable Toad. Michael Kimm is a distinguished Ratty, Brian Proffit is a crusty Badger, and Delancey Prince as Suki and Cynthia Vodovoz as Judith/Nature make delightfully mischievous Weasels. A slow-motion, strobe-lighted battle with the Weasels set to “O Fortuna” and featuring breadsticks brandished like lightsabers is a funny highlight of the show.
‘Once Upon a Time in Clark County’ (*****)
First Friends First gives an improvisational sketch comedy show presented Chicago-style which centers around happenings that stay in Vegas, not the fun touristy kind but the maddening kind that we residents put up with on a daily basis. Humor helps us deal with the stuff that drives us crazy, and this show is full of non-stop laughs and impeccable comedic performances. Jokes about elusive cocktail waitresses and zombie poker players hit the nail right on the head, as do those about Summerlin soccer moms, imploded vintage hotels, and stupid Vegas drivers. Written by ensemble actors Eric Angell, Phillip Kotler, Brandy Little, Derek Shipman, and Natalie Shipman and directed by Liz Allen, they even sing to the music and accompaniment of Mark Wherry on keys.
‘The Proposal’ (**)
Bremmer Productions’ presentation of this playlet, written and directed by John Bremmer, features thought-provoking moments but feels more like an actors’ exercise than a fully fleshed-out one-act. Tony and Paul are friends who challenge and try to outdo each other in the art of seducing young women at a New York subway station, and in this case the unwitting victim is an important editor named June who manages to beat them at their game with a challenge of her own.
It’s an intriguing idea, but the story leaves us with more questions than answers. We never understand why the guys enjoy doing this. Are they sadistic creeps or just killing time between trains? And why is an intelligent woman like June so oblivious to her surroundings that she would let strange men sidle up beside her on a bench, leaving her purse unprotected between them? Granted, her face is buried in a book at all times to avoid contact, but it’s doubtful any woman in such a vulnerable position would leave her purse (or herself) untended like that. Teresa Pham, Aaron Jahn, and Carlos Hernandez do well with their parts and Bremmer has written some genuinely nice dialogue, but the edges need to be colored in.
‘Boom Chick-A-Wow-Wow Presents: A Telethon to Save the Accordion’ (*)
Who knew the accordion was an endangered instrument? Boobiehatch presents a show featuring Boom Chick-A (Chris Jones) and Wow-Wow (Timothy Simpson) in an impromptu-feeling musical concert directed by Timothy Jones. Simpson tells corny jokes like “All accordion acts are apparently folding,” plays the harmonica, and even juggles, which he does very well. Jones is an excellent accordionist, and he plays various polkas and jams with Simpson on his makeshift drum kit, which includes many different types of clown horns and bike bells, and a suitcase which serves as the bass. Accordion aficionados will surely enjoy this silly show.