★★★★☆ - Delicious
This year marks the seventh Vegas Fringe Festival. Fringe is good. Fringe brings diversity. Lots of it. Whether you like comedy, drama, variety, or improv, you’re bound to find something that pleases your palate.
Produced by LVLT, “Juju Goes to Pahrump,” by local playwright Erica Griffin, is a funny/sad tale of a woman looking for love. Funny because Juju Jones (Rebecca Kernes) thinks she’s found her soul mate in an alien - no, not the foreign immigrant kind, the little green men kind (though this one happens to be grey) - via an internet dating site. Sad, because of course, she’s being scammed. Griffin’s well-written script digs into deep and serious territory while being humorous. The direction by David McKee falls short of doing it justice.
Both Kernes and John C. Hughes (Henry “Hank” Crusoe) start out with a bang. It’s fast-paced, the timing is spot on. When Kernes opens the door on Hughes, his stance alone brings genuine laughs. As Kernes frets over the arrival of her paramour, she’s full of nervous energy. Enter Richie Villafuerte as The Grey, in a silver body suit, and the laughs continue. Villafuerte and Kernes - without seeing one another - execute physical cues perfectly.
Somewhere in the middle, it all falls apart. The timing is lost, the blocking begins to feel forced. It lags with missed cues and unmotivated wandering as if the director was determined to use every inch of the stage. In short, its consistency feels somewhat undercooked. [*** Satisfying]
The Vast Canvas Productions’ “All Day, It’s Tomorrow,” by local playwright Ernie Curcio, who also directed, may be short but it’s packed full of fun and more life lessons than you’d expect. It’s a tightly-written message in a one-room space. If casting is 90% of directing, Curcio hit the jackpot.
Geo Nikols, as Ansel Sage, is a one-man powerhouse. From the moment he wakes on the couch to the moment he takes his bow, Nikols IS Ansel. His timing, his internal monologue, is incredible as he takes us through a typical day in his life. Filled with self-doubt, questioning self-worth, wondering how he ended up this way, Nikols’ transitions are seamless. And he handles a misbehaving prop with aplomb.
It’s typically said that a playwright should never direct his or her own work; that it will suffer from a kind of tunnel vision. Not so, here. Curcio keeps the action moving, mines the laughs, maintains the heart of his script, and serves up a delectable morsel. [***** Irresistible]
“Fifth Planet,” by David Auburn, is an esoteric bit of existentialism, and the title a reference to Jupiter. It’s a tale of how erroneous we can be, how prejudice and bias blind us, and how we strive to understand the ever-expanding universe but put little effort into understanding the inhabitants of this tiny blue dot in the cosmos of life.
Produced by Torn Kite Theatre Company and Olde English Productions, and directed by Josh Sigal, the play takes us through (roughly) a year in the life of two people who have more in common than they expect. Sigal brought a light, understated touch to the production. Nothing is overwrought, yet nothing is merely blanched. The result a steady pace in a sound production.
Jacob Moore (Mike) and Shana Brouwers (Veronica) both turn in steady performances. Moore plays the inquisitive janitor with subtle tones which lends itself well to the script, and Brouwers brings a perfect level of haughtiness to the Astrophysicist. Brouwers gets the final and, arguably, the best line. “It takes a while to figure some things out.” [**** Delicious]
“Juju Goes to Pahrump” by Erica Griffin
Fri 6/10 @ 7:00p, Thu 6/16 @ 10:00p, Sat 6/18 @ 3:30p, Sun 6/19 @ 4:45p
“All Day, It's Tomorrow” by Ernie Curcio
Fri 6/10 @ 8:30p, Sat 6/11 @ 5:00p, Fri 6/17 @ 6:45p,Sat 6/18 @ 5:00p
“Fifth Planet” by David Auburn
Fri 6/10 @ 10:00p, Sat 6/11 @ 2:00p, Fri 6/17 @ 8:15p, Sun 6/19 @ 3:15p
What: Vegas Fringe Festival
When: Thursday - Sunday, June 10 - 19, times vary
Where: LVLT Fischer Black Box, 3920 Schiff Drive,
Tickets: $12 single ticket, $130 Festival Pass (702) 362-7996; www.lvlt.org)