Fringe 2023 Day 2
By Paul Atreides
Author, playwright Theatre critic at EatMoreArtVegas.com
Fringe (adjective), not part of the mainstream, unconventional, peripheral, or extreme.
Fringe is always a mixed bag, a potpourri, and that is exactly what it should be. Some original new works and some published plays don’t see the footlights often enough. Some hits, some misses. But there is always a surprise to delightfully smack you in the face.
That said, go. See the shows, and support the companies that entered. It’ll help ensure we can approach the edge again next year. It may even make the festival expand to origin levels when 18 different shows were presented.
It’s worth noting The Best of Fringe, the top two juried selections, will be presented on June 23 and 24 at 8 p.m.
Woof Oink Oink Oink ** Still Hungry
Producer: KFT Productions
The second original piece to be entered into this year’s festival is written and directed by Kate Labahn and turns The Three Little Pigs on its ear.
At its core, this is a children’s play. Labahn mentions and mixes up so many children’s fairy tales and film references as might be possible that they muddy the whole. Some references to Marvel characters, Middle Earth, and Narnia get tossed in. Which is its undoing. It’s too unfocused.
The opening was rough. Labahn’s lighting design didn’t provide the necessary cue for the cast and she had to holler from the audience to start. When they entered with flashlights (they were in a cave near Grimm Forest) the light beams sprayed into the eyes of the audience.
Kudos to Summer Sinclair who caught the mistake on a couple of sound cues and handled them perfectly.
The Duck Variations by David Mamet ***** Irresistible
Producer: Footlights Productions
This is not the Mamet one thinks of when hearing the playwright’s name. There is none of the four-letter language one associates with him. This is a treatise on the passage through life and all its trappings as two men sit on a park bench and comment on the delicate balance of nature.
Steve Webster (George) and Alan Roberts (Emil) again pair up as they did for last year’s The Dumbwaiter. That they directed themselves is typically not a good idea, but these two very skilled actors play off one another so well they are a complete joy to watch. Their timing and delivery are impeccable, and their characters are so well portrayed as they argue, agree and argue some more. These two work so well together one could almost imagine enjoying them acting out a phone book.
Man Under Her Bed by Agnes Wolf * Not Hungry
Producer: Speeding Theatre
One can understand the lure this script would have because there are so very few available for people of (ahem) “a certain age.”
That said, this felt under-rehearsed with long pauses as actors either forgot the line or a cue was jumped. Beverly Ron’s direction didn’t bring any necessary subtleties for this to succeed. Clayton Hill, an escaped convict played by Ken Chapman, sneaks his way into an old woman’s house in the woods to hide.
Clayton comments on having soaking wet socks but leaves no footprints behind. He’s cold and thirsty, yet immediately upon entering bypasses a burning fireplace and a table with a bottle of liquor. When he does return to the alcohol, the bottle is very obviously empty, as is a coffee carafe used later. Costumes aren’t thought out. Clayton never dons dry socks though he’s dressed up in women’s clothing to hide from the police. The policeman wears canvas deck shoes. A smoking pipe (necessary to the plot) should have made an appearance long before it was needed.
I’ve seen this company do some very good work, but this completely misses the mark.
Iphigenia en Orem by Neil Labute **** Delicious
Producer: Florrie Productions
Another playwright whose short works get short shrift in front of the footlights. This monologue as a man details an unthinkable murder of a complete stranger in a hotel room, is, arguably, one of his best.
Directed by Jake Staley, Adam Martinez does a beautiful job of portraying the man who is wracked with guilt over the deed. Martinez delivers full-bodied nervousness as he is about to begin his confession, transitions to anger over the treatment he receives at the hands of police, and then to the sad irony of how it all transpired. He finds the underlying emotion in every line.
The only thing hampering this performance is the static staging. Staley plants his actor in a chair and keeps him there for the duration. A glance out a window, pacing about the room in anger, or shoving his face into a pillow to scream in agony and remorse would add subtle new layers to the telling and help bring more empathy to a broken man.
There is a plethora of short works out there by known and unknown playwrights and a Fringe Festival is the perfect venue for them. I encourage everyone to support the process – patrons and producers alike.
What: Vegas Fringe Festival
When: Friday - Sunday through June 18; times vary
For exact curtain days and times, check out www.lvlt.org
Best of Fringe: Friday – Saturday, June 23 and 24 at 8 p.m.
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff Drive
Tickets (single): $20