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EMA Reviews: Fringe 2024 - Part One

By Paul Atreides

Author, playwright, and Theatre critic at

Fringe (adjective), not part of the mainstream, unconventional, peripheral, or extreme.

The 13th Vegas Fringe Festival at Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT) kicked off Friday evening with two of the eight entered productions. Original scripts used to abound here – and that’s part of what a fringe festival should be and part of the fun. It provides an opportunity for playwrights to try out a new piece, see how it’s received, look for what works and what doesn’t, and go back to the keyboard for rewrites. This time out, we again have two originals.


But the truly exciting part of this year’s crop: Two out-of-town productions. It’s a signal of maturing and true growth for such an event.


BIG HAIR: A Rad and Wild Love Affair by Meagan Mandolino *** Satisfying

Producer: Big Hair Productions


If you remember and loved Gilda Radner and Gene Wilder, you'll like this piece. It’s a paean to the love story of those two iconic performers told through a multi-media presentation. A love story to a love story, if you will. The clips and interviews will bring back memories. But don’t expect this one-woman show to mimic or impersonate the actors. No. Writer, director, and star Meagan Mandolino wisely uses the best-known characters Radner and Wilder created (Roseanne Roseannadanna and Dr. Frankenstein, respectively) to take us on the journey of how they met and fell in love all the way through Wilder’s (and the world’s) devastating loss of Gilda to cancer. 

Jerry Finnegan’s Sister by Jack Neary *** Satisfying

Producer: Las Vegas Little Theatre


Here, we get a coming-of-age comedy. The boy who can’t seem to outgrow his lack of confidence to admit his love for the girl next door. The best part of this is Eli Carlin, as Brian Down, who deftly manages to portray an eight-year-old at the start and convincingly ages throughout the piece through both physical and vocal qualities. Carlin’s timing is damn near impeccable.


Torrey Archer plays Beth Finnegan but misses the mark due to her rapid speech, which makes much of her dialogue seem gibberish. Co-directors Jacob Moore and Ricky Gray, Jr., have staged this using children’s wooden blocks to move the settings, and it works well.



Agnes of the Moon by Sam Shepard ** Still Hungry

Producer: Footlights Productions


Steve Webster (Byron) and Alan Roberts (Ames) are back together for a third Fringe. Once again they act and direct. As actors, these two can take a fairly static piece like this and make you believe every word is uttered for the first time. This go-round, they fail as their own directors. Every word is important in a Sam Shepard play, but so much of Webster’s dialogue gets lost because he isn’t projecting at all. The character of Byron is given a beautiful and heartfelt monologue toward the end of the piece and Webster doesn’t manage to get a single word of it to the back (4th) row of this tiny 50-seat venue.



My Decade of Dicks, a love story by Dorothea Deley ** Still Hungry

Producer: Grown by People Productions


Writer-performer Dorothea Deley brings an intensely personal story to the stage in what begins as a comedy and turns very dark. It’s also somewhat of an audience-participation project. The problem here isn’t the writing, it’s the performance. Deley doesn’t allow the story to tell itself, preferring to act, bringing what feels like a caricature of herself. Because of that, much of the comedy falls short; the humor of the punchlines fails to land. The comedy completely disappears when she relates the darkness near the end of the piece. Then she tries to bring the comedy back in the final moment, and it doesn’t work. Delivering that as black humor, dark comedy would better serve this. Presenting the entirety in the vein of a straight stand-up routine would make it a sure-fire hit.


The Best of Fringe—the two highest-rated plays, as adjudicated—will receive encore performances on June 21 and June 22.


What: Vegas Fringe Festival

When: Friday - Sunday through June 16; times vary

For exact curtain days and times, check the LVLT website

Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff Drive

Tickets (single): $20 (702-362-7996;




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