Fringe (adjective), not part of the mainstream, unconventional, peripheral or extreme.
It’s the 10th Anniversary of the Vegas Fringe Festival. Everyone should extend an ovation and a Bravo! to Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT) for hosting his event. This year production companies from around the valley mount a mix of new and established plays over two weekends. For the new, it’s a chance to try out an idea; for the established, a chance to try their hand at a classic playwright like Eugene O’Neill.
What you see may send your emotions to the stratosphere, the next may leave you scratching your head. Most are produced on a shoestring budget, while others may be well-funded. But that’s the whole point of Fringing – to expose you to “different,” something you wouldn’t ordinarily find staged at any established theatres.
That said, let’s go to the edge….
“A Night of Jones”
Thujones Theatre Tribe
★★☆☆☆ - Still Hungry
Caution: Some pieces contain nudity and explicit language which some people may find offensive.
A series of seven short, absurdist plays all written by B. Oliver Jones and directed by the cast to create an ensemble feel. You’ll get everything from “All Wound Up” about a sex robot (Jimmy Duong) designed by a woman (Tashari Mathis) hiding out in the mountains to an interpretive dance about death (“Soul Tied”).
For the most part, the writing is tight and the twists buried within each piece are funny, or could be if the cast had some real direction. Too many actors are left to move about the stage without any apparent motivation for doing so, timing is off, or a line of dialogue is forgotten for a moment leaving the joke to fall flat.
The best of the bunch was “Jello Mold Bomb” about a poor man (Michael Brummer) who has moved into an apartment and believes the neighborhood Welcome Wagon has planted a bomb in the proffered Jello dish. I can’t tell you more than that. To do so would spoil the fun.
The final piece, “Spanksgiving,” is about testing the waters of polyamory (being in a relationship with more than one person regardless of gender). While I found it funny, you should be cautioned this is not for everyone, particularly anyone under a certain age due to sexual situations.
Written and performed by Jose Anthony, this is a thoughtful one-man show which has the potential to alternately scare you one moment and rip your heart out the next as we find the titular character caught in a moment of reverie spanning his life beginning at age three when he is sexually assaulted by a babysitter’s boyfriend.
The trauma of that, in addition to being Mexican-American in a suburb of Los Angeles, easily lures him into gang life despite having a family that really cares about him. A series of major events in his life bring him to the realization that life experiences are what make us who we are, and, good or bad, we all have stories to tell.
The writing is good and Anthony does a credible job portraying the character. The biggest mistake is he directed himself. In doing so, he cheats himself and us out of some genuine moments. There are instances where he devolves into mime to portray an action. It’s as if he doesn’t trust himself enough to lead the audience along the journey. Though a couple of those moments do work, such as the gunshot at a Rave. For the most part, rather than adding to the overall it diminishes the impact of the piece. The play would be better served by simplifying and telling the story with raw emotion.
Due to explicit language, Producer Erica Parra suggests this may not be suitable for children under the age of 13 and encourages parental discretion.
For exact curtain days and times, check the LVLT website; https://www.lvlt.org
When: Thursday - Sunday through June 16; times vary
Best of Fringe Encore performances: 6/21 & 6/22; 8:00pm
Where: Las Vegas Little Theatre-Fischer Black Box, 3920 Schiff drive
Tickets: $12 (702-362-7996; www.lvlt.org)