Fringe (adjective), not part of the mainstream, unconventional, peripheral or extreme.
It’s day two of the 10th Anniversary of the Vegas Fringe Festival at Las Vegas Little Theatre (LVLT) and things have heated up. Fringe is always a mixed bag, a potpourri, and that is what I love about this annual event. Just when you think it a bit hum-drum, a surprise comes to smack you in the face.
That said, let’s dare to approach the edge again….
“23 and We”
Resilient Entertainment Group with BMG Unlimited Entertainment
★★★★★ - Irresistible
Written by Adia Bell, Adriane McLean, Destiny Faith, Sabrina Colfield, and Theresa Deveaux, based on a concept by Adriane McLean, the play addresses questions which arise when one of those readily-available DNA tests reveals close relatives you didn’t know you had.
Step into Rocko’s Karaoke Bar and be amazed. Typically, sets for fringe plays are minimal, but these folks bring the bar to life in the small Fischer Black Box venue. They go so far as projecting the song lyrics on a wall; drinks, empty glasses and half-empty glasses scatter the tables; the DJ table and equipment are there. The entire space is used – even the center aisle of the house.
Julie (Adriane McLean) finds Kiesha (Atiya Mariama) and Lisa (Theresa Deveaux) whooping it up in a bar, and one of them is Julie’s sister. It’s not just the atmosphere pulling you in. Let me tell you, these girls have it going on. They suck you in the moment the lights come up and take you for a ride through to the bittersweet, happy end. Even Adia Bell, the director, who stepped in at the last minute as the Announcer, hits all the right notes with attitude to spare.
The entire cast stays on point, every movement motivated by character. Extra kudos for the perfect handling of late-comers walking into the theatre. Not a beat was missed in welcoming them into Rocko’s and helping them find seats.
If you were on the fence about venturing over, “23 and We” alone is worth making the trip.
“House of Tomorrow”
Speeding Theatre—Over 55
★☆☆☆☆ - Not Hungry
A series of short sketches written by Susan Shear provide nine actors the opportunity and challenge of creating multiple characters in their not-so-golden “Golden Years” of retirement. As a result, the play requires multiple settings and Director Sherri Brewer has muddied the waters with set pieces and props coming in and out between each short piece.
Nothing will rip you out of your suspension of disbelief faster than misused props. Beer cans. obviously empty, are placed on a stool and used as fresh drinks when it would have been as easy to place them off-stage filled with water. In the final scene, Melinda Baker as Pam and Paul Bellman as Rick, meet in a Laundromat. Baker has clothes to fold but not enough to get her through the scene. Instead she is forced to constantly pick and shuffle through them.
Blocking is unmotivated and unrealistic, particularly during two pieces with Paul Bellman, again as Rick, and Acie C. Via, Jr. as Gene standing together in conversation at center stage delivering dialogue directly to the audience rather than to each other.
The sound effects in “Freedom Road” need to blare with Ken Kucan as Sid watching a game on TV. But for some reason the volume stays full blast through most of the remainder of the play.
Kucan adds a breath of fresh air and does justice to character as he fights his children in giving up his driver’s license. He blusters, then rants, while moving around the stage fully convincing us of his plight. He does well again in a scene with Melinda Baker, who, as Pam, matches him in making us believe in this long-married couple in an argument about leaving their family home for a small condo.
It’s worth noting that younger children won’t understand and will have a tough time sitting still through this one. It might also do well for the cast and production crew to remind friends, who are unfamiliar with theatre etiquette, that they aren’t at home in front of the television.
Three Guys Productions
This short play by Eugene O’Neill is a character-driven old gem, a perennial favorite among male stars who have garnered acclaim and awards in the main role. The entirety takes place in 1928 New York City, in an old seedy hotel. Featuring Steve Webster as Erie Smith and Alan Roberts as Charlie Hughes., it’s directed by Webster, Roberts, and John F. Dennis.
There’s little action as Erie regales Hughes with tales of his long friendship with the previous Night Clerk whose last name was also Hughes–thus the title “Hughie.”
As the curtain goes up, this production starts well providing outside sounds to assist in setting the space and atmosphere. Seconds in, instead of fading out it cuts off never to return. Even a well-placed car horn or siren throughout would help solidify the ramshackle surroundings of a hotel falling into serious disrepair.
Webster does well in his role, though early on in the piece he forgot lines and struggled to find his place. He moves around the stage with a grace and agility of a guy who is always on the hustle as a small-time gambler.
Roberts managed to come to his fellow actor’s rescue with the dropped lines and got the show moving again. He’s good as the disinterested Hughes, staring off at nothing or slowly nodding off at times.
However, deciding to befriend the friendless Erie happens with too much abruptness at the end of the play. There should be a steady transition into empathy, to genuine caring, to budding friendship. This is what makes (basically) directing oneself problematic.
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)