Monday, June 20, 2022

Battlesong of Boudica (Fringe 22)

 Spoilers ahoy!

Another fierce and fascinating show from School of Night, this time reaching into first century Britain and the female warrior who hurt the Roman Empire as few others ever did.

Sometimes I pontificate about how theatre's great strength is in dance and ritual, masks and song, invoking the power of imagination.  Battlesong of Boudica does all of that and more.  Jen Albert plays the title character, whose degredation at the whim of a Roman official played by Kerry Kazmierowicztrimm sparks a mighty bloodbath, starting with a sacrifice to a terrifying Goddess of Battle, then making a pact to give her victory.  But one must always be careful of making pacts with the fickle gods...

The show, written and directed by Christopher Johnson, becomes all-engrossing, not least by the terrific stage combat scenes (honestly those make a huge difference) and the integration of music as well as dance into every aspect of the tale.  It is at times grisly, with graphic violence enacted and some of it thankfully offstage (including a sickening act of sexual assault).  The entire cast brought it all to a vivid, fascinating, horrible life include Payton Cella, Sara Gorsky, Colin A. Borden, Joseph Klink, Christopher Neiman, William Reilly, Tristan Rewald, Lucy Schmidt, Theran J. Sealy, Dan Wingard, and Tony Kim.  Also on stage is a drummer, Chloe Madriaga, whose contributions help transport us back almost two millennia to a Britain for all practical purposes before Christ or even King Arthur. 

In the end, it proved disorienting to re-enter the modern world, to turn one's cell phone on again, and see these things called cars in the street and light from ball of glass.  

Meanwhile, Boudica and her story will haunt me.  I know that.

 Battlesong of Boudica plays Friday June 24 @ 8:45pm, Saturday June 25 @ 4:45pm and 8:45pm, Sunday June 26 @ 4:15pm 2022 at the Hudson Theatre Guild 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard

Its In Our Bones (Fringe 22)

Spoilers ahoy!

One of my favorite shows in this year's Fringe, It's In Our Bones blends myth and family, heart-ache and mystery to final crescendo of strange but powerful truths.

The play itself, written and directed by Nicholas Bruda, blends dreamlike myths and gritty emotional realism in its tale of two sisters who independently go to the family cabin in the woods to try and deal Gabriella Gonzalez Biziou  is there first, composing what she hopes will be the perfect suicide note.  That might seem darkly funny, but believe me, is not.  Nor is it supposed to be.  Rather it feels daunting.  When Verity Van Dams Valdez then shows up, unaware her half sister was there or even alive, emotional battles surge forward like a series of tides, pushing the two into...what?  The rocks?  Into some kind of storm?  Working together?  All that and none of it?  Then of course there are the wolves, the owls, and the winds.  

Chase Anondson then arrives, who says he knew the sisters' late brother.  He also says that brother told him The Secret.  About this family.  Which they alternately deny, accept, refuse to discuss, then confront, followed by new admissions.

It makes for an emotional tempest of subtext on top of more subtext, gyring into a conclusion I adored.

To be fair, I feel the ending did not quite 'land' but that seems to lie in the fact the play feels too short.  Mr. Bruda told me twenty minutes were cut to fit into 55 minutes, and I for one want desperately to see this cast perform it unabridged.  

It's In Our Bones plays Saturday June 24 at 8pm at the Stephanie Fleury Studio 5636 Melrose Avenue.

Ben & George (Fringe 22)

 Spoilers ahoy! 

I am a big fan of dark comedy, and Ben & George certainly counts as darker than most. Imagine if you will two men who meet under some really rough circumstances.  They become, almost against all odds, become friends and eventual roommates.  So far, so normal.  But...there are the winged creatures stealing people.  And the dog that may  (or may not) talk.  Then, there's the semi-psychopathic rage.

Lorne Stephenson Jr. and Jared Gaxiola play the title characters, with Rafael Buenaventura playing the rest of the cast (including the dog).  All three show a lot of talent and skill, with lots of layers and details woven into their performances.  Love the twists and turns which emerge in a wonderfully disturbing picture.

I must admit the show itself doesn't so much end as stop.  Been trying to figure out why, and methinks the answer is a subtle nuance of timing and/or energy.  Still worked.

Ben & George plays Saturday June 25 at 1:30pm at the Stephanie Fleury Studio, 5636 Melrose Avenue.

4 Seasons Total Sh!tshow! (Fringe22)

 Spoilers ahoy!

Anybody remember when Rudy Guiliani held a press conference at the "Four Seasons" in Philadelphia to "prove" election fraud?  Only no one had hired out the actual Four Seasons so they held it at a landscaping company?  This was right after the 2020 election.

The 4 Seasons Total Sh!tshow is a wonderful script with some very fine actors, focusing on one of very many absurd events vis-a-vis the 2020 election.

I emphasize the script is funny.  I want also to emphasize the cast are clearly very talented.

But it is seriously under-rehearsed.  I asked one of the producers about this and learned several cast members were felled (temporarily) by Covid just before opening.  Oh.  My.  God.  That is a horror story.  But it has had an impact on the timing and flow of this otherwise delightful farce.  

The 4 Seasons Total Sh!tshow plays Wednesday June 22 at 6pm and Saturday June 25 at 5pm, 2022, at the Stephanie Fleury Studio, 5636 Melrose Avenue.

Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Legend of Georgia McBride (review)

Spoilers ahoy! 

I enjoyed this show immensely.  Even the concept alone grabbed my attention.  Imagine of you will a struggling Elvis impersonator (Taubert Nadalini) in Panama City (which is on the Florida Gulf Coast--I grew up across the bay from it in real life) with a loving wife (Karese Frizell).  The owner (Tom Trudgeon) of the bar decides to try hiring a drag show in hopes of bringing in customers, headlining his cousin (Jeff Sumner) and her friend (Donzell Lewis), the latter of whom drinks a bit too much.  One night, said drinking makes a performance impossible.  Our lead ends up having to go on instead, in a panic but with a theatre background that says The Show Must Go On!

And in the process, he finds out not only does he have a huge talent in this direction, he also loves it very much.  To his own personal shock, btw.  Amidst his panic, he also makes a big mistake--namely, not telling his wife the complete truth of where all this extra income is coming from.  Which in turn blows up in his face, big time.

But all that is just an outline.  As promising as that outline looks, what counts is the execution--which was great!  I had such a delicious time my only real regret was being alone so I had someone to gush with about the show on my way home!  Yes, the performances were all good (including a bunch of truly delightful lip-sync drag numbers, of ever-increasing energy and power), but what I loved most was the execution of this story.  Each character had their own arc, their own moments to shine, their own understandable motives as well as revelations.  My one worry early on was that the show might simply exploit this cultural element that is drag, but by the middle of the second act that worry had vanished in a puff of sparkling smoke.  The Legend of Georgia McBride is more than a flamboyant show that uses drag, it respects and appreciates it, without demanding we share one specific point of view on the subject.

Which helps make this one of the best pieces of theatre I've seen all year!  Strongly recommended not only to tickle your funny bone, but touch your heart, open your mind, and put a grin on your face.

The Legend of Georgia McBride plays Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm until June 26, 2022 at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 330 East Seaside Way Long Beach, CA 90802.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

To Bah or Not To Bah Humbug (Fringe 22)

 Spoilers ahoy!

I don't know who came up with the idea of fusing Hamlet with A Christmas Carol but kudos to the comedy weirdness!  The result is To Bah or Not to Bah Humbug! all about Scroogelet and the visit of the ghost from his former partner 

Everything about this show is fun.  The music, the musicians (especially the very dark lyrics), the oddly steampunk/elizabethan aesthetic, etc.  Full of energy, the jokes come fast and furious, but along the way some startling moments of pathos, even poignancy emerge.  Which is part of what makes it work.

I suppose it could do with a little more rehearsal, and a bit of polish.  The result would be better, but that might imply there's anything wrong with what we get.  But no, it remains delightful.

To Bah or Not to Bah Humbug! plays at the Broadwater Sunday June 19 at 2pm, Friday June 24 at 10pm, and Sunday June 26 at 11am (30 minutes).

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Beautiful Monsterz (Fringe 22)

 Spoilers ahoy! 

A riff on Oscar Wilde's The Painting of Dorian Gray (it even says as much in the press release) Beautiful Monsterz updates the setting to the modern world of models and advertising.

So far, so good.  Rather wittily, the product being sold within the show is a cream which promises to slow down aging.  The slogan "You won't only look beautiful, you will BE beautiful" is well and cool.  The parallels with Wilde's classic novel work nicely.

What doesn't work is that the Dorian character, Lori Green (which is clever) has no real arc into depravity other than getting high, breaking into an office, then breaking up with her boyfriend.  Compare this to treating someone so brutally they commit suicide.  The leap of one year later to reveal Lori willing to commit murder on a whim, then demanding she face the consequences--this arc is not a journey but a huge leap over plot holes that qualify as chasms.  

The problem here frankly seems this is a full length play idea squeezed into less than an hour.  Lacking much context, the musings and emotional journeys of the central characters seem to come out of left field.  Methinks there's something really powerful and worthwhile in here somewhere, but in its current written form all the effort to bring it out is on the cast--and frankly they seemed to lack enough (or very well-used) time to develop that.  Most obviously, I don't think most of them usually knew exactly what they were really saying or why.  But again, they lacked any context to find that.

But I really hope the playwright expands on this and workshops it out a lot.  It could be magnificent, instead of simply interesting.

Beautiful Monsterz plays Friday June 17 at 11pm and Tuesday June 21 at 8pm at the Broadwater Second Stage.

Asexuality! the Solo Musical! (Fringe 22)


Spoilers ahoy!

Disclaimer--the director Heather Dowling and writer/performer Rebecca McGlynn are friends of mine.

Asexuality! The Solo Musical! is one of many one person shows which so often make up much of the fare of any Fringe Festival.  It charts a journey of someone who feels in a real sense out of touch with themselves and the expectations surrounding gender, desire, identity, much of what we entwine with our sense of sexuality.

Two things really stand out here.  First are the songs, which (unlike most musicals, let us be honest) prove quite catchy.  I can still hear them in my head.  Part of that is because they are needed to express things with more than words.  Structure, in other words, rather than decoration.  Second, this show eschews simple solutions, easy endings, the formula that can be boiled down to "happily ever after."  Not that happiness is somehow impossible, but that life--like art--remains a work in progress.  Always subject to growth, to learning, to improvement, to every growing wisdom and possibilities.

Asexuality! The Solo Musical! plays Sunday June 19 at Studio/Stage on Western, both live and virtual.

Too Big for Her Britches (Fringe 22)

 Spoilers ahoy!  

Quick disclaimer--the director of this show, Heather Dowling, is a friend of mine.

Lisa Pezik stars (and wrote) this very charming personal journey, punctuated with song, about two different self images vying for control of a woman's life.   One is brusque, full of positive energy, a defender of our central character.  The other, she is smooth and creepy, an insidious avatar of self-hatred created by a very disturbed mother who approves of things like anorexia.

The skill of the lead actress radiates to the audience, portraying a large but not overwhelming number of characters.  I easily identified with this idea of voices debating in her head (suspect plenty of folks will).   Honestly, though, I didn't remember any of the songs afterwards.  Plus, there was what felt like a blip towards the end, skipping over the process she went through to get past the trauma of her youth.  

Too Big For Her Britches plays at the Zephyr Theatre, Friday June 17 at 7pm and Saturday June 25 at 2:45pm.