Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Fringe - Day 6 - Part 1

James Berry: The Reluctant Hangman
Hey City Theater, downstairs

I have to say I really enjoy the thought of the Fringe setting up temporary digs in the hallowed halls of Tony 'N Tina's Wedding.

Never set foot in Hey City Theater myself before tonight so I have the Fringe to thank once again for expanding my horizons.

(If all goes well, I'll hopefully be back again soon. The poster for Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf says that Troops are Welcome. This soldier plans to attend on Friday evening.)

Hey City is VERY well air-conditioned, so if you catch a chill easily, you may want to bring a wrap of some sort, as they say. It is a nice way to beat the heat just to stand in the lobby, or just outside the open door, however, so it cuts both ways.

Between James Berry and Teechers, I'm getting such a dose of Gilbert and Sullivan's the Mikado that it's giving me flashbacks to that Goldie Hawn/Chevy Chase film, Foul Play (or that creepy internet killer episode of Millenium) (yes, my brain is a pop culture dumping ground). What my good friends at the Yale Cabaret once did with the "Tit Willow" song really can't be detailed on a family friendly Fringe website (we'll leave it at that). What it really makes me want to do is go rent the Mike Leigh film, Topsy Turvy, which I never saw, but thought I would like.

Oh, the play? Sorry, got sidetracked for a moment there.

It's a shame we didn't have programs or a website or something. I'd like to find out more about this crew. Any group of folks that are having this much fun with such unusual subject matter deserve to be followed in their other endeavors. In any case, my hat is off to them (would that I had as nice a set of hats as they)

They use the full space of Hey City downstairs to fine effect. Not every director would, so "good show!" on that count.

This show looks really good for a traveling period musical. The costumes are quite nice and very evocative of the time period. The use of light and shadow is highly inventive. I admire the way they resist watering down the seriousness of the subject, even as they go about making it the butt of jokes. Not an easy thing to do. And of course to sing about it...well, there's a whole other degree of difficulty right there.

The accompaniast is great, and she does double duty with the old fashioned slide show which is put to particularly amusing use in establishing locations and in backing up that old standby of comedy routines, the unreliable translator.

Even the nightmare of being on the head-chopping block is a stitch, thanks to a string of "headless guy" jokes.

Anyone who makes a "Theater in the (G)Round" joke is also OK in my book.

Making Madame Tussaud's House of Wax into the Victorian equivalent of E-bay was an inspired bit of whimsy.

And I challenge anyone to get that silly ditty "Billy The Rat Catching Dog" out of their head, particularly after they turn it into "Billy The Fringe Tipping Dog" at the end of the show.

In short, this was fun. The cast looks like they're having fun and that translates to the audience (and by the way, they deserve bigger crowds than they're getting. Stop by Hey City and help 'em out.)

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