Sunday, August 15, 2004

Fringe Snapshot, Day 9

Two of my shows are closed, one more to go. A brief overview. More complete reviews to follow...

From the Diary of Virginia Woolf - 4 stars - I saw the last performance of this and was very glad I did. Jill Anna Ponasik has a truly lovely voice so it was a pleasure to spend time listening to her and watching her take on the character of the great author Virginia Woolf. The staging was simple but effective. The music isn't for all tastes as it is often quite dissonant (on purpose, of course. Minnesota Dominick Argento won the Pulitzer for this operatic song cycle, so he knows what he's doing). Also, I probably would have been better off if I'd noticed and picked up a flyer which contained the text of all the diary entries used in the piece, and read them beforehand. Not being a regular opera-goer or listener, my ears were not attuned to the sorts of enunciation that those with operatic training normally use, so I spent much of my time trying to make sure I was understanding what was being sung. Again, not the fault of the performer or the piece, it's my own shortcomings as an audience member. As ever, I remain a big fan of Nautilus Music-Theater and am glad they continue to offer regular performances and workshops of new and entertaining work throughout the year.

John and Jen: Part One - 4 stars - I saw the last performance of this as well. This ranking is more on the strength of the talent of the performers JP Fitzgibbons and Kersten Rodau than for the material they were singing. When I was touched or amused, it was because of what they brought to the performance. The songs themselves were not particularly memorable. The story - of a brother and sister growing up with an abusive father in the 1950's and 1960's - travels territory you can see coming a mile off - sister goes to college and becomes a protester against the Vietnam War, brother ends up enlisting and then dying in the Vietnam War. We didn't really get to see the characters develop, we were just supposed to take their abrupt changes at face value. Again, not the fault of the performers. It's inherent in the structure of the piece. They made it work as best they could and were quite convincing. Because of the performers, I was even tempted to stay and see the last go round of John and Jen: Part Two. But, of course, my heart was elsewhere, and I followed it to...

The final performance of Dandelion Snow - 4-1/2 stars - Had another house between 60 and 70 people, all very enthusiastic. The tireless cast pulled off another fine performance. It was a good way to go out. Thanks to all whom came to see the show. Thanks, too, to all the audience members who posted reviews, both positive and negative (I learn from both as I go off to the land of rewrites). So if you've got thoughts to share, go to our Fringe page and post a review. I welcome your thoughts.

Also saw the last performance of Metamorphoses - 4-1/2 stars - Todd Conner is a wonderful storyteller. I was often reminded of one of our own local storytellers, Jim Stowell, whose work I love. Most of the time in near darkness, lit only by candelight, Todd spun many an entertaining tale from Ovid's masterwork. His voice and body were amazingly versatile and impressive tools. One never felt him sweating the multitude of transitions he had to pull off over the course of the performance. I had a feeling about this show coming in from out of town, and I'm glad I finally managed to see it, because it was just the sort of storytelling experience I was seeking out.

Murderers - 4 stars - My love for and admiration of Barbara June Patterson and Phyllis Wright was only reinforced by these performances, and the sold out house was right there with me. In fact, they were enjoying themselves so much, laughing at almost every other line of Jeff Hatcher's latest witty script, that it contributed the show running seven minutes overtime. And that's in addition to the 12 minutes late the show started in the first place because they were cramming in as many people as they could on the waiting list on both the risers and the side balconies as well. Luckily, the next show I was trying to see was also at Illusion, or I'd have been as screwed as the blind woman and her companion who accosted the beleaguered box office guy in the lobby because they'd missed their transportation due to the show overrun. Consider yourself warned.

One last performance of this - today, Sunday at 5:30pm. Visit their Fringe page and add it to your schedule. It's worth the time and possible aggravation, for the performers and text are entertaining. And if you did what I did, just stick around for the next Illusion Show, you should be fine.

(The show after Murderers tomorrow is The Funeral Director's Wife - I show I won't be able to see, but highly recommend because of the writers, director and actress involved. Those friends and even strangers I ran across who have seen it recommend it. Go to their Fringe page and add them to your schedule.

And if you want to make a full evening of it at Illusion, just hang around because there's also one performance left of...)

Six Steps: Part Deux - 3-1/2 stars - This is a case in which the sequel for me is better than the original. I liked last year's show well enough, but it didn't wow me. This year's script is more the writing of Brent Doyle that I'm familiar with - sharp, funny, filled with clever allusions to current political hijinks, and still just entertaining on its own terms as a spoof on superheroes and supervillains (including the U.S. government). And just when you think it's taken a very dark turn from which it will never recover (not that this would be a bad thing, just sad, and earned by both script and performers), we get a deus ex machina which allows us to leave on a more positive note. The Illusion folks did manage to get us in pretty quickly after the previous show's over-extended length (kudos in particular to the stage crew for a rapid-fire changeover) and the show only started six minutes late, and only ran over an hour by an additional seven minutes. Longer evening that I expected at the Illusion, but they provided the entertainment to make it worthwhile.

Six Steps: Part Deux has one more show, today, Sunday at 8:30pm. Visit their Fringe page and add it to your schedule.

Now I'm going to try and elaborate on all of that.

(For more of my writing - plays, past blog entries and more - visit

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