Published: 09/05/2013 | 0 Comments Posted
Life and Times: Episodes 1-5
The 2013 Fringe festival runs Sept. 5-22 | Box office: 120 N. Third St., 215-413-1318. For more info, tickets and showtimes, visit fringearts.com.
The premise is genius: A man reading Herman Melville’s classic Moby-Dick in his bathtub slowly transforms into Ahab searching for the great whale. Of course, this could only be done right in a bathtub in a real bathroom in a real house, so that’s just what Mike Durkin and The Renegade Company are doing. Ed Swidey plays Robert, the depressed, recently divorced reader of the novel. He’ll also be naked, obviously, with a crowd watching the events unfold. Definitely one of the most peculiar productions in this year’s Fringe Fest, Bathtub Moby-Dick is a simple twist on an old standard that morphs it into something new. Sept. 4-22, $10-$15, Wharton Heights, 1816 Wharton St. —Bryan Bierman
British artists Ant Hampton and Tim Etchells created The Quiet Volume — wherein two strangers sit side by side in a library, taking commands from whispering headphones and carefully chosen books — to comment on the inherent tension of libraries. After all, where else do people get together in public and hope everybody else will shut up? This should be one of those classic Fringe experiences — beautiful, weird and weird-thought-provoking. Sept. 7-22, $15, Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine St. —Patrick Rapa
The Ballad Of Joe Hill
It’s true, what they say: Philly is a union town — and one with style, too. We stage workers’ protests that verge on street theater. And, yes, our giant inflatable rats that cry like intolerably loud babies could be construed as aggressive, high-concept public art installations. But for a more nuanced artistic interpretation of labor struggles, consider The Ballad of Joe Hill, a portrait of a turn-of-the-century union leader rendered through song, found percussion and “a ragtag band of clowns.” Adrienne Mackey of Swim Pony Performing Arts put together this fresh adaptation of her 2006 Fringe show, a mix of vaudeville, biography and class warfare that tells the story of Hill, a folk singer whose murder trial made national news. It’s set in Eastern State Penitentiary, a dark setting for a dark story. Sept. 5-15, $20-$29, Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Ave.
A Doll’s House
The last time EgoPo and director Brenna Geffers produced in the Fringe, it was a mammoth production of Marat/Sade. This year, they’re “reinventing” Henrik Ibsen’s 1879 drama A Doll’s House to launch their season-long Ibsen Festival. Mackenzie Maula, a 14-year-old Barrymore-nominated actress, uses dolls, toys and magazine clippings to create all the characters, exploring this revolutionary tale of feminist independence from a modern young woman’s perspective. Are women still just pretty toys to men? Is a woman’s most valued characteristic her physical attractiveness? Can one young actress pull this off? Sept. 4-22, $20-$25 ($35 opening night), Adrienne Theater, 2030 Sansom St. —Mark Cofta
GAYZE: A Real-Life Web Series
Billed as a “live sitcom,” GAYZE aims to examine all facets of modern queer urban life, pushing past the shallow representations of queer characters in popular films, TV, etc. It sounds like a less heteronormative Friends (like, 100 percent less), following a group of five 20somethings trying to have it all in the big city. But the kicker behind GAYZE, in addition to its broad representation of “queer” (rather than “gay”), is how strongly ingrained the queer identity is in its environment. “The hassles and tribulations [these characters] face tend to be similar to those faced by traditional TV sitcom characters. They’re not struggling for acceptance,” said creators MJ Kaufman and Jack Tamburri. But GAYZE is also a smirking satire of other queer web series (“These series tend to consist of a lot of white males living in Brooklyn checking their iPhones,” the creators said) and the sitcom model in general, with plots centering on the Gayze banding together to save the local community center and similar tropes. In this sense, GAYZE is subverting expectations on both a queer and meta level. Sept. 6-8, $12, Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar, 200 S. 12th St. —Marc Snitzer
Get Real: Comedy You Can Believe In!
If comedy doesn’t pull you out of your comfort zone, then what’s it good for? The folks behind Visible Friends Network, dedicated to bringing the freethought/skepticism movement and scientific advocacy into the media and arts, carry this question into each of their comedy cabarets. For Get Real, their fifth since November 2012, they’re bringing a bunch of Philly’s best standup comics (and burlesque dancer Mika Romantic) to Underground Arts to get real. How real? Expect the caustic wit of Doogie Horner, James Hesky, Mary Radzinski, Darryl Charles, Carolyn Busa and others as they take on religion, irrationality and everyday idiocy. Side effects of this red pill include uncontrollable laughter, increased decision-making abilities and hypnosis-by-burlesque. Thu., Sept. 19, 8 p.m., $10, Underground Arts, 1200 Callowhill St. —Sameer Rao
Hush Now Sweet High Heels and Oak
Fans of Fringe fave Brian Sanders’ JUNK have come to expect a certain kind of experience: sexy, athletically daring dance performed amid an imaginative set and soundscape. Sanders digs extremes, and his latest production, featuring a gigunda oak tree, treacherous high heels and 50 tons of sand, is no exception. This one’s a strange dreamlike journey through nursery rhymes that’ll keep your mind hopping with cryptic metaphors and Sanders’ spectacular sense of drama. “It’s got the same rich quality every JUNK show has, but with a different sensation, “ he says. “I wanted people to feel like they’ve been to a mystical subconscious place. It’s JUNK unconscious.” Sept. 6-15, $20-$35, 23rd Street Armory, 22 S. 23rd St. —Deni Kasrel
Life and Times: Episodes 1-5
“Can you tell me your life story?” is the question that launches Nature Theater of Oklahoma’s third FringeArts production, after No Dice (2007) and Romeo and Juliet (2010). The result is an epic musical extravaganza, using the unedited audio transcript of one young woman’s 16-hour response as libretto. Theatergoers can see any of the five episodes (1: birth to age 8; 2: age 8 to 14; 3 and 4: high school years; 4.5 and 5: end of high school), or see all five in a marathon 12-hour performance on Saturday, Sept. 14, which includes a barbecue. Each episode has a distinctive style, from “Communist musical meets rhythmic gymnastic spectacle” (episode 1) to “animated film and a 140-page hand-drawn illuminated manuscript, accompanied by a live concert” (episodes 4.5 and 5). If someone asks you to define “fringe,” Life and Times should be your answer. Sept. 10-14, $20-$65, Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St. —Mark Cofta
Age-old and increasingly relevant questions about gentrification and community dissolution take center stage in MinorityLand. This production marks the debut of Power Street Theatre Company, a young and multiracial theater group that seeks to explore the inner-city experience and promote cross-cultural understanding through new theatrical works. In MinorityLand, an integrated black and Latino community’s vitality is threatened when the local university begins buying houses and pushing residents out. Sound familiar? You’ll certainly think it is heading up to Taller Puertorriqueño’s theater in North Kensington, a neighborhood at the head of these issues, for this incendiary production. Sept. 6-14, $10, Taller Puertorriqueño, 2557 N. Fifth St. —Sameer Rao
On the Concept of the Face, Regarding the Son of God
Subdue your urge to look away. I mean when the old man shits himself, or if you somehow see the lips on Antonello de Messina’s blown-up painting of Christ begin to curl slowly into a smile, or if anything else makes you uncomfortable and tense in the way that knows only one quick release: diversion. Not that director, writer and dramaturge Romeo Castellucci would mind if you couldn’t take it. Lauded and loathed in Europe as the stage’s great provocateur, Castellucci and his Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio theater company have specialized in the “theatre of cruelty” for more than 30 years. And his latest and most contentious work (it drew protests in Paris in 2011) is fringe, all right. This is theater somewhere near the limits of its capacity for expression. The play’s debts to Beckett and Artaud are both equally obvious, and if the old master would have found Castellucci’s definition of the theater as “the dark mirror of the reality of life” a touch precious, he’d have nodded along when Castellucci says his play is about “the spirit of the shit.” Through Sept. 14, $20-$39, Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St. —Dotun Akintoye
One of Pig Iron’s most acclaimed shows — in a long history of successes for the Swarthmore College grads — returns in a co-production with the University of the Arts, hosted by the Asian Arts Initiative. We’re given six opportunities to purchase a ticket to a short play; each costs $1, and we’re provided with five $1 bills. But there are eight plays total, and when a bell rings, we have just three minutes to shop for our next show. Part circus, part lab experiment and part shopping experience, Pay Up (2005) explores the psychology of money: not only what it buys, but what it’s worth to us in other ways, and the power it both gives and takes. An ensemble of more than 30 professional and student actors compels us to think about cash, dough, moola, green, bread, bucks and legal tender — that abstract yet indispensable stuff that we can’t live without, but seldom question. Sept. 4-22, $25, Asian Arts Initiative, 1219 Vine St. —Mark Cofta
St. Joan, Betrayed
Mary Tuomanen was born to play Joan of Arc. This smart, intense actress who excels at teenagers and never ages has played the title characters in Hamlet and Pookie Goes Grenading, and Joan embodies both. This new play with masks, puppets and movement by Tuomanen and partner Aaron Cromie explores the betrayal of the Maid of Orleans by her own army at Compiegne, and translates Joan’s “strange and crazy miracles,” wrought by a God who spoke to her, into toy theater. Until someone has the good sense to produce George Bernard Shaw’s St. Joan starring Tuomanen, this will do just fine. Sept. 5-14, $15, Theatre Exile, 1340 S. 13th St. —Mark Cofta
When Lindsay Harris Friel’s comedy appeared in the Philadelphia Theatre Workshop’s 2010 PlayShop Festival, I was impressed not only by her discovery of a possible romance between playwright Joe Orton and Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein in 1967, but also by how her script — set, absurdly, in a cemetery — convincingly echoed the artful lunacy of Orton’s plays like Loot and What the Butler Saw. History confirms that Orton and Epstein connected about a never-produced Beatles screenplay. Friel’s play, which also debuts director Liam Castellan’s new company, Liam’s Sofa Cushion Fortress, explores both what times were like (it was the Summer of Love, yet homosexuality was still a crime in England) and what might have been had these two influential, closeted men survived the year. Sept. 6-14, $10-$20, Adrienne Theater, 2030 Sansom St. —Mark Cofta
This Is Not for You
Despite its exclusionary title, this interdisciplinary Elbow Room performance seeks to probe one of life’s most universal phenomena: solitude. The subject once famously immortalized in an ode by Alexander Pope will be put to the test in a piece that questions the definition and implication of being alone. A genre-defying combination of theater, dance, lecture, and debate, This is Not For You marks the first collaboration between longtime friends and colleagues Julie Beauvais and Jon Foley Sherman in a decade. Beauvais, a Swiss opera director, and Sherman, an American director and performer, first met at the prestigious l’Ecole International du Théâtre Jacques Lecoq, where they were two of the titular actor’s last-ever students. Their Fringe presentation draws heavily on the individual experiences they’ve had as parents and partners in the 15 years since. Sept. 6-7, 6 p.m., $10, Crane Arts Building, 1417 N. Second St. —Jess Bergman
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