What to See: a Preview of Fringe Festival Favorites
The Capital Fringe Festival—which, by the way, was given the Washington Post Award for Innovative Leadership in the Theatre Community at this year’s Helen Hayes Awards—presents itself in many guises. It’s a glorious mash of styles and genres. Theatrically speaking, it’s also like one of those frontier scouts—or baseball scouts—discovering new worlds, new paths, new talent across the land.
Running July 11 through July 28, the festival is something of a weather vane for theater and the performing arts. Pull yourself through the more than 100 shows, and you’ll find an expanded definition of just what theater is. These days, you’ll see a resurgence of old forms as well as the continued re-invention of new ones. Popular old—beyond the memory of today’s tweeters and YouTube addicts—forms are making a reappearance. Clowning, standup comics, jugglers and magic and puppets are everywhere—so are variations on vaudeville, English music hall tropes, and what used to pass for the seamy side of the street, burlesque performers and shows which have become increasingly popular over the last couple of years.
More anything, there is variety and the titles of shows and troupes alone smack of a certain high spirited irreverence, as well as bits of serious theater business here and there, along with new found attention to the digital age and the people who live in it.
We’re offering up some of the offerings we found interesting—perhaps because of a concept, a funny name, a harrowing idea, a jolly good attitude. You’ll find Shakespeare here, locals and out of towners, brazen darkness, history, gender bending, the straight (but not narrow) path and world, and the gay world and everything in between. We won’t vouch for what’s good or bad. After all, it is the Fringe Festival, but we can probably vouch—and sing along with Cole Porter---that anything goes. Here’s some samplings.
The bard, bearded or otherwise, gets his due or what’s coming to him in the Fringe. There’s “Violent Delights: A Shakespearean Brawlesque Sideshow,” presented by Off the Quill, blending stage combat, dance, clowning alongside theatrical conventions. Conceived by Patrick Mullen.
There’s also at least not one but two versions of “Romeo and Juliet,” one by the We Happy Few Productions company, with its tradition of stripped-down classics, directed by Hannah Todd and Washington’s own hot theater company, the Helen Hayes Award-winning Factions of Fools Theatre Company diving in with full Italian-style commedia dell’Arte style.
The King’s Players take on the murderous Scot in “Mme. Macbeth,” in which the women are kings, warriors and murderers, and the men are the witches and gentlemen, which is to say that Macbeth is a woman and Lady Macbeth is a man (some critics have always thought so).
It’s a funny title, but perhaps not funny: “In Search of the Perfect G-String,” presented by G String Productions features NSO cellist Yvonne Caruthers who wrote the piece with Theresa Gambacorta, in a “poignant story of a small-town girl who practices her way into the world’s great stages and finds glory.”
Russ Widdall stars as Robert F. Kennedy in the one-man production “RFK” from the New City Stage Company, covering the final four years of RFK’s life, featuring music and footage from the era.
Here’s an intriguing concept: the ideas of young idealistic heroes confronting in both Nazi Germany (Sophie Scholl) and contemporary Germany hard choices in “Fallbeil, from the Field Trip Theatre Company, written by Liz Maestri.
Lee J. Kaplan, writes, presents and stars in “Bully,” inspired by 6th-grade journal entries in which the principal figure takes on bullies from his past in the ring.
In “Four Women,” by Clarissa McKithen, Farah Lawal, Jade Andwele, Jessica Solomon, margaux delotte-bennett, Nia McLean and Shonda Goward create four women exploring black womanhood through movement, dance and storytelling. From the Wild Women Theatre Company. Based on a work by Nina Simone.
In “Dark House,” playwright Tarpley Long re-imagines William Faulkner’s ruthless Colonel Sutpen (From “Absalom, Absalom!)” as a D.C. developer in the 1960s.
In a unique, unusual production, “Arlington National Cemetery: My Forever Home”, Ellouise Schoettler presents a woman’s personal journey woven into the daily life at the nation’s military cemetery.
Emma Crane Jester explores how women disguise, cover and uncover themselves in “To Know a Veil” throughout the world through interviews, dance, installation and party games.
The Pointless Theatre Company explores vaudeville in days of old in "Mark Twain’s Riverboat Extravaganza,” described as a puppet-packed vaudeville spectacular with Twain, sundry characters and the ghost of Lincoln and a whole bunch of tall tales.
Weird and strange is “Kubrilesque” from Cherry Kiss Productions, featuring burlesque and dance with a director working on his last film, as well as send-ups and parodies on director Stanley Kubrick's films. Most of the work is by Crystal Swarovsky, with music by Mentally Restarted.
Local scenery is at work in “McPherson Madness” from Rabbie Crew Productions with a character named Dreama struggling with her life as a mother and a D.C. Occupier, directed by Lynnie Raybuck, written by Kelly Canavan.
Washington’s Dog & Pony company presented “A Killing Game,” part absurdist play, part party game, in which a deadly plague starts killing people. Not the zombie wars, but something else.
“The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: The Musical” from Junesong, a play-musical already produced in venues all over the world, written by Timothy Guillot.
“Underneath the Lintel” was best solo show at the Minnesota and London (Ontario) Fringe Festivals and features Patrick O’Brien as a librarian who finds a book that is 123 years overdue and sets out to find the perp.
“Urban Legends,” presented by Beyond the Page Theatre Company of West Potomac High School, written and performed by students. It’s about, well, urban legends. You know who you are.
As for the rest, you can find your own points of interest and gems by going to the Capital Fringe Festival's website -- CapitalFringe.org -- where you can also find venues, dates and ticket prices and other information.