A quick caveat: I was performing towards the end of the first act, and my stage anxiety is such that I couldn’t really focus on the preceding performances; consequently, I’ll only be offering my thoughts on the six Fringe previews in the latter half of the show.
I confess immediately that I don’t think I’ve ever seen a James Bond movie from beginning to end; I have, however, seen the genre parodied and paid homage to frequently enough to have a grasp of the basic pop-culture formula, and that seems to be all that the show requires. Unsurprisingly considering the company’s history, this features some first-rate clowning, most of it revolving around a crude puppet show and its interactions with live actors; the snippet we saw was consistently inventive, finding new and surprising ways to use the limited pieces. Granted, they were on home territory (the company hosted the evening, and the audience was weighted heavily with their fans), but the crowd went nuts for it.
Aunt Dicey Channels Moms Mabley by The House of Zulu Productions
I actually reviewed this show back in 2009. In fact, here’s a link to the review, since my observations of this performance were pretty consistent with that one. I will note that this seemed to be a much better audience for her—the space was open (I previously saw her in the Bryant-Lake Bowl), liquor was served, and people were warmed up and anticipating comedy. While I recall a more polite, hands-folded-in-their-laps crowd the last time I saw her, she really seems to thrive on call-and-response.
(I will say that the preview ran a bit long—not that I was timing her, but it felt long for a sample.)
Hamluke by Dana’s Boys
So, the title pretty much states exactly what this show is, and you already know if you’re in the audience for this or not, rendering a review somewhat superfluous. They’ll do well, and they deserve to—so I’d like to go ahead and indulge some of my rambling thoughts about what this is.
Another confession—I actually reviewed a production of this script that took place several years back (and for which, I note, my review has been lost to the intangible ether of the Internet). I was not a great lover of the script at the time. I’ve been holding out hope for this production, since I know several members of the cast to be funny, talented, creative people.
Alas, my observation remains consistent: cast, very funny; script, less so. It’s basically a one-joke premise—taking lines from the Star Wars films and recasting them in Elizabethan English, so something akin to 2009’s Bard Fiction—and I walk away with much the same impression; it’s a good joke, but I tire of it quickly.
Okay, so, more interesting question: what would make the script work for me? I wonder if I wouldn’t find it funnier if it were played straight—there’s some flirtation with the parallels between the two sources (the Star Wars movies are dealing with some fairly grand, Shakespearean themes), but for the most part there’s a kind of constant winking at the audience—of stepping back and pointing and gesturing wildly at the jokes as they happen. I don’t know if a more poker-faced attitude would be sufficient to sustain my attention for an hour, but it would probably do more for me than chuckling at how silly the words sound all old-timey.
History Camp by Zombie High School
This was well-done: the songs were catchy, they manage to create a lot of variety as an a cappella group, the cast is incredibly charming and open and appealing—so it’s with a note of genuine regret that I observe that I’m simply not in the audience for this show. It focuses on that kind of romanticization of childhood that is simply too inconsistent with my own memory to resonate with me. This is for those who fondly remember teen camp stories and summer love, and you’ll have a great time. Alas, I’m pretty far from that demographic.
Ooh—another quirky modern dance group with an absurdist bent! I’m an absolute sucker for this genre, and the bit I saw was consistently engaging—lots of sudden shifts and rhythm changes, consistently surprising. Also, whether by chance or design, this is a trio with three pretty dramatically different body types, and they exploit it well—one movement will be passed between all of them, and it’s amusing to what it does to their different shapes/lengths. Not on my radar before but definitely curious now.
License by Black Butterfly Theatre
When the Fringe site went live this year, I noted down ten shows that caught my eye—this was one of them. I’m pleased to say that this was my favorite preview of the night. In a lot of respects, it was the verbal equivalent of the previous piece (lots of sudden, abrupt shifts and changes, emotional as well as verbal), and a lot of it seems to be driven by expressionistic language, shifting between the colloquial and the elevated (so, yeah, of course I’m a sucker for it).
My main beef is that the actors, I think, need to—and I am aware of the irony of this, coming from someone known for fast-talking—slow down and articulate more carefully; a lot of the act was me leaning forward and trying to discern what was being said, and that’s kind of death for a piece this language-driven.
So, yes—they stormed the stage and threw a big ball of muscular words at us, largely bereft of context (which, I presume, the greater show will provide). This was pretty much tailor-made for me.