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Hollywood Fringe 2015 Medal Count..

week one: part one

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THE GOLD MEDALS:
ANNA IN THE DARKNESS
LA LA LA STRADA
NELL GWYNNE – A DRAMATICK ESSAYE ON ACTING AND PROSTITUTION
SHAKESPEARE’S LAST NIGHT OUT: (OR WHAT? YOU, WILL??)
STUPID SONGS!

THE SILVER MEDALS:
THE LAST KNOWN RECORDING OF THE LOVELY LENORE SISTERS –
(With a Gold Metal Performance)
THE POE SHOW

THE BRONZE MEDALS:
THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO – THE MUSICAL
THE HALFWITS’ LAST HURRAH
WOMBAT MAN: THE CEREAL MURDERS

THE EAR WAX MEDALS:
MY DARLING JOSEPHINE

 

(For a complete list of Medal Winners click HERE)

 

ANNA IN THE DARKNESS

Director Amanda Weier and especially the nuanced and finely etched performance by Rebecca Lincoln provided me my first jaw dropper of this Fringe Fest (I’m confident there’ll be many more).

A strange, disturbing, and excellently mounted tale of a woman’s descent into insanity where you must constantly question whether the madness engulfing her is that of the world she exists in, or if the madness within her tints all of her observations. Mark Wilson deserves praise for his beautifully woven sound web that ensnares and traps Lincoln’s character.

Sunday June 14 2015, 8:00 PM | 50 mins
Friday June 19 2015, 10:00 PM
Sunday June 21 2015, 8:00 PM
Saturday June 27 2015, 6:00 PM
Lounge Theatre (Lounge Theatre ) 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard
Tickets: $12.00
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NELL GWYNNE – A DRAMATICK ESSAYE ON ACTING AND PROSTITUTION

Actress, Bella Merlin certainly enjoys herself portraying Nell Gwynne (1650 – 1687), one of history’s most engaging tarts. Fortunately, the audience is swept up in Merlin’s bravado performance from the moment she steps out on stage, rattling merrily on about her life’s journey that took her from poor country girl, to star of the London stage, and finally to the bed of England’s King. The historical period known as the “Restoration,” in reference to the return of the monarchy in the person of King Charles II to England after the death of Oliver Cromwell, was a fascinating time.

Merlin sings some bawdy ditties of the period, and chews a little scenery when talking about the roles Gwynne played, and touches on the devastating plague of 1665 and The Great London Fire of 1666. She even reads a section or two from the diaries of Samuel Pepys.
But this is not a history lesson, this is just fun.
Great fun at that.

Thursday June 18 2015, 5:00 PM | 45 mins
Friday June 19 2015, 9:00 PM
Wednesday June 24 2015, 9:00 PM
Saturday June 27 2015, 8:30 PM
Complex Theatres (Ruby Theatre, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd) Hollywood’s Theatre Row
Tickets: $12.00

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LA LA LA STRADA

La La La Strada is another show customed fit for the Fringe.

It is an unhappy fact that shows of its nature would have a difficult time realizing commercial production, hindered not by any supposed or actual flaws, but by those elements within the show constituting its strengths and fundamental appeal; elements which would intimidate Producers of the more timid types.

The Proboscis Theater Company has given their audience something “different.”

“Different” can be exciting.

“Different” can be adventurous.

“Different” can be fascinating.

The Proboscis Theater Company has succeeded in all three.

Taking as its foundation Federico Fellini’s 1954 La Strada, considered by some his masterpiece, the ensemble uses dance, music and puppetry to explore the artist and the creative process.

Based on autobiographical materials of the film’s cast and other sources, Jeff Mills, who wrote and directed, has fashioned a narrative that is an elegant joining of stylish theatricality and magic realism.
It effectively conveys the agony that is the lot of any artistic effort, while commenting on our unhealthy tendency of tolerating in “artists” what is intolerable in anyone.

For fans of Fellini and film lovers this show is a natural draw.

Yet one can still enjoy this show even if they come into the theatre without the least knowledge of either the Italian filmmaker or the film La Strada.

You just need to know that Fellini’s wife, Giulietta Masina plays the naïve Gelsomina and that Anthony Quinn plays the brutal strongman Zampanò.

La La La Strada
merely uses the specifics of this single film in an effort to examine what is consumed by and betrayed by in an artist’s struggle to realize what is essentially unrealizable, the dream, the vision, the illusion of art.

This is a far larger issue than just one Italian film. And a far more interesting one as well.

Friday June 19 2015, 10:00 PM | 75 mins
Sunday June 21 2015, 1:30 PM
Friday June 26 2015, 11:30 PM Saturday June 27 2015, 5:00 PM
Actors Company (OTHER SPACE THEATER) 916 N. Formosa Ave
Tickets: $18.00
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STUPID SONGS!

Under the direction of Keri Safran, and accompanied by The Stupid Band (Dan Wessels, Eric Kalver, Brebtib Jissak and Carla Capolupo) fifteen professional singers do what all professionals dream of: Totally trash their profession.

Essentially everything you need to know about this show is there in the title. All it is, is a hodge-podge of 19 stupid songs. But they happen to be really funny “stupid” songs sung by really amazing singers.

For the Most part written by the company member who performs them , and boasting a satirical bite sharp enough to intimidate the shark from Jaws, each and every one of the numbers are genuine toe tappers.
They are gleefully naughty and stunningly clever too.

Sarah Wolter and Gabriel Oliva perform “My Neighbor” (written by Wolter) a snappy little duet about having a serial killer living next door to you.

Tad Coughenour touches a nerve in his ditty about a painfully neurotic man who just doesn’t know what to do with his arms in the aptly titled: “What To Do With Your Arms.”

Laura Michelle Hughes intones “Montana” which poses the musical question, “Montana – 41th state or cartographic fraud?”

The nature of jealousy is pondered by Sara Cravens, in a tune about a girl who believes her boyfriend when he says he’s being faithful to her; but she still wants to “Smell Yo Dick.”

Now selecting the above four, I didn’t pick the stand out numbers; they are all stand out numbers, I just picked the ones that got me laughing so hard that I nearly fell out of my seat.

Like Opéra Bouffe only better. ‘Cause there’s no “opera!”

If you’re a fan of Weird Al, have the old albums of Allen Sherman or P.D.Q. Bach or Tom Lehrer, if you find yourself singing Python’s “Spam Song” in the shower, then this is a show for you.

Sunday June 14 2015, 6:00 PM | 70 mins
Saturday June 20 2015, 4:00 PM
Sunday June 21 2015, 12:00 PM
Friday June 26 2015, 8:00 PM
Lounge Theatre (Lounge Theatre ) 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard
Tickets $12.00
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SHAKESPEARE’S LAST NIGHT OUT (OR WHAT? YOU, WILL??)

In the interest of full disclosure:

I just recently met Michael Shaw Fisher; I thought he was a swell guy. I was familiar with some of his past work. Was a big fan of his 2012’s Doomsday Cabaret, an antic romp with a wide array of the apocalyptic myths. I thought Exoricistic: The Rock Musical Parody Experiment was one of the best shows in Fringe 2013 (And so did just about everybody else – awarded Best Musical) And 2014’s Werewolves of Hollywood Blvd? It was okay (But I mean “okay” in a really, really…good way.) What I’m saying here is that I know Michael Shaw Fisher is a clever and talented kinda guy. However I wanted to see his Shakespeare’s Last Night Out, a song fest depicting the last night of Shakespeare’s for a different reason entirely:

“There are two pasturages for great souls – Plutarch and Shakespeare. There is no third.”

Yeah, that’s right; I am an unrepentant bardolator and serious student of Shakespeare. Now nobody actually knows what Shakespeare did the night before his death. There’s no way of knowing what he did the week before or even month prior to April 23, 1616. The report that he died after a night in a Stratford tavern derives from a reference jotted down fifty years after the fact. So when I went to see it his Sunday, I took my “supercilious eye” along. Just in case. Well, now I am forced to revise my estimate of Michael Shaw Fisher.

He is a clever, talented, intelligent and very insightful kinda guy: Who can sing! And yeah, he knows his Shakespeare.

With Alistair Cooper on guitar, Allison Sulock on everything else, and Jeff Sumner directing, Shakespeare’s Last Night Outis a wonderful show, both funny and touching, that should not be missed!

Saturday June 20 2015, 3:30 PM | 70 mins
Sunday June 21 2015, 8:00 PM
Friday June 26 2015, 6:00 PM
Saturday June 27 2015, 2:00 PM
Three Clubs (Three Clubs Stage Room) 1123 N VINE ST
Tickets: $12.00

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THE HALFWITS’ LAST HURRAH

The Four Clowns productions have been a staple of the Fringe. In this production we’re given two egomaniacs warring over control of a motley band of circus performers.

As the name of the company, Four Clowns might lead you to suspect, clowning is their game, and there is some inspired examples of the art on stage here.

The show may be said to have fallen short of prior efforts, but nevertheless it is still packed full of fun and offers laughs a-go-go.

Thursday June 18 2015, 7:00 PM | 1hr
Saturday June 20 2015, 11:55 PM
Tuesday June 23 2015, 8:30 PM
Friday June 26 2015, 10:30 PM
Theatre Asylum (Lillian Theatre – 1076 Lillian Way LA. CA. 90038) Hollywood’s Theatre Row
TICKETS: $12-$15

Lvlenor1.jpgTHE LAST KNOWN RECORDING OF THE LOVELY LENORE SISTERS

A murder mystery involving a 40’s singing trio consisting of three sisters.

Think Raymond Chandler meets the Andrews Sisters.

Written and performed by Jennifer Kenyon with Amanda Weier directing, the show is tight and entertaining. But it is Kenyon’s performance as the three sisters that is the main reason not to miss this one, as she flows seamlessly between the siblings sisters as they relate the events that lead to their manager plunging out of a hotel window and the end of their career.

The play is fun. Kenyon is amazing.

Thursday June 18 2015, 6:00 PM | 50 mins
Sunday June 21 2015, 2:00 PM
Friday June 26 2015, 10:00 PM
Lounge Theatre (Lounge 2) 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard
Tickets: $13.00

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THE POE SHOW

The concept here is as Fringe as Fringe can be, and then some.

Edgar Allan Poe the tragic, alcoholic genius as you’ve never seen him before: King of the Late Night Airwaves!

Brendan Hunt plays Poe, the talk show host, with brooding perfection as he chats up his guests – Dracula, Mary Shelley, George Armstrong Custer and Mark Twain.

The Poe Show
is a spiky jumble of the smart and the stupid molded into a ridiculously dorky and superbly wacky romp.
(For my full review of The Poe Show refer to socal.bitter-lemons.com)

Saturday June 20 2015, 5:30 PM | 55 mins
Wednesday June 24 2015, 8:30 PM
Saturday June 27 2015, 4:30 PM
Theatre Asylum (Theatre Asylum – 6320 Santa Monica Blvd. LA. CA.
Tickets: $13.00

countmc2.jpgTHE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO: THE MUSICAL

You need to go into the show with your eyes open. Writer, director and producer Kelly D’Angelo is certainly ambitious in undertaking to stage a Broadway style musical of The Count of Monte Cristo. There’s no denying the show has problems, most of which D’Angelo might have avoided if she had limited the number of hats she wore here.

Running the two hour show without an intermission is perhaps not the wisest decision.

The production suffers from a clumsy book and repeatedly plunging the audience into blackouts that a more inventive director could have worked out. But these flaws and others should be judged with some generosity. That this show is not a total success should be no surprise. That it succeeds as well as it does, however is worthy of our respect. Composer Matt Dahan has done some wonderful work. It might not look like a West End musical, but it sounds like one. There is some weakness in the ensemble, but there are also some standouts like David Meinke (the Count), Mary Nepi and Anthony Gruppuso (Valentine and Gérard de Villefort). Years ago, when living in London, I went to see a work in progress that was staged in a Gym. It had problems too. The play was The Elephant Man.

There’s a lot this show needs and a lot it lacks.

But what it has plenty of, is potential.

Thursday June 18 2015, 7:30 PM | 2hrs
Sunday June 21 2015, 3:30 PM
Friday June 26 2015, 7:30 PM
Saturday June 27 2015, 7:30 PM
Lounge Theatre (Lounge 2) 6201 Santa Monica Boulevard
Tickets: $20.00
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WOMBAT MAN: THE CEREAL MURDERS

Writer and director Chrisi Talyn Saje has staged little more than a skit here. About a befuddled costume hero, Wombat Man (Brian Cunningham), fighting crime in the form of Trix the Rabbit, (Jan-David Souter), who is killing breakfast cereal ad icons in his nefarious plan to get some of that cereal always denied him. (“Silly rabbit, Trix are for –” you probably know the drill.) Souter actually manages to be entertaining, but he’s about the only one. Not that there aren’t some silly laughs here, but Saje sells short both the premise and the execution. Fine, you want to put on a skit, put on a skit. But make it a good skit, like the classic Gone With the Wind parody from The Carol Burnett Show.

Like I said, there are some laughs, just not nearly enough for my taste.

Don’t go expecting The Tick.

Friday June 19 2015, 8:00 PM | 100 mins
Saturday June 20 2015, 8:00 PM
Friday June 26 2015, 8:00 PM
Saturday June 27 2015, 8:00 PM
Underground Theatre (Underground Annex) 1312-1314 N. Wilton
Tickets:$12.00

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MY DARLING JOSEPHINE

On paper this must have sounded so cool! A musical about Wyatt Earp set in a bar where Josephine, the woman who would become his wife, is in the midst of rehearsing a play, while outside the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral is raging.
Toss in some Gilbert and Sullivan tunes from The H.M.S. Pinafore, an acting company full of quirky characters, some Shakespearian cross dressing resulting in some “comedy of errors” confusion, then wrap it all up with a door slamming chase a la French farce.

Yes, it all must have seemed so promising.

Sadly, someone was hiding his crossed fingers behind his back when that promise was made.

A concept is a hollow, useless thing unless it’s committed to.

The promo material refers to this show as a “play within a play,” but that is not possible, because there is no play to put a play within.
Not that there isn’t a mountain of material regarding the historical figures of Earp and his wife that could have provided this ensemble with material to build on if they had taken the effort to do a little research. For example, they probably didn’t know that Wyatt Earp finished his life as a Jew in Los Angeles. That tidbit alone is enough for an interesting two-act play.
Sayed Sabrina is dynamic as the singing Majordomo, and J. Nihilist (Really?) struggles valiantly to lift the piece from the depths of the dramatic doldrums, but it is all for naught.

No writer is credited which might reveal the root of the problem.

Stephen Juhl is listed as director.
Okay, if he says so.

Tuesday June 16 2015, 9:45 PM | 90 mins
Friday June 19 2015, 7:45 PM
Friday June 26 2015, 3:45 PM |
Three Clubs (Three Clubs Stage Room) 1123 N VINE ST
Tickets: $15.00

Find the complete schedule for Hollywood Fringe 2015 at: hollywoodfringe.org.

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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, Among the Vipers was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest's stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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