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A “Discomfiture of Riches” at The Fringe at Last!!

Hollywood Fringe Fest 2016

Fringe-2016.jpgNow I’ll be honest here, I thought this year’s Fringe started out slow. Well, at least it did for me. Nor did I come across shows of any great merit, at first. Hell, I even started wearing my Saint Genesius medal! But when that dam did break (thank you Chris and Jen) then the flood waters started surging. Here are a trio of the latest top honor takers…


 VINCENT DECONSTRUCTED

It is not often in the Fringe when one can use the word “lavish,” but in speaking of playwright / director Elissa Anne Polansky’s Vincent Deconstructed that is the first word that comes to my mind. “Lavish” not in the sense that it is over-produced, rather “lavish” in that it is smartly produced, and for this Mark Hein is given a great big feather for his bonnet.

Polansky’s play is well crafted and sincere, but in lesser hands her refashioning of the artist’s last days could easily find itself dismissed as “The Last Temptation of Van Gogh.” But she has been served well by Hein and all the other talents engaged here.

Alex Walters is gripping as Vincent, and Todd Andrew Ball’s understated performance as the tormented Vidal draws us in to share his suffering. I’ve often described the difference between a good production and a superb one as the matter of an inch. The distinction depends upon making strong choices and then pushing one inch further. Doing this with every single choice throughout the creative process is what results in a production being superlative.

Well I would put forth Vincent Deconstructed as a prime example of this. Also, kudos to David Graham, David MacDowell Blue and Caitlin platmed.jpgMcCarthy for the art and artistry of the projections, Hisato Masuyama and Steve Shaw for voice over and sound design, Angela Eads for her inspired costumes and Stacey Abrams for a light design that served the show so well on so many levels.

And once more, hats off to Hein for conducting so many talents into such a splendid symphony.

Of course: PLATINUM

For more info go to: www.ActaeonPlayers.com/

 


whalefil.jpg#WHALEFAIL

The narrative plot of #Whalefail is painfully evident to anyone who has seen the documentary Blackfish. But Brett Epstein shows he is as smart a playwright as he is a talented one. Rather than simply drape his story over that of the documentary he cleverly slants it to his own use, making this a very personal tale of loss rather than a tirade against the corporate captivity of killer whales for commercial exploitation.

At the funeral of her sister Ivy (Claire Chapelli), a trainer at Ocean World killed by the whale she was performing with, the grieving angry Bridget (Sherry Berg) meets Ralph (Jamie Engber) a sweetly maladroit co-worker of Ivy.

And presto! Suddenly we have a somewhat askewed romantic comedy before us, which is hardly what we came into the Lounge Theatre expecting.

Now this radical shift could be the production’s downfall, except that Epstein’s play is so splendidly scripted, his young actors so wonderfully talented, and Michael Hammond’s direction so astute that the audience is won over from the word go. There is no soap boxing here, and even the face of the Ocean World Corporation (Clayton Farris) is shown with some humanity.

Other than a great deal of respect for the playwright, I left the theatre with gold.jpgadmiration for his cast. Berg and Engber are outstanding as the two “neurotic crossed” lovers, and Chapelli, who plays numerous roles, including the whale, displayed a subtlety of craft that was dazzling.

It may be on the lite side, but the call is still: GOLD

 


macdeth_20160630-040945_1.jpg

MACDETH!

If at some point during the Fringe, the unthinkable had occurred, if that pudgy little psychopath in North Korea or that homophobic lunatic in Russia had somehow plunged the world into the long dreaded nuclear nightmare, destroying all civilization, there are two things you can be certain of: the cockroaches would survive, and Ryan J-W Smith would be on hand passing out, to them, cards to his shows. What nine year old Kim Phúc, fleeing naked from her napalmed village, is to the Viet Nam war, what Dorothea Lange, mother of seven, is to the Great Depression, what the Hindenburg is to Herbert Morrison’s “Oh, the humanity,” Smith is to Fringe 2016.

One of history’s great mysteries is, wherever did aviator Amelia Earhart disappear while flying over the Pacific? I don’t have the answer to that, but I’m willing to bet if they ever find her skeletal remains, in her boney hand will be one of Smith’s show cards. And I’m sure Smith found Waldo and God and handed them both a show card.

Swear to Bejeebus, if Smith had any more visibility they would have voted him an honorary Kardashian. Now, that said, MacDeth was damn good fun. How can you not love a show with a drag queen witch and Emperor Palpatine as the murderer? The cast Lance Frantzich, Helena gold.jpgGrace Donald, Faith Kearns, Jason Linforth and Lisa Lynn are delightfully deranged in Ryan J-W Smith’s painfully clever, pugnaciously subversive, and decidedly funny sendoff of Shakespeare’s Scottish play.

The call for Macdeth! is: GOLD

For more about Rogue Shakespeare, go to: www.rogueshakespeare.com/


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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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