The New Orleans Fringe Festival is a time of much theatre and little sleep, with show schedules running until midnight followed by an “afterparty” at a different location every night of the festival.
I didn’t get to see quite as many shows as I would have liked this year, because I was working the box office for UNO’s production of Hamlet, which overlapped with Fringe and tending bar part-time at the Shadowbox Theatre. Fortunately for me, some of the shows that were high on my list (Numb, Enter Your Sleep, Maria Kizito, and Oxblood) are local shows that have schedules running beyond the five days of the Fringe and I’ll see them outside festival.
I still managed to get into fourteen shows, and here’s my set list, from most favorite to least. And even though they’re ranked, all of the shows had elements I enjoyed.
LoopsEnd – Beautifully choreographed aerial acrobatics by the Paper Doll Militia. Especially stunning was the first of the two acts which involved two performers using their own bodies and loops of steel chain as part of the apparatus. The second act had a beautiful, fantastical aesthetic.
Palindrome – Pure wordless vaudeville: Bill Irwin meets Harpo Marx. Musician Lucas Hicks provided an engaging soundtrack for the two-man troupe, who made a delightfully comic mix of clowning and acrobatics that could have seemed like worn-out devices in lesser hands.
DEUSA – A dance show with a surprisingly edgy political viewpoint, this show was presented by local choreographer Donna Crump and her troupe. This is the third time I’ve seen them perform, and they always keep my attention. My only quibble was their showing of what amounted to a seven-minute PR video to open the show.
The Other Mozart – A gorgeously staged and historically compelling story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s older (and possibly equally-talented) sister Maria Anna. The play slowed a bit in the second half when Nannerl is trapped in an unfulfilling marriage to an older man, but the beauty and heartbreak of her story sticks with you.
My Horse’s Name is Loneliness – Equal parts send=up and homage of the epic spaghetti western, acting troupe Aztec Economy sets their anti-hero down in a Mayberry-like small town with amusing, anachronistic verve.
(Almost Definitely) Questionable Acts – This absurdist vaudeville featured a series of sketches that ranged from pure whimsy to warped historical vignettes (Sacco and Venzetti swapping jokes about wops and anarchists). The performers are both engaging and show off their memories by incorporating pre-show audience interactions into the performance. Plus pizza!
The Wake – An impressively acted meta-theatrical story whose Fight Club-esque narrator has convinced himself that the girl he just ran over is the love of his life. Actor Ben Moroski is always compelling even when the story line occasionally slips the rails.
For Sins I Can Remember – A gorgeously-designed high concept piece about a Victorian-era streetwalker’s judgement in purgatory, this show was more compelling visually than textually. I enjoyed the movement and absurdism, but left wanting a little more. From Vagabond Inventions.
The Sweater Curse – This autobiographical show by Elaine Liner was unexpectedly moving, and combines a short course on knitting with reflections on Penelope and Odysseus with her own sometimes funny, sometimes tragic love life.
UnCouth – Windy Wynazz offers a swim through the psyche of a wanna-be showgirl who is oppressed by the voice of her Jewish mother constantly echoing in her head. Clowning, lip-synching, and an amusingly odd little tea party ensues.
Exquisite Mistake – This immersive experience puts the audience in the midst of five characters all trying to gain your sympathy. While the choreographed moments were entertaining, and the ending provided a nice frisson, the story underlying the characters wasn’t clear enough to be compelling.
Baghdad Puppies – A well-intentioned docudrama about the treatment of homosexuals in post-invastion Iraq, this show suffered mostly repetition and exposition over plot. To it’s credit, it didn’t oversimplify the issues, though it tend to portray Islam in general as intolerant.
Best Picture – This show by Ribbet RePublic recalls the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s work, except with Hollywood Oscar winners as the target instead of the Bard. It suffers from having to do too much exposition about the shows no one remembers, and over-reliance of the device of introducing the actors as the stars of the show they’re lampooning. If they had picked 30 films instead of 86, I think it would have worked better.
Violence of the Lambs – A mildly amusing lecture by a “researcher” who connects the dots between recent news stories to project an upcoming war between humans and the rest of the animal kingdom.