Today was the final day of the Capital Fringe Festival and I saw two shows. The first was "Slash Coleman Has Big Matzo Balls." I met Slash a few years ago at the Virginia Storytelling Alliance gathering, so I was expecting more storytelling than this proved to be.
What it was was weird. He started out with some family history, about his mother's experiences as a Holocaust survivor. I actually got confused about what happened to which family members, but the gist was that part of his family was very Jewish and the rest was completely terrified to let anybody know they were Jewish. His mother fell into the latter camp and married an Italian Catholic. So, basically, Slash grew up conflicted and hiding his Jewish-ness. The show is supposed to be about his trying to find a way to complete his Jewish identity, which he does by trying to find the second triangle to turn one he wears on his t-shirt into a star of David.
Unfortunately, it got fairly incoherent from there. He did a bunch of audience participation stuff, but not all of the people he drafted to do things seemed all that willing. He had a bunch of "halfie" jokes, which were fairly incoherent as well. The shticks included giving birth to a giant matzo ball and a stint where he dressed as Jesus to explain Jewish geometry.
Things improved somewhat when he abandoned the costumes and shtick and talked about his conflicted feelings. His telling about his nephew's growing interest in Judaism was warm and could be developed into a real story. But this was too clearly unscripted and not really audience-ready. The cardinal sin of storytelling (as far as I am concerned) is committing therapy in public and that's what this felt like.
Bottom line is that there are bits and pieces of promising material, but the show just didn't work for me.
The final fringe show I saw was "Outrageous Dames." This was actually two one-woman shows and about the only link between them is that both were about women.
The first, Marjorie Conn's "Miss Lizzie A. Borden Invites You For Tea," was absorbing. Ms. Conn did an excellent job of exploring Lizzie Borden's story, including her (and her sister's) motivation. There's also some interesting material about Lizzie's love affair with the actress, Nance O'Neil. The only negative was that Conn seemed a bit hesitant with the material at times, as if she was having trouble remembering her lines, but that happened just a few times.
Christine Emmert's "Dying in Pittsburgh" was considerably less interesting. I could appreciate Emmert's acting skill, but Eleanora Duse (an actress who rivaled Sarah Bernhardt) just wasn't that interesting a person. There's no real narrative arc to the monologue and I found myself peeking at my watch during the performance.