July 11th, 2010

storyteller doll

Pushing Boundaries

I went to see two fringe shows yesterday. Pushing Boundaries is Ellouise Schoettler's storytelling piece about the women's movement and, especially, the quest for the Equal Rights Amendment. The story is an important one, as I think a lot of younger women (and men) take their opportunities nowadays for granted. Ellouise was an unlikely activist, a housewife who had been happy to leave behind her time as a nursing student to marry a medical student. Her husband, Jim, brought home a copy of The Feminine Mystique and it helped her understand her discontent with her life. There was also personal tragedy (which she mentions, but does not tell the story of) and a friend who told her not to call again until she'd gone out and done something, leading her to return to school to study art. Her college experiences led her to activism (relating to the anti-war movement) and she discovered she liked it. Some of her work led to things we think of as routine today, such as choosing artwork without displaying the artist's name (and, hence, gender). She has some regrets for the fate of the ERA, but looks at today's world as an overall success for the women's movement. She ended with a Q&A, which was really more of a comment period. Perhaps because it was a rainy Saturday morning and the audience was small, she didn't get a particularly lively discussion. That's a shame as the piece should provoke more people to tell their own stories and fill in the history.
storyteller doll

Dog Sees G-d: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead

It's always difficult to choose which Fringe shows to see. I'll admit that this production, by The Little Theatre of Alexandria, would never have caught my attention had I not seen a recent review of another production of this show by cahwyguy.

The premise is that the Peanuts gang are in high school. The names are slightly changed, though easily recognizable, presumably to avoid legal issues. In the opening scene, C.B. is writing to his pen pal, setting up the situation. In short, his life has taken some strange turns ever since his dog died. His sister is a Wiccan, though she had been a fundamentalist Baptist not long before. She's also creating a theatrical piece about a caterpillar that wants to evolve into a platypus, providing some of the funniest moments of the play. His best friend, Van, is a pothead (and smoked the ashes of his blanket after his sister and C.B. burned it). Matt is a neat freak who hates being reminded of his childhood predilection for dirt, which had led him to having been called "Pigpen." Tricia and Marcy party and get drunk at school, Van's sister is on a locked ward for having set the little red-headed girl's hair on fire. And then there's Beethoven, who has been rejected ever since his father was arrested for molesting him. C.B.'s philosophical musings on his dog's death lead him to re-explore his relationship with Beethoven, triggering complex reactions from the other children.

Much of this is very funny, but there are serious undertones, with issues touched upon including drugs, sexuality, violence, and teen suicide. There's a hopeful ending, with a reply from C.B.'s pen pal. It's worth seeing, both for the parody and the reflection on what might become of familiar characters.

As for the performances, all of them were at least competent. I was particularly impressed with Keith J. Miller as Beethoven and Allison S. Galen as C. B.'s Sister.

I'll also note that this show made me more likely to see others done by The Little Theatre of Alexandria. In particular, they're doing The Visit, one of my favorite plays of all time, this fall.