This isn’t very timely, since the Capital Fringe is over, but I haven’t had a lot of time for writing over the past couple of weeks. Due to various events out of town, I only went to 4 fringe shows this year.
The Hello Girls: Ellouise Schoettler is a friend and I have heard her talking over the past several months about her developing show about women who served as bilingual telephone operators in France during World War I. This is a bit of history I (and I venture to say most of the audience) knew pretty much nothing about and I found it intriguing. Ellouise focused in on three women, representing each by wearing a different pair of eyeglasses. Her telling was straightforward, but the material is strong enough that the audience gasped at particularly outrageous details. Well done.
The Goddess Diaries: A group of 11 women performed stories about women’s lives. These were not their own stories, but might well have been. The idea was to follow the seasons of a woman’s life, with the pieces linked by a musical interlude about the goddess, Persephone. As one would expect in a piece with this sort of structure, the stories varied in quality and tone. I have a certain bias towards humor, so particularly liked "Snake Girl," about a rebellious teenager, and "Meeting Mark" about a woman in her 30’s who finds love but faces conflict over registering for wedding presents. Overall, I thought the show was worth seeing. I want to particularly commend the performance of Alexandra Bunger-Pool, who sang the Persephone song and led each of the other women off the stage.
Feisty Old Jew: This was, essentially, a storytelling show, with Charlie Varon performing a short story about an elderly Jewish man named Bernie who ends up hitching a ride to Marin County with three 20-somethings. I thought Bernie was an appealing character and there were some funny lines. But this was very obviously a written piece and would have benefited from some thought about the differences between written and spoken language. I’d be interested in reading more of Varon’s work, but I wasn’t left with a desire to see more of it on stage.
The Fever: I went to see this one man play because I thought Pat O’Brien’s performance in Under the Lintel last year was extraordinary. This play was by Wallace Shawn, which should also have been a good mark. Unfortunately, I found the whole thing to be a humorless and incoherent political screed. O’Brien did a good job with what he was given, but the script itself had no appeal to me.
Overall, I'd say I did well with 2.5 out of the 4 shows I saw (the half being for Feisty Old Jew. That's good enough for my money.