Opening Fringe weekend has come and gone. City Pages will offer full coverage in this Wednesday's issue, but here are a few notes. I saw ten shows this weekend, which I wouldn't particularly recommend to anyone--although the recurring faces I saw at many venues suggested that some were pursuing even more punishing schedules than mine.
A few observations:
--"Why Actors Can't Love" at the Jungle is a must-see, in its own low-key way. I talked to a couple of fellow critic types
later after the show's premiere, and they were more conditional in their appraisal. I'm not. I think it's great. It features Maggie Chestovich and Jim Lichtscheidl as ex-lovers hashing out their past in a Chicago motel room. It won't change your life, but it's everything a Fringe show should be: entertaining, irreverent, funny, and short.
--Another unexpected treat was "Dead Wait," also at the Jungle. In it, the ghosts of Jayne Mansfield and Ron Goldman try to grok their fates in the afterlife. It features a nice performance by young actor Ryan Lindberg and haunting work by Wade A. Vaughn. The show stopper, though, is Catherine E. Johnson as Jane Mansfield--she's a dolled up sibyl on barbituates, using a seductress' voice to pronounce her invention of everything American, as well as to lament her gruesome passing.
--"The Princeton Seventh" has been selling out at Bryant-Lake Bowl. I saw about thirty people turned away on opening night, and only the Mafia clout of my City Pages press I.D. got me in the door. So how is it? Frankly, a bit irritating, although the performances are very good and the ending redeems things. I think I was more put off by its preoccupation with literary celebrity than many other audience members.
--If you're looking for a show to see with your mom, you could do worse than Holly Davis's "Going to 2nd Base With God." It's a one-woman show about being unsatisfied with middle-class family life, subsequent depression, and later spiritual rebirth. Davis is frank and funny at times, although the show runs too long at 80 minutes.
--Probably my best night out was "Thirst Theater" at Joe's Garage. The series of six skits were gripping, it goes out on a high note, and there is a full bar. The service even continues throughout the show, so you can get walleyed while consuming your culture. The night I went was beautiful, I saw a shooting star, and the action rarely flagged.
--Another big buzz show is "The President, Once Removed," written by Fringe darling Ari Hoptman. Its reception has been pretty mixed, ranging from "Ari is a genius who has magnanimously blessed us with his gifts" to "What is this pile of shit?" See, the deal is this: the play is a straight up telling of the rise to the Presidency and subsequent assassination of James Garfield. Hell, Chester Arthur is even thrown into the mix. If this sounds good to you, go see it. You'll like it. I did. The acting is excellent, the story is interesting, and I enjoyed the twist of there being no twist.
--A conditional recommendation goes to "Quarter Life Crisis" at the Brave New Workshop. It's funny, but at times it's funny in an annoying way. It's about a young couple out for dinner when their relationship implodes in several improbable ways. Writer Aaron Christopher also stars as a Dada waiter, and his character is a high point.
And with that, I am heading into seclusion. Mail to me will be forwarded to my scenic chalet tucked high into a forgotten corner of the Andes.