Saturday, August 15, 2009

Frenetic Fringe Festival -- Weekend 2 Bullets

Last week I complained about the Fringe Festival not being quite "fringe" enough. This week was an improvement on that score, and over-all a more interesting and pleasurable evening. You can still see it tonight (Saturday, August 15) or tomorrow. Again to be brief, I'm going to use bullets.

There's a Tsunami at Your Door
  • A short play by Mary Ellen Whitworth.
  • A woman about to commit suicide is interrupted by a desperate cable salesman.
  • Similar to "Velocity" from last week it its use of a tragedy that happened in the past as the cause of what's happening now.
  • But it is a straight-forward narrative, not fractured like "Velocity."
  • The acting was slightly raw.
  • The play had funny moments despite its grim subject.
Dancing Diana
  • This struck me as fairly innovative.
  • Instead of a musical score, there were three short, personal stories by Diana Weeks.
  • They were recorded by her and played over loudspeakers.
  • She sat stage (she's an older woman, perhaps in her 60s or 70s) while the dancers danced.
  • The dancers "interpreted" her story through dance.
  • The connection was tenuous, but--
  • Both aspects--the story and the dance--were enjoyable.
  • It was like, say, riding your bike while listening to your Ipod. You get simultaneous pleasure from both activities.
Spelling Bee Sluts
  • A short play by Paul Locklear.
  • Slight, farcical story about a hillbilly who comes to L.A. to make it big on the spelling bee circuit.
  • He ends up working as a male prostitute.
  • A pretty minor piece of work, I'd have to say.
G.I. Joe PSAs
  • These were cartoon public service announcements from the 1980s, featuring the G.I. Joe characters telling kids about safety.
  • Eric Fensler has recorded new dialogue for them.
  • This had the potential to be funny but predictable.
  • But Fensler's dialogue (often sounds or made-up foreign languages) was absurd and bizarre.
  • It wass still really funny--but not in an easy or obvious way.
Thurmond, W. Va.
  • A documentary by Laura Harrison about a soon-to-be ghost town.
  • 18 people still live there.
  • The National Park Service has bought out most of the folks in town. The intent is to turn this coal mining town into a park along the lines of Mystic Seaport.
  • It felt like a typical documentary, one that had neither the power of the old-school documentaries of, say, the Maysles brothers.
  • Nor did it use the innovations of Errol Morris or Michael Moore.
  • Not that it was bad, just not all that exciting...
Three dance pieces choreographed by Toni Leago Valle
  • These were the best things I saw all night, indeed the best out of both nights.
  • Three solo dances, three solo dancers. They were highly controlled athletes, but each with a kind of way about her that marked them as artists.
"Silent Victim"
  • Catalina Molnari is stranded on unsteady looking rectangular boxes. She barely moves as she grips them and attempts to balance.
"Interview for a Date/I Take My Clothes Off"
  • Mechelle Fleming is the dancer in this strangely sexual piece.
  • In the first part, there is a film of a girl (Valle) being questioned, job-interview style, about why she would be a good girlfriend for the unseen male interviewer.
  • The interview itself is forced and calculating, dealing with the value she brings to him as a girlfriend. She is desperate.
  • When the interview seems to go wrong, she remembers something.
  • She tells him, "Oh, I forgot! I'm good at sex!"
  • The whole time, Fleming is sitting on a chair, facing away from the audience.
  • She twitches and makes small moves, as if she is constrained and ready to move.
  • The movie ends and she starts dancing.
  • Her dance struck me as almost tortured. I can hardly describe it in a way that makes sense.
  • She seem struck by things outside herself, while engaging with a negotiation with herself.
  • She seemed buffeted, struck by forces.
  • (But, it should be said, it was clear she was fully in control as a dancer.)
  • Finally, she took off her dress.
  • And it ended with her standing there in her underwear.
  • It it appropriate to mention that she is an astonishingly beautiful woman?
  • I regret not having photos of the Fringe Festival, especially for the three dances that Valle choreographed.
"I Am Mother"
  • The dancer was Valle.
  • Her skin was covered with white, pasty makeup except for her eyes, which were kind of a red racoon mask.
  • The dance was done seated, under a soft, dim red spotlight.
  • Weirdly enough, I was reminded of the installation by Carlos Runcie-Tanaka called "Tiempo Detenido/No Olvidar." The atmosphere was similar.
  • Her movements were constrained by her seated posture.
  • But the effect was nonetheless electrifying.
I haven't seen enough dance to have a vocabulary to describe what I was seeing. But Toni Leago Valle's three dance pieces were undeniably moving; thrilling even.

General vibe.
  • I sat under a fan, so the lack of AC wasn't too horrible.
  • They have us fill out an audience poll that includes demographic info.
  • Apparently collecting this info will help them get grants.
  • With which they can, say, buy central air-conditioning.
  • The seats at Frenetic are only slightly more comfortable than airline seats.
  • It seems like a lot of folks are there just to see their friends or family's performance.
  • Consequently, a lot of people leave at the intermission.
  • Maybe it's not so bad on Saturday and Sunday.
  • But one would certainly wish for more support from people who have no personal connection with the performers.
  • (Of course, I could be wrong about the audience...)
  • I wish I could photograph some of the performances and put them up here.
  • That said, there were two photographers with serious-looking photo set-ups in the audience.
  • So perhaps if you search the web, you can find some images.
I thought the show was well-worth the modest ticket price, so catch it tonight or tomorrow if you can.


  1. I appreciate your insight on the show this past weekend!! Thank you!!!

  2. Thanks for commenting. It's nice to know that the artists involved are reading what I've written (except when I give a bad review!)