The Hollywood Fringe Festival – a celebration of independent theater – is running from June 1 – 24 this year, and there are a ton of shows that should garner attention. Of particular note is there are about 20% more shows this year than last year, so Los Angeles artists are hungry to perform. In addition, Fringe has added an immersive category for the first time.
Here are the five shows that I’m hearing the most buzz about and which are the “must-see” shows, as far as I’m concerned.
From the creator of last year’s hilarious and incisive “Porn Rock” comes “Dark Arts”, described as, “HOUSE OF CARDS meets VEEP in this dark comedy about America’s hidden power structure, and the professional spin doctors locked in eternal war with it. Entrepreneur Marcia Bradford is in crisis: someone is smearing her in the media. The crisis PR firm of Lyndsey Klein & Andrew St. Jude must find out who the perpetrator is before Bradford is destroyed…or they destroy themselves.”
It sounds like playwright Lawrence Meyers is playing with political satire again, and the world of crisis PR sounds captivating, a world we have not seen portrayed before. “Porn Rock” was exceptionally well-cast, and Meyers has gone back to the same well with Elizabeth Dement portraying Bradford.
“Dark Arts” also takes a new presentational approach, blending immersive and proscenium elements. The Fringe description says that there will be an immersive “Prelude” that takes place in a separate location on certain days, with the proscenium show at The Ruby Theater at The Complex, followed by a “Finale” taking place the last week of June, after Fringe ends.
“Dark Arts” stars Dement, Meyers, Damien Gerard, Stephanie Hyden, Terence Leclere, Toni Perrotta, and Erika Quintana.
Tickets for all three shows can be purchased at www.darkartsplay.com and the proscenium show at http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4649?tab=tickets
2)Unspoken: Shakespeare’s Personae in Peril
It isn’t a theater festival without some form of Shakespeare re-imagining. The Los Angeles Drama Club is “The Country’s Youngest Shakespeare Troupe”, and before you wonder how good a group of young people can be in Shakespeare of any kind, you haven’t seen this troupe. These young actors are something special to behold, and the description brings some critical themes to the forefront: “The Shakespeare Canon is about to be privatized. A group of minor Shakespeare Actor-Characters are held in a Greenroom while the new “Funders” vote on permanent cuts and modern adaptations to the Canon. They must stand before the Funders and fight for their relevance. A bittersweet comedy, the noteworthy theme embraces all marginalized people and groups having to claim their right to exist in a rapidly intolerant society. Another layer of the play is the bittersweet life of actors, asking the question – are all the sacrifices made for a life in the theatre really worth it?”
It’s a clever conceit, and for young actors facing the very real questions surrounding life in the arts, I hope that the self-referential nature of actors and material will inform each other to satisfying effect. The production is under the very experienced hand of director Matthew Singletary, whose resumé in the theatre stretches back to 2001. The play was one of then recipients of the HFF Scholarship Award.
The play stars Blaire Baron, Brandon Nagle, Will Gressman, Rochelle Leffler, Keith Barber, Mike Goodman, Nadia Trinidad, Juliette Jeffers, Brian Graves, Idea Darvish, and Kila Packett.
Info and tickets: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4559
Playwright Lee Wochner has produced and directed several notable productions, serving as the founding artistic director of Moving Arts from 1992 through 2002. He’s working with producer-director Michael David, whose body of work busts at the seams – some 300 productions. The play smacks of LaBute or perhaps Pinter, to me, anyway: “Silicon Valley power couple Robert and Madison are bored. But when fledgling artist Trudy enters their lives, they see an opportunity to spice up their relationship with a bit of fun-and-games, animalistic and artistic. The complications quickly arise when an unexpected appreciation for both art and the artist herself is discovered in this very adult, very funny play about paint and power.”
With less experienced hands, this material sounds like it could be fumbled, but given the breadth of theatre experience Wochner and David bring to the table, I’m betting it’s a winner.
“Triptych” stars Daria Barlling, Laura Buckles, and Ross Kramer.
Info and tickets: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4603
Fringe productions can sometimes bring little-known historical events and figures to light, and “Mary’s Medicine” has a compelling logline. The play offers “the true story of Jamaican nurse Mary Seacole. Mary helped pioneer many holistic medicinal practices during Victorian England. Her methods were controversial for the time and some sought to destroy her reputation. Half Jamaican and Scottish Mary struggled with her identity in the world. Not to be dissuaded she worked hard to prove herself a valuable person in the fields of nursing and medicine. Despite being a decorated hero of the Crimean war history seems to have forgotten Seacole, but now on stage her incredible story of determination, courage and wits will be told.”
A Google search turned up fascinating details about this pioneering woman. Writer-director Matthew Robinson picks up where he left off last year in the same roles for “Politically Challenged”, a clever and humorous look behind the scenes of a failing political campaign.
Mary’s Medicine stars Robby Devillez, Francesca Gamez, Amy Argyle, Emilie Martz, Alycia Lourim, Twon Pope, Ross Shaw, and Jantzen Zink.
Tickets are at the Fringe page for the show: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4373?tab=tickets
If Fringe is good for one thing, it’s for dark comedy, and “The Bakery” seems like it will sate that appetite. “The Bakery is a dark comedy that centers around Nicholas, a man with big dreams but no dough. Nicholas is the proud owner of Guerdon’s Gay Gourmet, a failing bakery that can’t seem to attract customers, but attracts Nicholas’ dimwit of a brother, Huck, and delinquent of a cousin, Aaron, to work for him. Just when our hero thinks that things can’t get any worse – they do. An abrupt foreclosure notice from a local cop/professional Sasquatch hunter, Adley, accompanied by the return of an old rival, Neil, sparks Nicholas into trying to win back his bakery.”
The WTF? Factor seems to be present in the description alone. We’re rolling the dice here a bit, as there isn’t much to go on regarding writer/director Brandon Pfeltz or producer/actor Katy Wicker, but it does sound like a farce of epic proportions!