Based, as always, on a combination of experience, gossip, hunches, and just a touch of hopeful naivet鬠here are my picks for this year's Festival. Full coverage of the opening weekend and a wrap-up of the Festival will appear in the next two issues of the Weekly.
Wacky Circus Shows—Local neo-big top groups Circus Contraption and Cirque De Flamb頲eturn after a year of terrorizing the surrounding countryside. Contraption mixes trapeze work, acrobatics, dance, dark music, and surrealism into an occasionally patchy but usually rewarding result, while Flamb頤oes something similar, only while setting a lot of things on fire. (Pyro Boy, who does a boogie while exploding in a suit covered by Roman candles, is an audience favorite.)
I.S.O. . . —This is a new dance/theater piece by the folks who won last year's Artistic Pick of the Fringe for Progressions. Created by a young company interested in exploring the darker and more dangerous sides of society's attitudes towards sexuality, this show looks provocative enough to not need any critical endorsement, but I'm giving one anyway. (See photo above.)
Agnostic's Way—The premiere of a new solo show by local actor/writer Vincent Balestri, whose 18-year stint performing his brilliant one-man show Jack: the Essence of Kerouac ended last year. Death and its unexpected consequences are at the heart of a story in which a talk show host meets the Grim Reaper live and on-air.
Sketch Comedy Runs Amok—Looks like we've got an honest-to-goodness trend here, with Festival funny favorites Kazoo! 5 being joined by fellow wits Some Kind of Cult (End of the World Part II), Several Canadian Husbands (Heads Full of Pretty), and Pork Filled Players (sic & twisted). If a scene bombs, wait three minutes. Comedy for people with short attention spans.
Pu'uhonua: Place of Refuge—Maria Glanz's solo show about an unexpected love affair between a Midwest housewife and an imprisoned Japanese soldier. It's the third outing for a show that won an Artistic Pick last year, but the piece's admirable simplicity and deft mixture of humor and drama make it a worthy revival.
Banging Bamboozles—This show by Lelavision is another Fringe return, featuring the astoundingly flexible and musical duo playing in, around, and on a set of sculpted metal pieces. A beautiful show for the ear and the eye, and cheerfully all-ages as well.
Sort of Shakespeare—The Bard's still box office, even if there's not a "straightforward" interpretation of his work to be seen this year. Instead, the Young Shakespeare Workshop presents a "cut-down, goofed-up" version of the usually very unfunny As You Like It, Theater Rozinante presents Mark Leiren-Young's revisionist take on "that villainous Jew" Shylock, Res Ipsa Loquitur presents an original "sequel" to Romeo and Juliet called Weeds by Daniel J. Ichinaga (in which Friar Lawrence tries to stop history from repeating itself), LA's Sound and Fury presents Shakespeare: The Lost Episodes, complete with their own Romeo and Juliet: The First Draft, and Foolery by Howard Stregack uses Shakespearean text as the source material for a solo clown act.
The Begetting—By local actor/writer Jeff Berryman, this is the first in a proposed series of plays retelling the Arthurian legends, which tells of the parents of Arthur, the formidable warrior Uther and the desirable, but equally feisty, ruler Igraine. Sharp writing marries the mystic and the mundane, and good things are expected.