Hollywood Fringe Festival 2011: 'Deity Clutch,' 'Dumb Waiter,' 'Glint'


Kristopher Lee Bicknell and Jordan Randal in 'Dumb Waiter' (photo by Landon Johnson).

Fringe festivals showcase works and performers that come to the stage without the benefit of politicized production channels. This year's Hollywood Fringe Festival conjures dark aesthetics from both large and small scale plays including a dapper 1950s British gangster one-act by Harold Pinter, an ironic David Foster Wallace adaptation from Need Theater, and a new work by LA based Gus Krieger that imagines the constructs of social bonds during desperate times.

Kreiger's grim, murder mystery, Deity Clutch, follows the systematic demise of a small, sheltered, hierarchical collective of people living through a doomsday event with diminishing means. Fear and the instability of power are key themes in this Porters of Hellgate production. The ample ensemble cast (now a rarity in economically crunched contemporary theatre scene) flawlessly executes Krieger's work, often giving depth to largely symbolic characters through thoughtful timing. Edward Castuera and Michael Hoag bring animated energy and comic relief to the ominous plot as Dongo and Orko. Rob Conliffe renders the group's tyrannical leader Taranis with an intriguing blend of aggression, menacing instability, and demurred skittishness. Direction, also by Krieger, is impeccable and precisely orchestrated to slowly reveal the psychological and ethical motivations of his characters. Lighting design by Alex Parker memorably lends a chilling atmosphere to the the production. Deity Clutch is playing through June 18 at Complex Theatres. Tickets are $12 and available online.

Pinter's tension-filled one-act, Dumb Waiter, paints an account of morality and betrayal within an unspoken criminal code. Kristopher Lee Bicknell and Jordan Randall play Gus and Ben, hit men awaiting orders from their allusive employer. Bicknell plays Gus innocently with an undercurrent of cautious impatience. Randall stews in agitation that explodes as piqued rage during the most intense moments of the performance. Director Landon Johnson capitalizes on foreshadowing as the major operative and driving force of Dumb Waiter. Stylish and interesting period details bring character and aplomb to the show. Dumb Waiter is playing through June 26 at Complex Theatres. Tickets are $15 and available online.

Wallace's stark and cerebral short story Good Old Neon comes to life as Glint through a stage adaptation by Ian Forester. Staying true to Wallace's text, Glint channels a suicide narrative that stands as an ironic memoir to the recently deceased author. Forester's dramatic performance is truly outstanding. In the role of Neal he is precise, provocative, and wonderfully satisfying as he gingerly conveys the play's most beautiful lines, touching gestures, and intense moments. Forester reaches out for the curiosity of the audience, singularly piercing every individual in attendance. Adam Smith's excellent, thoughtful direction bolstered by simple, but ethereal lighting design by Andrew Hungerford gives a perfect context for this transportive work. Glint is playing through June 20 at Actor's Circle Theatre or Lounge Theatre. Tickets are $15 and available online.

Hollywood Fringe Festival 2011 runs through June 26. All Hollywood Fringe Festival tickets, schedules, and package prices are available online.