5 Hilarious, Wonderful And Wacky Shows We Caught At The Hollywood Fringe Fest
The annual Hollywood Fringe Festival is back in its fifth edition with over 275 shows running day and night in 40 or so theater spaces, all in one neighborhood, through the end of the month. The quality and content of the productions vary wildly, but tickets (available online, at the festival's Fringe Central community space or at the door for each show) are cheap. Most of the shows are short, and it's fun to take your chances, throw caution to the wind and just go see whatever's playing at any given moment. That's how we do it, anyway. We saw six shows during the Festival's preview week and and an additional four on Thursday night. Here's what we thought of five more shows we saw on Friday:
The eight monologues in Last Remnants describe encounters between unsung folks in Los Angeles and the relationships that evolved from them. Writer-director Tom Cavanaugh introduces us to a Skid Row clinical patient with an attractive MySpace page, a high-priced "courtesan" who's appeared on the Howard Stern show, a career stuntman with a long list of famous movie credits, a guy named Joey Cheesesteaks who delivers sandwiches direct from Philly for a local clientele, and other people you might meet in bars or coffee shops around town with absolutely compelling and often downright noble stories to tell. Each of the six actors delivers a strong, moving characterization in this show which by rights should be an understated sleeper hit of this year's festival.
The Orgasmico Theatre Company clearly has this Hollywood Fringe thing down, having won the festival's "community" award for best musical in both 2012 and 2013. We never caught either of those, but we did just see the group's offering for this year, the rock musical Werewolves of Hollywood Blvd, and it's a blast. A high-powered Hollywood agent whose career and family life are both collapsing receives a gothic horror screenplay about werewolves from a mysterious source, and before he knows it he's communing with the script's historical characters and turning into quite a beast himself. There are some excellent songs in here, with some high-powered voices singing them, and frequent laughs at the expense of entertainment industry jackasses and horror movie idioms. The show's tongue in cheek vibe is right in the Rocky Horror vein, more than a lot of fun and perfect Fringe fare.
Five scenes comically re-imagine distinct historical milestones in the annals of the literary and theatrical arts as if they had emerged in today's show biz industry environment. Shakespeare pre-tests "Romeo & Juliet" before a focus group which finds it too much of a downer. Two classic fast-talking literary agent types assure Dickens they love his work but tell him he's gotta make up his mind whether it was the best of times or the worst of times or else he's "just lost three quarters of the country" before the book even gets going. None of the bits in History of the Biz goes on for too long, and much of the shtick is solidly funny.
What if Marilyn Monroe suddenly woke up today from a decades-long sleep and found herself newly alive, though now all alone, in twenty-first century Los Angeles? As Sandy Mansson imagines it in her one-woman play, this re-emergent Marilyn—now in her 80s, but still wearing that iconic white dress—finds that the world has completely forgotten about her, and she has to suffer the indignity of hustling to get show biz work with absolutely no luck. After failing to land a motion picture part, she tries to get cast in a soap opera, a talk show or anything at all, but no one is willing to give her the time of day. This even though she's actually the real Marilyn Monroe, suddenly back among us in 2014. Such is the premise of 21st Century Marilyn, take it or leave it.
French performance artist Celia Dufournet's wacky solo show considers food from a variety of perspectives. Starting with British celebrity chef and nutrition activist Jamie Oliver, Dufournet adopts the voices and accents of people she's encountered talking about their personal and cultural attitudes about eating. Many of the characters she inhabits are immigrants living in eastern LA County, where Dufournet is now based. She also throws in a lot of stage business with a rope and a shopping cart full of spent ammunition shells. A couple of times, she even leads audience members up on stage and directs them to lie down on the floor and play with these toys. It's all a bit of a muddle, but perfectly good-natured.