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Hollywood Fringe Festival Diary: Three Solo Shows

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by Lyle Zimskind for LAist

Fringe festivals around the world, typically abundant in small stages and frighteningly short load-in times, are always especially good venues for one-person shows. The three of these that we've caught so far during the opening days of the new Hollywood Fringe--though very different from one another--are each perfect specimens of the quintessential Fringe solo show genre in all its glory.

Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’? at The Lounge Theater

Taking the stage wearing nothing but a bra and panties, Kerri Randles signals right away that this 90-minute staged memoir of her life as a Midwestern farmer’s daughter, Chicago art student, struggling L.A. actress and girlfriend to the stars, and itinerant stripper is going to be plenty revealing.

With legendary rock’n’roll groupie Pamela Des Barres as her role model and occasional mentor, Randles unstintingly re-enacts her romantic liaisons with the huge-time music and film stars she’s met around town as well as the quasi-dysfunctional family scenes from youth and adolescence that have influenced her path through early and middle adulthood. While this kind of material can often devolve into self-serving confessional or, worse, embarrassing public therapy session, the persona that Randles presents is so winsome, and her performance so unself-conscious, that it’s easy just to root for her. Tony Abatemarco’s absolutely masterful direction organizes Randles’s hodgepodge of anecdotes into a cohesive, almost linear story arc.

Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’? @ The Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., LA, Tonight at 9 pm and Thursday through Saturday at 10:30 pm, $15.

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The Packer at Theatre of NOTE
Playwright Dianna Fuemana’s The Packer, starring Jay Ryan, has already been a hit in New Zealand and Australia, and at the granddaddy of all Fringe Festivals in Edinburgh, before its arrival in L.A. for a run at the Hollywood Fringe. And, really, this success is no wonder at all, given Ryan’s astonishingly kinetic performance in a multiracial array of eight different roles representing various generations and genders.

This gritty play takes place over the course of one day and night in the life of Shane, an Auckland “westie” who packs boxes during the sunlight hours and performs hip-hop in clubs after dark. Switching between characters on a dime, Ryan plays Shane, his gin-besotted mother Joyce, their father-and-daughter Niuean Islander neighbors Charlie and Pina, Shane’s jealous ex-girlfriend Charlene, his goofy best mate Brad, the transvestite street walker who hilariously attacks Shane and Brad on their way to the club, and the cab driver who rescues them in the nick of time. As directed by Jeremy Lindsay Taylor, The Packer feels something like a live stage version of Trainspotting resituated in New Zealand—with a single actor pulling off the impossible trick of playing all the parts by himself.

The Packer @ Theatre of NOTE, 1517 North Cahuenga Blvd., LA, today and Saturday at 6:30 pm, Tuesday at 8 pm, Thursday at 10 pm and next Sunday at 2 pm, $15.

Kill Your Television at the Elephant Stages’ Lillian Theatre
Arriving in Hollywood by way of the Seattle Fringe Festival, writer-performer Jeff Gardner’s Kill Your Television is a fun, no-dialogue 45-minute show about a man in his pajamas who settles in for an evening of microwave popcorn and mindless channel-surfing with his favorite stuffed monkey in his lap. We get the impression he does this a lot. Though we can’t actually see the screen, we are able to listen in on the steady stream of classic TV commercial jingles, theme songs and familiar program snippets that our protagonist watches as he flips through the channels. Until suddenly: the voice from the tube starts addressing him directly, and his frantic efforts to reassert control over the appliance by using the remote prove futile. From that point on, the character’s body and soul become possessed by the sounds and images that the TV relentlessly hurls at him, as Gardner demonstrates in an extended sequence of wacky choreography, pantomime and audience interaction. Gardner is a brilliantly expressive physical performer, and together with director Vicky Silva, he delivers a tale combining elements of The Cable Guy and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice in a manner reminiscent of Harold Lloyd or Bill Irwin, on a set straight out of a Tim Burton movie.

Kill Your Television @ the Elephant Stages’ Lillian Theatre, 1076 Lillian Way, LA, Today at 3:30 and 7 pm, Wednesday at 8 pm and Saturday at 2 pm, $15.