Friday, November 18, 2011

The New Orleans Fringe Festival half-time report

Posted By on Fri, Nov 18, 2011 at 3:50 PM

The Fringe Festival has plenty to choose from this weekend. On both Saturday and Sunday, shows begin at 1 p.m. and go until past midnight. There also are activities and family-friendly stuff at the Fringe Tent on Press Street Saturday afternoon. Here are some recommendations on what I have caught so far. Four of the five shows I have seen are well worth the ticket.

Bremner Duthie is ’33
  • Bremner Duthie is ’33

La Concierge Solitaire is a very funny one-woman show about a bored and lonely hotel concierge who imagines eccentric hotel guests in order to pass the time. More here. (Southern Rep: 11 p.m. Fri. through Sunday and there’s a 3 p.m. matinee Saturday.)

’33. The title of this cabaret show refers to 1933 and the Nazi crackdown on, among other groups, artists and performers in Berlin. It’s a one man show by Bremner Duthie (pictured) who has a beautiful voice, and he’s excellent as a number of performers who have been scattered by the crackdown — including everyone from male singers to an eccentric prostitute who “will do anything once, but no matter how nice, nothing twice.” He mixes in Nazi propaganda against artists, bohemians and degenerate cabaret-goers as part of the means to crush dissent and label some activities and communities as unworthy of the German “family.” The show is darkly comic, and the only complaint I might hazard is that the intro overdoes the Nazis. There’s only so much one needs to provide to establish that the Nazis were bad. And the music at the core of the show is the best part. (Shadowbox Theatre: 9 p.m. Fri.; 5 p.m. Sat.; 11 p.m. Sun.)

Billy the Liar. This cute and clever hipster puppet show is one of three shows incorporating puppetry at the Mudlark Public Theatre. The marionette show is presented on a small proscenium stage, and the audience watches the puppeteers work — as they present other commentary as if hosting a children’s educational program, but with an air of hipster nostalgia. Billy is a nerdy, serial liar, and the girl he is trying to impress sees through all of it. A lurking villain, however, believes everything Billy says and this gets both of the kids in trouble. At about 40 minutes, it’s a short but very fun show. (Mudlark Public Theatre: 11 p.m. Fri.; 3 p.m. & 11 p.m. Sat.; 1 p.m. & 9 p.m. Sun.)

The Bride of Black Lake. The Mudlark Puppeteers present this dark take on the Corpse Bride fairy tale. Lida is a young Jewish bride betrothed to a man she has never met. The work is set in Russia in 1881, and she is killed before she reaches her wedding. The folktale is about what bargains she will strike in the underworld to try to return to the world and her groom. Given the anti-Semitism and the Old World constraints on women, the story’s portrayal of suffering is unflinching but accurate. The marionettes, sets and use of shadow puppetry and special effects are excellent. (Mudlark Public Theatre: 7 p.m. Fri.; 5 p.m. & 7 p.m. Sat.; 3 p.m. & 11 p.m. Sun.)

Unaccountable Fog. It wouldn’t be a fringe festival without some abstract dance. I found Unaccountable Fog to be too abstract for my tastes. It has three main parts. In the first, dancers emerge from clear plastic half-globes, resembling jellyfish, and the movement would best be described as slow, free-form, often spasmatic dance and contortion. The second part featured a lone dancer with butterfly wings and a big flashlight and more slow movement. The final part featured four dancers each wearing the same dress and they struck and held difficult poses and at times resorted to the first part’s slow-motion spasms. There was evident skill in their movement, but if there was a narrative, I didn’t pick it up, and as abstract expression, I didn’t feel like I picked up on strong ideas or sentiments. There were many in the audience who seemed to genuinely like the performance. I would say this show is best for those who like experimental dance and performance art. (Marigny Opera House: 7 p.m. Fri.; 9 p.m. Sat.; 5 p.m. Sun.)

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