New Orleans Fringe Festival organizers selected two popular local shows from its November 2010 event for a double bill with two Houston Fringe shows dubbed Interstate Fringe, which was presented in both cities.
Goat in the Road Productions' brilliant and hilarious hourlong comedy Our Man led off the New Orleans showcase. In it, creators William Bowling and Christopher Kaminstein star as two 1950s-era radio show hosts who get carried away broadcasting letters home from soldiers serving abroad. The entire show takes place in a five-by-five foot Plexiglas box, which accentuates the distorted reality they fabricate for listeners as they repeat and revise a letter from Ronald Reagan to his first wife, Jane Wyman. Reagan never served overseas, but that doesn't restrain their enthusiasm and soon Reagan's heroic exploits involve fighting the Germans behind enemy lines alongside Knute Rockne (who died in 1931). Eventually, as tensions flare in the box, they realize they have created not just a hero but a monster. The duo will reprise the show for three nights (April 9 and 15-16) at the Trouser House Gallery and Urban Farm.
Also from New Orleans, Chard Gonzalez Dance Theatre reprised The Divine Feminine, which offered its own unique brand of slapstick humor. In both costumes and solo dances, the five women in the piece invoked and subtly mocked gender images, especially in relation to dance, for example a suffering ballerina. Interspersed between the women's solos, Chard Gonzalez and Christopher Forsyth, wearing spandex and exercise gear, reincarnated over-the-top scenes from the movie Flashdance, which featured an aspiring ballerina doing energetic dance routines, stretching the thin premise that the pure titillation of the film was some form of artistic expression for Jennifer Beals' character. Gonzalez pushed the madness further by doing one dance while spinning furiously on roller skates.
Houston's Rogue Improv solicited the word "unicorn" from the audience and ran with it. The half-hour performance started with a trio of unicorn hunters, conjured other monsters and often focused on awkward moments between friends. At one point, Omar Adam and Antoine Culbreath jumped into side-by-side folding chairs to start a new bit, but each embarked on his own idea, one miming driving and one pretending to type at a computer. Neither abandoned his premise and the idea of bridging them was pushed to impossible extremes before they found an absurdly satisfying conclusion. The three comedians were quick on their feet, knew when to end a joke and when to revisit a developed theme. Their performance flew by and left the audience hungry for more.
The one-woman show Yes, Cassandra was disappointing. Brandy Holmes starred as Cassandra in a reconsideration of the wreckage of the Trojan War from her point of view. She stalked the stage, and spasmodic stops and jerks seemed to highlight a sense of psychological torture and outrage at the slaughter of the Trojans, which she had forseen. The monologue was presented like a fragmented modernist performance poem. It dwelt on a disjointed list of war atrocities and didn't do enough to animate Cassandra as a fully realized character. — Will Coviello
7 p.m. & 9 p.m. Sat., April 9; 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat. April 15-16
Trouser House Gallery and Urban Farm, 4105 St. Claude Ave.; www.trouserhouse.org