A Touching Tragedy | “The Old Woman” @ HFF16

The Old Woman (HFF16)userpic=fringeAs I’ve said before, the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) has a wide range of projects, from first person narratives (our first Saturday show) to ensemble comedies (our second Saturday show) to improvised history (our third Saturday show) to… our last Saturday show: The Old Woman.  This show was another one-person show, but in a very different vein. Instead of going for the laughs (which it had), it went for the pathos and the emotion. It told the story of a son’s relationship with his aging mother, who is dealing with increasing dementia — combined with the worry that he might be facing the same fate.

In The Old Woman, John Grady (FB) starts with the simple: a walk with the dogs in Griffith Park. Through this, he introduces us to his mother, his family, and the questions of his own mental status. The story then moves into a visit with his mother, as he sees how she is becoming increasingly detached from the world. The production ends with a wordless dance — a ballet of sorts — that, well, left me thinking about what it was trying to say. My conclusion was that the dance was a tribute to his mother, her life, and her spiral down.

Saturday was a day for shows that hit home. Our first resonated with my wife, for she had also dealt with the issue of growing up with large breasts. The last resonated as well with both of us, as we’re dealing with dementia in her mom. We’re seeing everything that John portrayed: the short loop time, the argumentative nature, the refusal to do physical therapy, that intense desire to be someplace — any place else (and the realization from us, the children, that there is no other place else).

I think, of all the shows we’ve seen at the Fringe, this was perhaps was the most moving and touching of them all.

This was a true one person show; no credit was provided for director (so presumably John directed) or the technical (presumably arranged by John). That makes this even more powerful.

Sorry, I now need to go read my Shel Silverstein.

Alas, I think we saw the last production, but it might show up at the Fringe Encore in July. Watch  the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) pages for more information.

Attention Programmers! Take the Fringe Programming Challenge! Scheduling your shows at the Fringe can be a pain in the …. I’m trying to solve the problem for next year, so take a look at my specs for a Fringe scheduling app. Can you write it?

* * *

Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre critic; I am, however, a regular theatre audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB) and the  Hollywood Pantages (FB); my subscription at  The Colony Theatre (FB) has gone dormant, and REP East (FB) has seemingly gone dark for 2016. Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals).  I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.

Upcoming Shows: Ah, June. Wonderful June. June is the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB), and I’ve already written about the shows I plan to see, as well as suggestions to the Fringe regarding viewing the audience as a customer. Our Fringe/June schedule is as follows (for shows in the past, ✍ indicates writeup is in progress; ✒ indicates writeup is complete and links to the writeup):

Whew. July brings us back to conventional theatre, with Beautiful at the  Hollywood Pantages (FB) and the Western Corps Connection (FB) the first weekend, Grey Gardens at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB); the second weekend, The Little Mermaid at  Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB); the third weekend, Weird Al Yankovic at the Hollywood Bowl (FB) and Operaworks (FB) Opera Re-Constructed at CSUN; the fourth weekend, a mid-week Hollywood Bowl (FB) concert of Wynton Marsalis and Aaron Copeland, and … currently nothing for the weekend. As of right now, August is completely open. One weekend has a bar mitzvah, and there are a few holds for show, but nothing is booked. Late August may see us looking at shows down San Diego/Escondido for one weekend. The best of the shows available — or at least the most interesting — is Titanic from Moonlight Stages. September is similarly mostly hold dates at this point. As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Bitter-Lemons, and Musicals in LA, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves.