The penultimate day of the Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB) (I do like that word). Three shows, that again show the breadth of Fringe. From clowns playing around on a stage, to an inscrutable one-person show, and finally a well-realized new adaptation of a book. This is Fringe in the full range of strange and glory.
Many years ago we saw an intriguing production of Hamlet, done by the Four Clowns theatre company. Now, when you think clowns, do think of clowns in the noun form, ala Bozo or Chuckles or those numerous TV hosts. Think clown as the verb: people who revel in clowning around and having fun, and you have the basis of Four Clowns. This is an extremely inventive company that like to have fun with everything. You need to like their style (I do), and be in the right mood to be receptive for it (I always am, my wife wasn’t).
So when we learned that Four Clowns was doing a show at Fringe, we were in. Our first show Saturday was that Four Clowns show: Four Clowns Present: Shakedown at the Dusty Spur.
The basic outline of Four Clowns Present: Shakedown at the Dusty Spur is simple, and almost borders on the melodramatic: Papa Maynard has died, and has left the Dusty Spur Saloon to his eldest and only son, Ike Maynard, bypassing the smarter older daughter Marybeth, and leaving only a little to the youngest daughter Maybelline. The villains, Dallas Devereaux and his assistant Logan Lesserman, plot to get the saloon so they can burn it to the ground and fulfill a promise. They do this by swindling Ike, so the children arrange to get “the good buy” Colt “The Corpse” McCoy to fight their battle. But he lives up to his name, and they need to figure out what to do next to get their bar back.
There was plenty of audience participation (if you don’t like that stuff, don’t sit in the first row). There was loads of improvising. The general attitude was that of fun and improvisation — clowning around, as one might say.
Under the direction of Joe DeSoto (FB), artistic director of Four Clowns, all of the performances were strong. The cast consisted of Tommy Fleming (FB) Dallas Devereaux; Turner Frankosky Ike Maynard; Elisabeth Hower Marybeth Maynard; Benji Kaufman (FB) Logan Lesserman; Liz Morgan (FB) Maybelline Maynard; and Jason Poston (FB) Colt “The Corpse” McCoy. Of these, my favorites were Kaufman and Morgan, who were quite a lot of fun to watch.
Other production credits: Harim Sanchez (FB) Asst. Director / Stage Manager; Jax Ball (FB) Set Design; Aaron Lyons Sound Design; Erin Colleran (FB) Costume Design; Sam Schweikert (FB) Poster Design. A whole bunch of people contributed to the script, including most of the cast. Produced by Joe DeSoto (FB), Julia Davis (FB), and Harim Sanchez (FB).
As the official Fringe Festival has ended, you’ll need to check the Fringe Website to see if the show has been extended. Currently, it looks like there are two extension performances: Fri 7/5 at 9pm, and Sun 7/7 at 10:30pm. I found this to be a really funny somewhat improvised show, with lots of clowning around. Depending on your love of clowning (independent of the traditional notion of clowns), YMMV.
The second show we saw on Saturday was A Time Travelers Guide to the Present. This show held such promise. The show description was:
With humanity’s fate on the line, a secret society of astronomers recruits volunteers for the world’s first time travel flight. We follow one traveler as he is catapulted on a journey through the cosmos. What begins as exploration of the mechanics of spacetime travel turns into a desperate hunt for connection. This is a one man show that mixes science, sci-fi, music, and storytelling to explore what it means to be worthy of love.
The show, which was written, performed, produced, and composed by Doug Harvey (FB), turned out to be a bit more incomprehensible. A message is received from the future, and so someone is recruited to go forward in time to stop it. Our intrepid hero is the selectee, and what then follows is the mission, with lots of time travel back and forth, reminiscent of the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and about at times as incomprehensible.
On the positive side, the music was great and relaxing.
The production was directed by Jake Elitzer (FB), and Rebecca Schoenberg (FB) was the Production Stage Manager. Other producers were Annie Chang (FB) and Kristina Mueller (FB). Poster art by Estevan Guzman (FB).
As the official Fringe Festival has ended, you’ll need to check the Fringe Website to see if there are any extensions. Right now, there are none shown. We found the show confusing, but the music was great.
The last show we saw on Saturday was one of the best and most humorous shows of all the shows we saw. It was Wigfield, adapted by Pamela Eberhardt (FB) from the satirical novel Wigfield: The Can-Do Town That Just May Not written by Amy Sedaris (FB), Paul Dinello, and Stephen Colbert. The best description I found of the novel was from this site:
Wigfield (officially known as “Proposed Super Fund Site 554”) is an ephemeral hodgepodge of shanties, porno shops, strip clubs, and used auto parts yards. When a state politician, Representative William J. Farber, proposes the demolition of the Senator Alfonse T. Bulkwaller Memorial Dam (constructed in 1931), Wigfield is faced with destruction. The dam is located just up Fresh Springs Creek from this sleepy little, glow-in-the-dark, Podunk burg and it’s the only thing keeping Wigfield from becoming a part of the creek.
In order to prevent the dam’s removal, the residents will have to prove that they’re not just a bunch of itinerant squatters and that Wigfield is indeed an actual town. Fortunately for them, “journalist” Russell Hokes arrives in “town” to get material for a book he’s supposed to be writing about the “brave lives of small-town residents… that celebrates what is best in America by showing the indomitable human spirit in times of crisis”. Hokes unwittingly ends up chronicling the Wigfield citizenry’s last days of living life as they’d known it for so long. He also learns a lot about life, love, and the ecdysiastic arts.
The stage version, as written by Eberhardt, sticks with this pretty closely. We meet Hokes at the beginning, as he gets an advance to chronicle a small town. He discovers Wigfield, and the game (and strangeness) is on. We meet the town inhabitants, each stranger and more off-beat than the next, and begin to learn of the dilemma … and the game, for the notion seems to be that if they can become a town, then they can get relocation payments due to eminent domain. But the resolution becomes more of a “be careful what you wish for”.
In the end, this becomes a cleverly disguised commentary on the weirdness of small towns and how they accept the off-beat; the whole process of eminent domain, and finally, the idiocy of FEMA.
I found the production extremely funny and extremely well done. I originally went to see it because we knew someone in the cast from our days subscribing at REP East in Santa Clarita. I left thoroughly entertained.
The cast consisted of: Joe Hernandez-Kolski (⭐FB; FB) Player A / Hollinger; Pam Quinn (FB) Player B / Cinnamon / Prune; Connor Pratt (FB) Player C / Dillard / Julian; Eric Curtis Johnson (FB) Player D / Udell / Sawyer; Heather Marie Roberts (FB) Player E / Eleanore / Lenare; Meghan Parks (FB) Player F / Hoyt / Dottie; Bedjou Jean (FB) Player G / Farber / Raven; Emily Clark (FB) Player H / Mae Ella / Carla / Judge; Jeff Scot Carey (FB) Player I / Donnie / Halstead; and Scott Golden (FB) Russell Hokes. All were strong. I particularly liked the warm that Golden had, but each was great in their own wacky way.
As the official Fringe Festival has ended, you’ll need to check the Fringe Website to see if there are any extensions. Right now, there are none shown.
Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music 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 (or I’ll make a donation to the theatre, in lieu of payment). I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at 5 Star Theatricals (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Ahmanson Theatre (FB) [2018-2019 season], and the Musical Theatre Guild (FB). 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.
As for July, it is already filling up. The first weekend of the month is still open. The second weekend brings An Intimate Evening with Kristen Chenowith at,The Hollywood Bowl (FB). The third weekend of July brings Miss Saigon at the Hollywood Pantages (FB), followed by A Comedy of Errors from Shakespeare by the Sea (FB)/Little Fish Theatre(FB). The last weekend of July brings West Side Story at 5 Star Theatricals (FB). August starts with an alumni Shabbat at camp, and The Play That Goes Wrong at the Ahmanson Theatre (FB). August ends with Mother Road and As You Like It at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (FB). In between those points, August is mostly open.
As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget. Want to learn about all the great theatre in Southern California? Read my post on how Los Angeles (and its environs) is the best area for theatre in the Country!