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Alchemist of dreams
Orange venue, $ 12
After several years of more intimate, autobiographical variety-tease shows in the now-destroyed Black Venue, Alchemist of Dreams marks the dance troop’s welcome return to a fantastic spectacle in the sprawling Orange venue. The choreographer Baby BlueStar plays the owner of an imaginarium in the style of Doctor Parnassus, which consists of lost hopes, forgotten wishes and dark dreams. Joyce Arbucias provides helpful voice-over narration as each VarieTease regular has a moment to be in the spotlight. The highlights are Jack Krieger’s delicate duet with a lighted pole; A comical striptease by Tymisha Harris (who can only earn applause by taking off her mask), a funny dance of casual nonsense with Katrina Soricelli and an extremely emotional solo to Unsecret’s “Fallout” by Megan Boetto.
A short drag opera and a cirque-esque acrobatic sequence with a limber contortionist bring “diversity” back to the company’s name. But by far the most emotional part of Alchemy of Dreams was watching Blue Pirouette come back onstage after years of injury and rehabilitation. VarieTease shows are always a must at Fringe, but this year’s edition has overwhelmed my heart with joy, just as Carnivale did over a decade ago.
Cross Country: A musical self-help
Pink Venue, $ 12
An orphaned office drone (TJ Washburn) and an underemployed inventor (Angel Marin) seek liberation on America’s lonely highways in Cross Country, a melodically touched, dramatized concept album by writer and composer Dan Drnach and director James Honey.
Drnach acts as the troubadour narrator, watching his nameless characters struggle to leave hometowns stuck like tar, spend the night with strangers in anonymous motels, and finally arrive at their destinations. The plot doesn’t have much depth as the only obstacles the protagonists have to overcome are minor mechanical problems and their own internal monologues. But Drnachen’s songs, which remind me of The Who and Green Day with a mild hint of CSN & Y, could be singles on alternative college radio (if that were another thing). Fair warning: this show could make you step out of Loch Haven Park, get in a convertible, and head down to California with the top down and the radio on – which would definitely be a waste of your remaining fringe tickets.
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Fringin ‘& Flagons
Yellow venue, $ 12
Fringin ‘& Flagons, Fringe’s second Dungeons & Dragons-based production, is difficult to review as it doesn’t have a script, set plot, or even a consistent cast. What this theatrical spin-off from Indigo Chameleon’s Twitch stream has to offer is a ton of imaginative “yes” – and improvisation that is silly fun – whether you have D20 in your pocket or think RPG is an acronym for Rocket Propelled Grenade.
Less a stage play than an hour of seasoned friends playing tabletop games, each part of the show features dungeon master Billy McCoy verbally leading a quartet of adventurers through mazes and monsters inspired by other fringe shows. The twist is that instead of the typical wizards and warriors, the rotating roster of players depicts a heavy metal mage, alcoholic robot, failed fortune cookie writer, or some similarly ridiculous class of characters.
McCoy does a masterful job of keeping the goofy story moving without the dice game mechanics getting in the way, and making the action accessible to the uninitiated while D&D veterans have tons of jokes to tap into. When I saw these brave players outsmart the DM to save the day, I wanted my inner 13 year old to the power of five; Where did I put my Monster Manual? …
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Oscar Wilde and Jesus Christ enter a gay bar
Orange venue, $ 12
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Victorian England’s most infamous letter sodomite enters a theater in search of a friendly audience willing to hear, or at least point them towards the next, its exquisitely sad life story Gay bar. Long before there were fringes to be fabulous in, Oscar Wilde was the original flamboyant artist who put a well-manicured finger in the eye of the oppressive society that both worshiped and abused him.
In this new musical from screenwriter and director Donald Rupe (From Here), Trevor Southworth embodies the legendary author in a tour de force performance that is both hysterically exaggerated and brutally honest, such as two Mel Brooks-worthy show stoppers mocking Christian Dogma and the rules of homosexuality. In addition to these numbers in the music hall, Rupe has created a few delicate ballads as well as a defiant torch song that effectively breaks the curtain down. Best of all, the book and lyrics have been cleverly stripped of Wilde’s immortal jokes, which still evoke shocked laughs over a century after they were first written.
Oscar Wilde and Jesus Christ Walk in a Gay Bar are an absolutely wonderful one-man musical. Unfortunately it has two actors. The performer who plays Wilde’s young counterpart is simply outdone by Southworth, and they don’t share chemistry on stage. (It doesn’t help that he sings a bunch of Dear Evan Hansen castoffs that do few favors to his head voice.) Add an 11th hour plot that redefines the entire show with no satisfactory explanation for that delivering what we got I actually watched and walked from choosing this festival as one of the best of the festival to anxiously watching the outcome in less than an hour.
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