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Posted at 5:11 PM ET, 07/23/2009

'Comic Roach' at Fringe: Music and Movies

By Nelson Pressley
Fringe Festival

Don't be put off by the title of "The Comic Roach: A Roadhouse Picture Show." It's actually a nifty way to catch a flick at the Fringe -- old silent pictures from producer Hal Roach, with new musical scores played live by D.C.'s Snark Ensemble.

Three short comedies are projected via laptop at the Warehouse Theatre, and the movies are classic knockabout farces. One of the lighthearted little sagas involves a cute kleptomaniac ("Stolen Goods"), another is a clever pileup of jealousies ("Too Many Mammas") and the third chronicles how a milquetoast becomes a He-Man ("Boobs in the Woods"). These charming diversions have inspired whimsical music and inventive sound effects from three different Snark composers.

This is Snark's niche: the original scores can be heard on two silent film collections released on DVD (samples are available on Snark's Web site.) The six-member group sounds like a New Orleans jazz combo out on a lark; the melodies slide and lumber during melodramatic moments and zing merrily when accompanying visual shtick.

The instrumentation includes piano, reeds and antic percussion, plus novelties like seal horns and duck whistles, and they gives these black-and-white pictures a colorful range of sounds. Chanteuse Tracy Lynn Olivera plays hostess and joins the band between films for a few smoky tunes, also Snark originals.

-- Nelson Pressley

By Nelson Pressley  | July 23, 2009; 5:11 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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