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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 07/ 4/2009

The Scene at the Fringe Preview

By Stephanie Merry
Fringe Festival

This year's Fringe Festival press conference at RFD turned out to be a mix of play preview, party and marathon. A hefty 28 acts performed monologues, dance numbers, songs and straight-up summaries of what they'll be offering over the coming month.

Fringe director Julianne Brienza was also there to talk about the festival of more than 100 shows. The biggest piece of news was that Fringe has secured a liquor license for its bar inside the Baldacchino tent at Fort Fringe. There are six beers on tap -- Bells Two Hearted Ale, Bells Kalamazoo, PBR, Southampton Double White, Peak Organic Amber, Peak Organic Nut Brown and Flying Dog Doggy Style -- plus many more available in a can (including cheap beer champion Natty Boh!). There's also a bunch of food options, from ginger-teriyaki turkey burgers to BLT paninis. The food and beverages will especially come in handy this year, since Fringe venues are concentrated within a couple blocks of each other but not particularly close to restaurants and bars.

Fringe is also jumping on the green bandwagon by opening a free store. Drop by the Trading Post (a new Fringe venue) to pick up clothing, CDs and other cost-free treasures.

The preview of shows itself was an expected mix of intriguing and questionable. After the jump, catch our top 10 list of the most promising performances based on Wednesday night's previews.

First of all, I have to commend the actors during the preview. It's not easy to give a performance at a bar when people are chatting with each other, texting and ordering beers, but the performers seemed to take it in stride and make the most of the few minutes they were alloted. Now, the standouts:

Gospel 101: I've never had a particular hankering to get into gospel music, but instructor Rosita -- a ball of gospel sunshine in a light blue get-up -- made me want to clap, stomp and raise my hands in praise. And all that without her piano or drummer, which she'll be bringing to the Goethe-Institut.

Headscarf and the Angry Bitch: Zehra Fazal takes on the role of Zed Headscarf in this musical journey recounting of what it's like to grow up Muslim in America. If her version of the Beatles' "Blackbird" (about reconnecting with an estranged Pakistani cousin on Facebook) is any indication, an evening with Fazal will yield some not-so-PC laughs.

Captain Squishy's Yeehaw Jamboree: A German spy infiltrates a down-home variety show in this musical. The jokes were a little predictable in a Dukes of Hazzard kind of way, but there was something refreshingly put-together about this quick hit with silly songs and actual choreography.

Riding the Bull: The director, stage designer and a big plastic Jesus took the stage to give a brief synopsis of this play about a rodeo clown. Strangely enough, those two minutes were some of the most entertaining of the evening, so I'm hoping the play follows suit.

Irish Authors Held Hostage: A couple of Islamic extremists have captured Oscar Wilde, who recoils at the idea of sitting on a dirty old chair and gets sort of excited about the prospect of being tied up. The utter absurdity of this farce elicited some of the biggest laughs of the evening.

Soup: The theatrical trio from San Francisco is all about sketch comedy, and they do it well. The preview performance showed the stars of a low-budget cooking show playing fairly well together until the camera stops rolling. The premise is pretty familiar, but the actors made the most of it with impeccable comic timing.

May 39th/40th: This play has an intriguing premise. There are two storylines at work, and both examine how people tolerate pain. The play is set in the year 3009, when the world has changed -- or has it?

Slow News Day: I have a soft spot for improv, if only because it seems so incredibly difficult. 4&9 Productions proved to be quite quick-witted. The upcoming Fringe performance will consist of a news show followed by commercials and the off-air antics of the news anchors, and it's all based on audience suggestions. Last night, the company riffed on commercials with a hilarious shill for "Smiles for Sale" and a scatological ad for reusable toilet paper.

Thou Shalt Not Kill:A number of Fringe performances are particularly preoccupied with death and murder, and this one seems like the most promising. The collection of four one-acts asks: Is murder ever justifiable?

Pepe! The Mail Order Monkey Musical: The show follows two boys who order a monkey from an ad in a comic book, thus sending their suburban neighborhood into a frenzy. The actors are still ironing out some of the numbers, but seeing Cyle Durkee take on the role of a hyper little kid will probably be worth the price of admission.

Did you attend the preview? Let us know what other shows piqued your interest.

-- Stephanie

By Stephanie Merry  | July 4, 2009; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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just for the record, the word "panini" is the plural of "panino" in italian. please refrain from adding an "-s" to "panini" -- it's a redundant plural. include the phrase: "panini-style sandwiches" if one feels the need to add an "-s". same goes for biscotti (singular biscotto -- like "biscuit"), spaghetti, ravioli, tortellini, etc.

Posted by: tsqnova | July 9, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Paninis. Paninis. Paninis. Paninis.

Posted by: dkp01 | July 9, 2009 9:17 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to plug Pinky Swear Productions' DC premiere of Freakshow by Carson Kreitzer. It's on Bret Abelman's list of hidden gems in the City Paper.

Posted by: BansheeKLS | July 10, 2009 5:22 PM | Report abuse

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