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Posted at 6:37 PM ET, 07/ 6/2010

Fringe Festival: What we'll be seeing

By Stephanie Merry

Among the promising Fringe offerings, catch the video game-inspired musical "Super Claudio Bros." (Courtesy of Super Claudio Bros.)

The Capital Fringe Festival is such a theatrical smorgasbord that it might seem, to the festival newbie, like a lot of rough and too few diamonds. Luckily, we're here to help. Armed with our impressions of past Fringe shows, our familiarity with returning companies and a little female intuition, we (Lavanya and Stephanie) have a rundown of our most anticipated shows of the festival, broken down into handy (and totally arbitrary) categories. And for those looking for Fringe with a side of self-help, take a look at Lavanya's Weekend story, as well.

"SEXY TIME"
Lavanya's pick:
"Chlamydia dell'Arte: A Sex-Ed Burlesque"
I'd probably see the show based on the title alone, but this tongue-in-cheek production, which blends real sex-ed videos and, er, live performances (read: striptease, comedy, songs and dance) to teach you everything you should have learned about sex, really does have edgy-theater cred. The show was well-reviewed during the Philly Fringe and sold out its run -- I'm expecting that it will be Fringe-y in spirit and well-done.

Stephanie's pick:
"A Thing for redheads"
As a redhead myself, the title of this Fringe play gave me pause -- I don't generally abide the promotion of ginger fixation. But I'm making an exception in this case, because John Morogiello is the man behind this new dark comedy. The playwright also penned the witty, wacky "Irish Authors Held Hostage" as well as last year's comic horror "Jack the Ticket Ripper"

More picks after the jump.

PURE, FLUFFY FUN
Lavanya's pick:
"Assembly Required: How to Write, Produce and Stage a Musical -- The Musical!"
Joshua Morgan and Brian Sutow turned their sick obsession with creepy school assemblies (Remember? Stranger Danger?) into a web series on Funnyordie.com, then into this Fringe show that has them playing Rob and Flick, two total morons who teach instructional assemblies. Think: "Curb Your Enthusiasm" for the stage. If that doesn't sell you, you might be interested to know the show contains nudity.

Stephanie's pick:
"Galactica in Irrelevant Acts of Entertainment"
Unlike a lot of other Fringe entries, you can see Galactica perform year-round (at Logan Circle's ACKC, of all places). Yet, the chance to watch Ganymede's artistic director Jeffrey Johnson lip-synching his heart out in drag should not go unheralded. Galactica, who could teach the contestants on "Ru Paul's Drag Race" a thing or two, performs with a trio of back-up "singers," some sweet dance moves and her signature electric Pepto-hued wig.

LOVE: THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE BLOODY
Lavanya's pick:
"Duets"
Morgan and Sutow also happen to be the artistic directors of No Rules Theatre Company, and "Duets" is their troupe's official show. It has an interesting conceit: "Duets" is made up of three one-act musicals, each one about a different stage of love and each written by a different set of writers. The connecting link? The same actor and actress play the love interests in each piece.

Stephanie's pick:
"The Horrors of Online Dating"
Molotov Theatre Group has a reputation around town for recreating violent scenes that look so realistic, you may get the urge to toss your cookies -- and I mean that in the best way possible. Molotov follows up its hard-core adaptation of "Titus Andronicus" with a new challenge -- the troupe's first musical. As for the story, it's a Match.com user's biggest nightmare and follows a serial killer who trolls dating sites searching for her next victim.

MUSICALS
Lavanya's pick:
"Super Claudio Bros."
There have been musicals about Jerry Springer, Scientology and Perez Hilton, and this new production, based not so loosely on the story of the Super Mario Brothers (yes, those Super Mario Brothers), would probably round out that list. But it's apparent a lot of time was invested in developing the show: It has a video-game inspired score, original art, and the cast includes some big names in local theater (including Stephen Gregory Smith). If you're a musicals fan, this may the one to see.

Stephanie's pick:
"The Von Pufferhutte Family Singers! (the musical)"
Last year's Fringe entry by I Like Nuts! (the Company) was so utterly absurd, it prompted the man sitting next to me to marvel, "It's like 'Hee Haw' on acid." The zany troupe returns with this new musical, which promises a plethora of lederhosen, colorful dirndls and some irrepressibly catchy ditties.

BASED ON A VENERABLE TEXT
Lavanya's pick:
"Handbook for Hosts"
Two Fringe veterans, Banished? Productions (which produced the 2009 festival's food-tastic hit, "A Tactile Dinner") and Happenstance Theater (also a Fringe fave for "Low Tide Hotel" and "Cabaret Coocoo") took a cult 1949 entertaining manual, "Esquire's Handbook for Hosts," as its inspiration for this show. I'm excited about the costumes and the references to urbane '40s cocktail-party style, but I also think you can't lose when these two immensely talented companies team up.

Stephanie's pick:
"Finn McCool"
Fringe fixture Dizzy Miss Lizzie's Roadside Revue knows how to turn a classic tale on its head, whether it's infusing Greek tragedy with some hard rock or retelling the stories of the saints by incorporating some blues-y tunes. This year, the group members are taking on Irish lore, reimagining the story of Finn McCool with their signature musical flair.

STORYTELLING
Lavanya's pick:
"Give them Vagina: Tips from Mom, Dad and Cosmo"
Vijai Nathan is a comedian and a Speakeasy regular whose one-woman shows have focused on her family and status as the child of Indian immigrants. But this show should look at what it means to be a woman in your 30s, and I think Nathan, who's got a super-innocent look and Valley-girl delivery, really shines when she's doing humor that's mildly dirty.

Stephanie's pick:
"Showcase Showdown"
Speakeasy DC needs no help with publicity given that its Fringe shows routinely sell out. Yet, because last year's "The Sin Show" was my favorite performance of the festival, I must give credit where it's due. This year's entry adds a dose of spectator participation, including the chance for audience members to decide whether the story they just heard is true or false.

LOCAL TALENT
Lavanya's pick:
"Garage/dances"
Liz Lerman Dance Exchange's site-specific dance work is compelling (there was that pas de deux with a tractor at the Building Museum, for example). This show about parking -- my favorite subject, after parking tickets -- will be staged in a real Adams Morgan parking garage and it's free (registration for the show, July 16 and July 17, is required, however). UPDATE: As of July 12, performances are full; tickets will not be available at the door.

Stephanie's pick:
"Carrie Potter at the New Moon Prom"
Another Fringe favorite, Landless Theatre has quite the reputation thanks to its rock musical "Diamond Dead," which won Fringe's 2008 best musical award. After reprising that production last year, the troupe is trying something new with this show that celebrates all kinds of sci-fi fan nerdiness.

Want more Fringe? Check out our special Fringe page, which will be updated daily with new reviews of festival shows.

-- Stephanie Merry and Lavanya Ramanathan

By Stephanie Merry  | July 6, 2010; 6:37 PM ET
Categories:  Theater  
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Comments

Hi -- and thanks for giving space to the Fringe in your column. Way too many people in the DC area don't know enough about the Fringe and I am sure your column will help spread the word.

What worries me, though, is that your column may give people the wrong idea. A Fringe Festival isn't about having audiences experience only the tried and true.

Bottom line: Fringe festivals are about taking risks -- both for the artist and the audience. Think Off-Off-Off Broadway, not 42nd Street.

That's actually good news.

The Fringe offers us a chance to sift the "smorgasbord" you describe and try something unexpected, maybe even out of our normal comfort zone. All of it, live entertainment in varied DC venues for essentially the price of an AMC movie and a small popcorn.

I don't have an issue with your choices. I just wish you had found another 100 words in your column to inspire readers to take an entertainment risk, to see the "smorgasbord" as opportunity. Maybe try what sparks their interest, and then report back. The Fringe lasts most of July. Wouldn't it be great if we could keep the conversation going, spread the word about the Fringe that much further?

Who knows... you might even find more diamonds than you originally thought were out there. Let's just call it my own feminine intuition.

Posted by: robinsfox | July 8, 2010 12:11 AM | Report abuse

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