By Larry Laneer
October 4, 2021
The Theatre Crude Fringe Festival returns for a third season, now at Factory Obscura, and is almost an embarrassment of riches with 20 performance events in 10 days. The performances reviewed were what I could work into my schedule. Undoubtedly, other worthy events appear in the festival.
The clown show Alone: In a Crowded Room is the most mindless, pointless 50 minutes of theater seen around here since maybe Menopause: The Musical. One thing Alone: In a Crowded Room is not is funny.
Created by an outfit called Clownlife Arts, the show begins promising enough with an underlying industrial roar like you hear in David Lynch films. The set includes a door with a sign over it reading “The Beyond.” Pretty soon a guy in a clown suit appears with the standard clowning props: rubber chicken, balloons, a little juggling. The periodic announcement “Welcome to the existential void” looms over the production in a professional-sounding female voice.
Eventually, we hear a recording of “Vesti la giubba” from Ruggiero Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci (Italian for “clowns,” natch). Somewhere in all this, the dancing cupcake makes a few appearances. Yes, a dancing cupcake.
An accordionist greets the audience before the show and provides some honks, bleeps, and incidental music during it. I’d like to hear more from the accordionist.
Individual stories seem big at this season’s festival. This makes sense. For more than a year, writers and performers have been holed up, and no casts of any size have assembled in rehearsal rooms. The Role of Other is written and performed by Tyler Dobies, whose handsome, long, wavy, dark hair plays a supporting role in the show. A personable and attractive performer, Dobie refers to himself as “brown.”
He has always felt he’s one of the “other.” So, he tells his story of coming of age, coming out, wanting to “fit in” from an early age when he was “timorous Tyler.” He wants to use his knowledge and experience to help those of us who might feel like one of the other. In dialog with the audience, he first asks everyone’s pronouns. Not a single singular “they” was at the reviewed performance.
Dobies doesn’t have much new or particularly interesting to say on the subject. It pains me to write that, because Dobies is such pleasant person and enthusiastic performer, you can’t help but like him. He leaves each audience member with a card of “affirmations.” They range from “i embrace the parts of myself that are other with abundance” to “i love myself” (capitalization his). Why, thank you, Tyler.
In Something in the Loss of Leaves, writer and performer Don Russell tells of people who molded his life: hunting with his father as a boy; a girlfriend; ex-wife; an oracle at a drive-through window who dispenses advice on music and life along with the coffee.
Dressed in baggy black shirt and trousers, Russell draws with chalk on a large, flat blackboard that’s laying on the stage. It’s hard to see what he’s drawing. We hear pop/rock music from his formative years. He sings a few bars and reads poetry. He executes some movements that really aren’t dancing exactly. Then, in about 45 minutes, he’s done.
For something completely different—and I mean completely different—, we saw In Due Time, PANTOMIME by Poetic Thespian Productions. One characteristic of fringe festivals seems to be they don’t provide much information about who created the works and who performs them. Although the title has “pantomime” in it and the actor wears mime makeup, he was not a mime. He explained the contradiction early in this dramatic monologue.
The non-mime said his name is Terry Peterson. I’m not sure if that’s the name of the writer, the actor, or the character played by the actor. Or if those three are the same person. The story sounded so authentic and was performed with such unguarded genuineness one wondered if it’s autobiographical.
The actor told the harrowing story with an understated energy that held your attention for a full 60 minutes. He did cleverly find a way to get some help from others in the room.
In Due Time had the edginess that I would like to see from all fringe festival performances. But fringe festivals are about risk taking and experimentation. Sometimes experiments don’t work out. That’s the thrill of trying them.
Alone: In a Crowded Room, The Role of Other, and Something in the Loss of Leaves continue this week.
|Theatre Crude Fringe Festival
25 NW 9th St.
Various performances and times through October 10
More information: https://www.theatrecrude.org/