Review: Theatre Crude Fringe Festival

By Larry Laneer
September 30, 2019

Finally, we have our very own fringe festival! The Theatre Crude Fringe Festival is underway at the Capitol View Event Center (new to me). The venue is designed for weddings and other social events, but the creators of the festival have turned it into a comfortable, serviceable black box theater that seats about 50.

I guess a convention of fringe festivals, or, at least, of this one, is the festival does not provide printed programs at the performance site. You can check the festival web site and get some information, but it’s sometimes hard to figure out details about the plays, such as what you are watching and who is performing it. Thus, the information below is the best I could find. Here are some selections from the first week.

Before Presence begins, three people, who turn out to be cast members, sit in chairs on stage fiddling with cell phones. (At the same time, I looked around and saw most people in the audience fiddling with cell phones. That’s creepy right there.) The play depicts what must be a rehab facility for technology addicts. “I’m nothing without my followers,” one Instagram addict says. They are guided through the 12-step-like program by the eerie, disembodied voice of the Founder of Presence (think a duller HAL). A late scene includes some deft use of live video.

An outfit called 19th Century Hound (get it?) is credited as the play’s creator. Performers are Ronn Burton, Alex Prather, Mary Buss, and Ashley J. Mandanas.

A satire on the absurdity of electronic-device-dominated life, the play hews alarmingly close to the truth. Some people substitute virtual reality for, well, reality. It’s tempting to make fun of or call them idiots. Just turn off the damn device! But that would be like telling other addicts simply to put down the bottle or throw away the cigarettes. It doesn’t work that way. The play may leave some viewers unsettled. It should.

For something completely different, We Stan Together is by millennials, for millennials, and of millennials, with pop culture references galore. The creators, Lauren Brickman and Caitlin Bitzegaio, riff good-naturedly on chance encounters with various celebrities (from A List to D List), television and movies of their era, boy bands (including one from Oklahoma City), and television theme songs, among other trivia.

Brickman and Bitzegaio created this work at New York City’s prestigious Upright Citizens Brigade, so they have a wealth of material for name-dropping. The “stan” of the title is not a misprint. They give the definition in the play, or you can look it up on the internet, something the creators of this play and the characters in Presence would do as second nature.

Now, for something really different, we see Cyrano A-Go-Go, written and performed by Brad McEntire. As a high school sophomore in Carrollton, Texas, McEntire was required to write a play report for a drama class. He stumbled across Edmond Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac and became smitten with the play. In fact, as McEntire details it over about 70 minutes, the play becomes a guiding light and inspiration for the rest of his life.

McEntire gives a history of the play, going into detail about the opening performance on December 28, 1897, and the two-hour ovation following the final curtain. He performs a few scenes and points out that Cyrano is a dream role for character actors, such as himself. The play has never gone out of style and is still performed today.

Perpetual Motion Dance revived its Water Won’t Wait, a set of dances interspersed with a video of dances. The company doesn’t provide a program, so I don’t know who the dancers are or what music they are dancing to. All the dances appear more or less aquatic related. In the opening scene, a long white cloth covering the dancers resembles the rising and falling of ocean waves. Sound contributes much to the depiction of water. A lot of the movement takes place on the floor, and the dancers and audience are on the same level, so if you’re not sitting on the front row, your view is restricted severely.

An entertainment titled The Gravel Road Show Presents Oklahoma, USA! is by far the most provocative and edgy work I’ve seen so far at the festival. It is the creation of Dr. Kato M. T. Buss (whose name sounds like a character in a fringe festival) and students at the University of Central Oklahoma. Some people, and not only people in Oklahoma, would consider this play highly offensive and inappropriate. Not me, mind you. Say, people who get their information from Fox. The multi-racial cast mashes up Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and current events in a cabaret-style show that includes parodies of songs from a famous Broadway musical. It’s about as subtle as a tornado. That’s all I’ll say here, because to be fair to the production, you have to see the songs and action in the context of Road Show.

Theatre Crude Fringe Festival continues through October 6. Expect more dispatches later.

Theatre Crude Fringe Festival
through October 6
Performance times and dates:  https://www.theatrecrude.org/
Capitol View Event Center
5201 N. Lincoln Blvd.
$15 or less

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