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Hip Shot: Revenge of the Cat-Headed Baby and Other True Tales About Life and Death

Remaining Performances:

Saturday, July 19, @ 9 p.m.; Saturday, July 26, @ 5p.m.; Sunday, July 27, @ 4 p.m.

They Say: “Revenge…uses conversational storytelling as a vehicle for exploring 5 unique viewpoints on life and death. Ride along as we regale you with tales of war, procreation, chainsaws, telenovelas, and of course the Cat-Headed Baby. This program follows in the fine footsteps of last year’s smash, Chocolate Jesus.”

Glen’s Take: The SpeakeasyDC folks know their marketing. “Washington’s premier storytelling organization” has two shows in Fringe this year, and one of them—the returning Chocolate Jesus at Chief Ike’s—already looks to be selling out all over again. But before there was word of mouth, there was that kickass title, which you can bet put more than a few curious asses in seats.

We may be looking at Jesus Redux here, if the crowd packed into the teensy Borderstan artist’s studio for Cat-Headed Baby is anything to go by. More than a few of my fellow Fringegoers owned up to being drawn there by the name, and if the show doesn’t exactly deliver on its fanciful titular promise, it does supply a healthy dose of more prosaic—as in factual—pleasures.

Five performers, five true autobiographical tales, told well. No, not simply told—shaped. And that’s the key: As each story unfolds, you find yourself noting how well each storyteller directs the flow of the narrative, wrasslin’ it into submission with a gesture, callback, or well-timed pause. The particular subjects in question (in order: girlhood, war, boyhood, cancer, girlhood again, and birth control) don’t do the experience justice, because the performers aren’t interested in such abstractions—they just wanna tell you a story. Does the fact that these tales have been so carefully molded occasionally cause them to come off a bit…well, canned? Is the “my parents say crazy things in funny accents!” school of comedy represented? And do the performers, in the interest of investing their stories with “heart,” occasionally stray into the decidedly un-Fringey territory of Moral Uplift? Yes, yes, and yes. But you’ll forgive ’em.

See It If: Even four years later, your heart still bears a Spalding Gray-shaped hole.

Skip It If: You prefer your Fringe fare more in the nihilist/deconstructionist/vivisectionist vein, thank you very much.

Posted by Glen Weldon

on Friday, July 11, 2008, at 11:18 p.m.

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute: The Wizards of Workaround

With CapFringe ’08 poised to blanket D.C. in a fervid haze of creativity, manic energy, and dick jokes, let’s throw some love at those who’ll be doing a lot of figurative and literal heavy lifting over the next 18 days: the tech crews.

Fringe’s boundless “Hey-gang-let’s-put-on-a-show-with-dildos!” inventiveness is great, but even the most stripped-down, raw-boned performance requires some tech/design work. During DC Fringe, crews often do that work in unfamiliar venues amid hot, cramped, rats-nibbling-away-at-your-Crocs conditions.

And it must needs be done quickly. Bear in mind that there’s no such thing as Tech Week in Fringe: Groups are generally allotted two hours of tech rehearsal for every hour of total performance time during the festival. If that sounds generous, consider how much of that time gets gobbled up by setting up, testing, and breaking down equipment.

In short, the universe conspires to prevent the kind of small, smoothly timed theatrical moments that audiences take for granted in non-Fringe performance. By all rights they shouldn’t happen, and yet they surely will. One of the main things I loved about that pirate queen show last year was the ingeniously economical way it dealt with technical constraints.

So if you see something during Fringe—a sound, music or lighting cue that works perfectly, a costume that wows, even a bit of stage blocking that speaks volumes—tell us about that moment in the comments.

And if, while out Fringing, you should happen upon some crew member looking particularly harried/sweaty/beset by vermin, buy ’em a drink.

Posted by Glen Weldon on Thursday, July 10, 2008, at 1:10 p.m.