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Fort Fringe – The Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar, 607 New York Ave NW
Wednesday, July 20th, 7 p.m. Saturday, July 23rd, 9 p.m. Sunday, July 24th, 4:30 p.m.
Running Time: 60 minutes
They say:“Prepare to have your face melted as Janey dumps her boyfriend and reflects on the wake of shattered-boy-carnage she’s left behind as she tries to figure out why she cannot have a healthy relationship.”
Derek’s Take: Watch out, you puffed up playas, heartbreakers, and wannabes – Katie Molinaro’s sneering brand of righteous girl power isn’t cast from the Spice Girls’ vacuous mold! Her fist-pumping hour includes fifteen salvos of pop-punk bravado aimed squarely at the dickheads and louts who make growing up oh-so-difficult nowadays, and that goes for all you obstructionist moms and teachers out there too. Right from the opening number, Molinaro (as her alter-ego, Janey) smashes her battering-ram wit into the barriers stacked against young women everywhere. The result – at times earnest and searching, at others petulant and a wee bit vulgar – is pure, unaltered FUN.
The show, with a huge assist from songwriter and lyricist Shawn Northrip, feels like a concert but plays like a storytelling performance in need of Ritalin. And that’s a good thing. Janey starts by reminding the hopeless romantics on hand to check their expectations for everlasting love. “Unless you die, every relationship ends,” she says, and judging from the whooping feedback in the Gypsy tent, lots of dudes know what she’s talking about. From there, she dials down her airy superiority, revealing that her man-troubles began with Marcus, the grade-school aged, mortal incarnation of that infamous ladykiller, Leonardo DiCaprio. With Leo’s Tiger Beat-style pinup as a backdrop, she pulls her hair into a side ponytail and adopts the girlish persona that drives the early part of the show.
Janey’s crush on Marcus fuels the ballad “Star,” which turns her misinterpretation of the word “autistic” (she hears “artistic,” you see) into a soaring expression of want. The song, aided by Molinaro’s tinge of soulful timbre, seeps with heartfelt yearning, both in love and life. But it’s from this idealistic starting point that things start to go wrong, as high hopes are quickly overrun by the awkward firsts of adolescence: that first kiss interrupted by a chaperone, that first penis sighting and wondering what comes next. The second third of the show has great fun with this question, as Janey’s head-in-the-sand mother outsources “the talk” to a guide for girls and Janey experiments with maxipads, mistaking them for sporting equipment. Her mom’s suggestion? “It’s better to be a prude than a slut.”
Molinaro’s got the pipes to pull off a wide range of songs, though she strains at times to hit all the high notes. Backed by the solid licks and steady beat of her band – Veronica Hunt, Casie Platt, and Danielle Ray, a.k.a The Bitches! – she prowls the stage stooped in a swirl of joyful grievance, eyeing the crowd as if it’s just another part of a sweeping anti-girl conspiracy. By the time she’s done railing against shaved cooters, the diefication of pregnant women, and, towards the finish, the heartbreaking subversion of one John Robert Patrick Ferguson, you might be excused for thinking that she’s barely holding on. But fret not – Molinaro’s simmering charisma and cheeky meditations, underscored by the rousing closer, “100 Reasons [it’s better to be a girl than a boy],” reveal that she’s anything but a candidate for self-help.
This is a show that succeeds on many levels, a rock-musical, stand-up, and storytelling act all rolled into one. It sags only when Molinaro slips to the corner of the Gypsy tent stage to re-accessorize or re-hydrate, leaving the band and audience to twiddle their thumbs until she re-emerges, fiery as before. It’s her slinky, almost sweet charm that drives home the production’s unifying theme – that for all the resources out there on the subjects of sex and growing up, getting to adulthood is still one maddening and often lonely experience.
See it if: You’re up for a full-throttle, coming-of-age tale backed by foot-pounding music and drenched in satire.
Skip it if: You squirm at thought of vagina-gazing introspection.