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Party at the Fort!

Big night for the Capital Fringe Festival last night.  This is v. 5.0, a critical milestone in the delicate lifespan of a franchise, especially one aiming for the kind of serious longevity on which Capital Fringe has set its sights.  You Only Live Twice (You remember: 007 goes to Japan!) was badass.  But Star Trek V was a travesty.  And as for Henry V . . . yeah, so we’re moving on.

The Captial Fringe Festival kicks off in earnest next Thursday, and we’ll once again be covering it here at Fringe & Purge with show reviews, (brief) performer profiles, and whatever other odds n’ sods we can think of. We hope you will join us, O Constant Reader, on this sweaty journey beginning next week.

Last night gave us all a preview of this year’s fringinalia, and the event accomplished more or less what previews ought: It gave us a sense of what’s here, what’s us, and what’s better you than me.

(Much of) Your Fringe and Purge Action News and Commentary Team — Trey Graham, Jon Fischer, Erin Petty, Rebecca Ritzel, and me — was on the scene as a baker’s dozen or thereabouts of the 137 acts on the Fringe slate this year presented five-to-ten minute excerpts from their shows.

The rowdy environs of the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar were not kind to all of them: Even the reliably house-quaking Dizzy Miss Lizzie’s Roadside Revue seemed to have some trouble being heard whenever the sprawling ensemble dialed it down to only one voice for a line or two.  Sword-swallowers (1), clowns/mimes (2), and lithe young women clad only in sheer undies (3) all managed to command the tent.

Solo performers had a tougher time, though the lady from Chlamydia dell’Artefared better with her shocking disclosures vis-a-vis the nippleless-yet-tawdry sex lives of Barbie and He-Man than Another Picnic at the Asylum‘s Angela Neff did with her . . .  yeah, sorry, Angela.  You definitely looked like you knew what you were doing, but we couldn’t hear a word you said.  Happily, your show is booked at the Goethe institut Mainstage, where you won’t have to compete with a bar crowd.

Herewith, a close-to-complete, sequential rundown of the acts, with reprises of the most truly inspired Tweets from Trey, Jon, and this guy (with the thumbs):

Miss Teen Jesus Pageant — “Two gay fathers stage a Christian beauty pageant . . . to fund their daughter’s tuition to Bible College,” says the synopsis.  “Drunk televangelist needs to learn how to project,” says Trey.

Do Not Kill Me, Killer Robots — Solo piece by Ben Egerman about hiding out in an underground bunker as an army of terminators closes in, replete with robo-porn drawn in marker on cardboard boxes from Staples.  Jon: “Mad science is lonely.”

Chlaymydia dell’Arte — Jon: “Barbies may not have nipples, but THEY HAVE DESIRE.”  Would be a good companion piece to Toy Story 3, probably.

Elephant — Three ladies disrobe to a level of near-nakedness that would warrant selective pixelage on basic cable, join hands with eyes closed, say nothing.  Audience shuts up for the first time.  Emcee tries to start the get-off-the-stage clap before they’re done.  “Is art,” pronounces Trey. “But they don’t know when to put a button on it.”  Or where they could possibly put that button.

The Von Pufferhutte Family Singers! (the musical) — “I’d Rather Be Dead Than Not Be Famous” is the title of this number from I Like Nuts! (The Company).  German accents are a reliable hilarity generator.  “Ve vill vear monacles und top hats every day!” Trey:  “Instant Win.”

Dizzy Miss Lizzy’s Finn McCool — The hard-drinking Fringe perennials return with a retelling of some Irish thing.  The story could not matter less.  The fact that no one up there can sing loud enough on their own is also no problem; they passed out lyric sheets.  I like The Mekons. I like The Pogues albums from the mid 80s and the albums Rod Stewart made before I was born, so this is right in my wheelhouse.  Jon awards (?) them the hashtag #ilovebrinsleyschwarz.

Freud Meets Girl — Pun-titles that do not include the name of an STD give me pause, but this mock grad-school lecture w/ questions from audience plants seems promising.

Another Picnic at the Asylum — San Francisco’s Angela Neff apparently plays 18-20 different characters in this solo play about her preacher father, who leapt to his death from the roof of a Phoenix hotel in the mid-80s.  I’m getting all this from Neff’s site, as, again, we could not hear.  “Tough venue, this tent,” Tweets Trey, sympathetically. “Committed solo performer can’t hold rowdy, beer-addled crowd. (But that’s the challenge.)”  Seconded. Issuing benefit-of-doubt.

Sword-swallowing interlude inspires double-edged entendres from Trey.  Rebecca averts her gaze the entire time.  An increasingly distracted Fischer wonders where the half-smokes at.  (We can smell them!)

A Walk in the Woods — American Ensemble Theatre tackles Lee Blessing’s Pulitzer-nominated, Tony-and-Olivier-nominated comic drama about two arms negotiators, an American and a Russian, who forge an unlikely friendship.  PERFECT for the tent.

The Cloak Room — U.S. premiere of Welsh dramatist Tracey’s Harris psychodrama about “a reclusive hoarder of coats.”  It puts the lotion in the basket! Should be a good fit for The Bedroom, creepiest of the Fringe venues.

CaversThey say:  “Cave monkeys, evolution, the American Dream, and being Human”.  Trey say:  “It’s like a nonmusical ”Floyd Collins.’ Although with more ‘cave monkeys.”

How Frail the Human Heart A dance piece inspired by Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. She appears to know what she’s doing, but Rebecca, our dance specialist, is already gone.

Assembly Required — Weird critical split on this one.  A musical about how to make a musical, which sounds an awful lot like the NY Fringe hit [title of show], which means waaaaaay too precious for my blood.  But these guys, two whiteys in track suits trying to goad the audience into completing their raps by coming up for rhymes with “cretaceous” and that sort of thing, seem pretty funny to me.  “Moron comedy, Sporty-Spice flavor,” sniffs Trey.

Ten/thrityfour — Original history-play about Stokley Carmichael, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the DC riot that followed Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination in 1968.  It’s tough to make serious pieces work in the tent, late in the show, but these actors do themselves proud.

Galactica in Irrelevant Acts of Entertainment — This one really wakes everybody up.  “This drag-queen-plus-dudes-in-sequined-cummerbunds-sing-Stevie’s-“Superstitious”act is really going over,” Tweets I.  “Not everyone knew at first it’s lip-synch,” Tweets Trey.

Yes.  Not everyone knew.  At first.  And I am embarrassed for them, the ones who did not know.

So I momentarily believed some random guy in drag might have a voice like Stevie Wonder.  It can’t be bad that I — nay, that we — made it all the way through this thing with that kind of ridiculous optimism intact.