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So it’s been a while since I did anything other than write up a show, eh? And surely you all, no matter how high-minded your approach to Fringe, expect a certain amount of trash-talking here at Fringe & Purge.
(I’ve got an excuse, involving my sister, my nephews, and a beach house on the Isle of Palms. Hope y’all had a similarly good week.)
But I’m back in the Fringe groove now, so let’s address that dish deficit.
Speaking of which, we’ll get all up in Julianne’s business in a minute. But before we throw stones, a note about our own glass house:
Performance-Us Interruptus – One of Fringe & Purge’s guest bloggers ducked out partway through a show earlier this week, then panned it royally here on the blog. A certain number of the commentariat was outraged — as was one of the show’s cast, who sent me a tart e-mail.
Among the bullet-point complaints (certain paraphrasal liberties have been taken) in that note:
- Ditching mid-show is disrespectful to the cast, the crew, the Fringe Ideal, and anyone who sat dutifully through Hot Feet.
- Other festivals insist that reviewers/judges “stay until the bitter end of any assigned show — no matter how bad.”
- Dude complained in his review that the show had no story — but he had left before the story “really had a chance to begin.”
- Y’all should really send somebody else to re-review. And maybe fire the putz.
Now, while we’re sometimes flippant here at Fringe & Purge, we do take this stuff seriously. The City Paper once dismissed a contributing writer who filed a review without telling either her readers or her editor that she’d left the show at intermission. I don’t see why a similar standard ought not to obtain here.
But our contributor did disclose that he’d bailed — disclosed in the review itself, in fact.
And while I’m open to argument about whether it’s kosher to complain about the weakness of a show’s bones when you haven’t stuck around to assess every last metatarsal, our blogger reports that he stayed for 40 minutes of a show that runs an hour and ten. Which doesn’t strike me as outrageous.
Also: I’m of the belief that respect for the artists or no, it’s within the pale for a critic to leave a show that’s not going well. It’s hard to say when it’s justified, and it’s not something I’d do every week. But bottom line, if you’re convinced that no amount of basting is gonna save a turkey, it’s OK to hit the Eject button. (Not to mix a metaphor, or anything.)
Should our guest blogger not have filed a review at all? Not entirely my call. Blog editor Brian Reed has this to say:
“I thought it was a very funny and particularly honest review (that he discloses his early departure both earns him all this flack but also espouses a certain integrity), and therefore didn’t worry too much about posting it. Since then, as you know, several people have responded either with outrage or their own appraisals of the show.”
Indeed: By my estimation, Power House has now gotten more attention on this blog than 9/10ths of the other Fringe shows. And you know what they say about publicity, no-such-thing-as-bad department.
As for the re-reviewing: Without wishing to suggest that the show was owed a second look, I draw your attention to the comments section of the original post. Brett Abelman, who’s one of our other guest bloggers, also took in a performance, and he’s offered up his thoughts in a longish comment. Which we hope the show’s other partisans will also feel free to do.
One last pair of observations: Dan Owen, the offending guest blogger, strikes me as a smart, funny guy. Works for a big honkin’ international-development organization, has traveled the world, seems like a no-bullshit sort.
But I also know that Shawn Northrip and Shirley Serotsky, the writer and director of Power House, aren’t just f—cking about. They’ve been Fringe heavies since Year One, and between Titus! The Musical, Lunch, The Musical and The Many Adventures of Trixie Tickles, they’ve done their share of entertaining, button-pushing, balls-to-the-wall work.
So I’m inclined to chalk this one up to chacun Ã son goÃ»t — and to point out that taking a chance on shows that may not appeal to your taste is, after all, what Fringe is all about.
Rehearsalus Interruptus – Heard a hilarious story one night under the Baldacchino: Apparently the Fine Wine Players were rehearsing in a vacant Capitol Hill townhouse, and something about their enthusiasm alarmed the neighbors. Who called the cops. Who — according to the version I heard — arrived with guns drawn, thinking they were responding to a domestic-violence incident.
Fine Wine’s Charlene James-Duguid didn’t mention unholstered weaponry (of any sort) when she called me back to confirm the incident. But she did commend the MPD on their diligence.
And she said that when she explained to the boys in blue that her troops were prepping a show for Fringe, the centurions didn’t miss a beat: “Well, we’ll have to see that,” the officer reportedly said.
Naked-ness Interruptus – As you may have heard, one early performance of The Naked Party ran a touch long. So long that Fringe staff turned up the house lights and shooed everyone out.
As one Fringe-goer tells us:
“So now you have these actors, on stage, nude. And they immediately break character. The women covered themselves with their hands and then ran for their clothes …. The men stood a little like a “deer in the headlights” ….
Ironic, that, in a show that uses nudity as a metaphor for vulnerability — and that seems to be at least partly about overcoming shyness.
I got a call that night from an outraged audience member — a DC lawyer friend, whose response was along the lines of: “Dammit, we were just getting to the denouement, and I want to know what happened.” That Fringe-goer, who titled her e-mail “Best Fringe Incident Yet,” alerted CP arts editor Mark Athitakis a couple of days later.
I’d have blogged about all this earlier, but y’know, beach house and all.
Still, I checked in with Julianne, who pointed out that based on the show’s tech-rehearsal timings, they were on target to run over by about 20 minutes — and that other shows were lined up to load in at that venue.
“Think of the poor venue manager,” Julianne pleaded. “The show after this we would have had to hold, and the one after that. That would have made more people pretty pissed.”
Then she noted that all Fringe fests have similar don’t-blow-your-time-slot rules, chiefly to keep the trains from running completely off the tracks. And she noted in LARGE letters that that night’s audiences were offered refunds.
For his part, Naked Party writer-director Jason Schlafstein did a double-back mea culpa with a half twist.
He and his cast had rehearsed with an invited audience, he said, but never with a real one — and crowd reaction added time. And there was apparently a miscommunication with Fringe: the festival staff had booked x minutes of time, and the Naked partiers were under the impression that they had x-plus-five.
(Forgive the algebra, he was talking fast.)
Schlafstein stresses that he takes full responsibility, that he was mortified, and that he and his gang aren’t sticking any pins in their Julianne doll.
(Anymore. No, no — I said that, not him.)
That very night, he says, “I went home and sent out a bunch of cuts to the actors.” Took 10 minutes out of the show. And since then, they’ve been playing to “pretty much universally positive reviews.”
And near-sold-out houses, Schlafstein says — so if you’d like to see it, you might want to book your seats now.