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Fringe Festival: Over the top, still
Best Bets for the Fringe... From Excess to Success


by Toby Zinman
For The Inquirer

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. -William Blake

The overwhelming pleasure of the Live Arts Festival & Philly Fringe is its excess - so many shows, so little time.

There's a fine line between the Live Arts Festival (where performers are invited) and the Philly Fringe (where performers invite themselves) - one person's avant-garde is another person's weird-and-freaky. The idea of "fringe" contains both the "edgy" and the "marginalized," so get off the middle of that road and hit the streets: The palace of wisdom awaits.

But since we can't all be Billy Blake (time and finances, etc.), below are a few best bets for the fest, beginning today and continuing through Sept. 15.

These world premieres are likely to "have legs," meaning a future life, in show-biz speak:

Pig Iron's Isabella, with the Philly-based group riffing nude on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, a play usually seen as being about being all-too-fully clothed. "Virtue is bold, and goodness never fearful." Deconstruction is the name of the game.

Same name, same game: If you have a lot of time on your hands, Gatz is the show for you: seven hours of a man reading The Great Gatsby with a large cast to bring the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel to life. Elevator Repair Shop's production already has piqued considerable interest.

The Wooster Group's wild and already renowned deconstruction of Eugene O'Neill's The Emperor Jones features Kate Valk in the title role: a white woman in blackface playing a black man whose past is a synopsis of African American history. This is a major event for Philly.

The Riot Group's Hearts of Man is a courtroom drama billed as a "three-act New Jersey tragedy" about a sexual predator caught in a TV sting. The show was written by Adriano Shaplin, a major player in the world of experimental theater, and the Group arrives trailing the clouds of glory of Tony Kushner's praise.

Lucidity Suitcase International (a.k.a. Thaddeus Phillips, who gave us Red Eye to Havre de Grace and Lost Soles) presents the world premiere of Flamingo/Winnebago, a "cinematic musical epic" about climate change, using, among much else, 3-D glasses and a jazz band.

Lesser-known but looking good:

Inis Nua's U.S. premiere of Trad, a new Irish play about a 100-year-old man and his father who hobble across the Irish countryside. This young company specializes in contemporary works from Ireland, Wales and Scotland.

Fatboy is Brat Productions' latest (their Eye-95 Re-tarred was a big hit last year), likely to be funny, shocking and loud. It was written by John Clancy (one of the New York Fringe founders) for Madi Destefano's company and Madi stars in Azuka Theatre's Sweetie Pie, which Clancy is directing.

Rutherford Chang's Men of the Green, is the last of their Sports Trilogy - this one is about golf. Last year's basketball show was terrific even when experienced by someone with no interest in sports.

Six of One is 11th Hour Theatre Company's newest musical - their "Bomb-itty of Errors" garnered a slew of Barrymore noms.

Afoot! A Treasure Hunt is the performance/concoction of The Brothers Cromie; teams will search the city for solutions to a puzzle.

And if you have a taste for improv - long or short - all sizes are available at the Fringe, from Leap! which asks five well-known local actors to work without a net (or a script) to Tongue & Groove's borderline performances (including Heebs in the House! Oy the Drama), to a variety of specialist companies: The N Crowd, Industrial, Lunchlady Doris, and a bunch more.


-Taken from the August 31, 2007 Philadelphia Inquirer

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