August 12th, 2011

New Tilley Hat

2011 Fringe Festival Day 8: A little o' this, a little o' that

Continued from Day 7: Dance and comedy to lift the spirits

We kept shifting shows around, partly due to the situation with Carole's father (we're in the "no news is good news" phase, which is nerve-wracking) and partly due to her new teaching assignment starting early Friday. When the dust settled, we saw these.

William Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece


Powerful, but needed more context

The Rape of Lucrece is rarely staged, and here we see why: It's not a play, it's an epic poem. As such, there is very little action. Most of the poem is internal dialog, and very long monologs without the context of the historical set up (much of which is explained in the program booklet) or the leap into action make Shakespeare's vivid imagery somewhat dated and hard to follow.

Most of the reviewers fall into either of two camps: "Great stuff!" vs. "Why are the actors just reading their lines?" I can see both viewpoints, and considered giving this show two different ratings. Eventually, I came down on the plus side. It's not like there's no action, just very little. The staging, such as it is, works pretty well. Both actors are intense; wrapping themselves in their roles. More histrionics might have made for a theatrical production but wouldn't have served the poem.

The Theater in the Round setting was well served. Carole and I, through happenstance, could see Lucrece in the mirror as she reflects her suffering after the rape. Mostly for Shakespeare mavens, and it's hard to say I "enjoyed" the performance, but I'm glad I saw it.

Longing for Qeej

xxxx 1/2

Colorful, swirling dances

Longing for Qeej (pronounced "khang" with a long "a") is a Hmong dance drama. Sixty-seven dancers, many of them pre-tween, are needed to tell the story. Any one dance has 8 to 16 performers (and the ending numbers bring all back on stage) in gorgeous traditional costumes performing amazing acrobatic ensemble dances. The narrator tells the story before each dance, which leads to the creation of the qeej (pipes).

Another show where I was somewhat tempted to give two separate ratings. The kids occasionally missed a step and Rockettes-like precision was not attained. Still, that was part of the charm: Even the kids dance and flip. Watching all the costumes swirl and weave was just great.



Didn't work for me, but the concept was fun

This Fringe has proven one thing: dreamshark and I are two different people. She thought this was the bees knees, and I was bored. I remember enough about Aliens from seeing it once, 25 years ago, that I followed the plot and remembered some of the dialog. I'm slightly more familiar with The Tempest, having seen a production (with Patrick Stewart) more recently, and the program booklet gives a recap.

Tempests is framed as the sequel to The Tempest in the same way that Aliens is the sequel to Alien. As a conceptual artist, I gave them one star for the concept. The execution was good, though the actors kept blowing their lines. They get another star for Ariel as the Alien Queen.

So: You pays your money, you takes your chances. I wasn't impressed, but many were.

I had pencilled in another show, but Carole needed to get up early and I was getting tired. We went home, went to bed early, and started today afresh.

Partly because Carole might not be finished with her training by the early shows, I'm still jiggering with today's Fringe schedule. If we connect in time, we'll both go to a 4:00pm show; I might see different shows alone than with her. If we don't connect, I'll go to at least the first show and probably the first two, then come back in an open slot to pick her up to go see Buckets and Tap Shoes and A Fool's Errand.

Continued in Day 9: Resetting the baseline.