OK, it was a hot steamy day here in DC, so naturally I went out, sweating like a freakin' horse, to catch two plays in annual Capital Fringe Festival.
The Fringe Festival is similar to ones that run in places like Philadelphia or Edinburgh; performers and theatrical troupes set up in various out-of-the-way venues. It's actually a fun way of sampling the works of different groups and seeing some stuff you might ordinarily miss.
Today, the first play was Hamner Theater's quirky "Poe & All That Jazz" at the new Harman Center downtown.
I got there a tiny bit late, so I missed the very beginning, and it was somewhat odd going, but I finally got into it. Jon Cobb played Poe fairly well, but Patti Finn stole the show as a chameleonlike spirit who shifted identities to become various women from Poe's life and his art. The script explored the themes of loss and abandonment in Poe's works and how they reflect his troubled personal relationships. Now, it could have been most sombre, but it was leavened with sarcastic humor, and the music (classic jazz, mostly Cole Porter) at first seemed odd and incongruous but then suddenly became appropriate (and sometimes ironic). For instance, "In the Still of the Night" was interspersed with Poe writing "The Raven." And a scene with Poe encouraging his child-wife Virginia to sing is given a mordant twist when she sings "Love for Sale." It was all quite satisfying and Finn is a genuine talent, a great singer and an effective actress.
After that, I grabbed some dinner in Chinatown, then headed up to the "The Shop at Fort Fringe" for Molotov Theatre's fun play "The Sticking Place."
Actually, I was there early, and I got to hang out with the other early patrons out on the shabby street, lined with crumbling buildings (but with the DC Convention Center a block away), while dark storm clouds gathered overhead and wind skittered dry leaves on the pavement, sounding almost autumnal. It was a great prelude to the play. Also, I unexpectedly bumped into my friend Lexx, who I haven't seen in an age, which was very pleasant. (Hey there, Lexx!)
Molotov Theatre is dedicated to reviving the art of Grand Guignol, and their show is a perversely funny story of professional jealousy and sexual depravity. Praem Phulwani is arrogant newscaster Darren, opening the show by reporting on the new kink of "bloodplay," and then berating underling Richard (Karthik Srinivasan). Richard's on a date with Debbie (Laura Bloechl), which has peeved her best friend Jane (Pamela Sabella). Of course, there's murder, and unholy passions kindled by the murder, and jealousy, and anger, and any number of other sins. It's all very, very offensive, and very, very fun. Some interesting touches include silent-movie-style title cards projected during scene changes and how stage blood, faux gore, and detritus from fights is left to accumulate on the stage as the play progresses.
There's a lot more going on in the Fringe Festival, so if you're in the DC metro area, get to the website, download the schedule, and start looking for a show that appeals to you. Both "Poe & All That Jazz" and "The Sticking Place" have more showings in the run of the festival, so catch 'em if they sound good. Or see something else. (My friend Kris is in Theatre Du Jour's very intriguing avant-garde piece "Self Accusation" at the DC Arts Center; see it before it takes off for Edinburgh.) This festival has a lot to offer, and some stuff is free.
But of course, make time to see HELLBOY 2. And make time to do some reading. And whatever else that gives you pleasure; life is too short.