To be on the fringe means to live on the edge, and Las Vegas Little Theatre’s Fringe Festival presents the ideal opportunity for artists to try out new works. Here’s a look at some of them.
“OREGON TRAIL: THE PLAY”
Happy Trails are guaranteed with Table 8 Productions’ perfect fringe-fest treat “Oregon Trail: the Play,” by A.J. Allegra. Making its Las Vegas premiere, the story is based on an old, educational computer game and encourages audience participation, proving that interactive learning can be fun. It’s a farcical tongue-in-cheek homage to the old-time melodrama of yore, focusing on the kooky Bootsmeyer clan and the calamity they encounter while journeying to Oregon by covered wagon.
Under the loving guidance of director Troy Heard, authentic old-fashioned effects abound. A blue fabric ribbon simulates a raging river and a hand saw stands in for a fiddle, and the results are charming and surprisingly aesthetic. A Native American performs a solemn dance that erupts into a disco ditty, one of many bits the gifted ensemble pulls off with crisp comedic precision. As little boy Judah, Drew Yonemori is particularily delightful as he throws tantrums and prances around in his shiny red cowboy boots.
Though the show sounds like family fare, it is decidedly adult-oriented, so use caution if you choose to bring children. But be sure to arrive early and snag a seat in the front row for maximum game-playing fun. Grade: A
Another play making its Las Vegas premiere is M-Wil Productions’ “Ex-Dating,” written and directed by local Matt Martello. The third-place winner of Las Vegas Little Theatre’s 2014 New Works Competition, it’s a contemporary look at the perils of courtship as seen through the eyes of five single adults. Friends and former couple Anna (Alexsis Neuman) and Rick (Leonardo Dominguez) attempt to pair each other up with mystery dates Laurie (Meagan Moser) and Dave (Kihapiilani Akui), but unintended consequences occur.
Humorless and heavily focused on the sex lives of the characters, it’s full of profanity and verges on offensive, with Dave being a sexual deviant and Anna’s sister Bethany (Kandice Upshur) an escort with a heart of gold. The plot tries to be realistic, but the dialogue tends to be flat, and there’s little subtext. These folks are clearly open-minded but they are incapable of emotional intimacy, and the story rarely examines why. While Bethany can be seen as a liberated gal, it’s disturbing that such a lovely, seemingly well-adjusted woman would choose the profession that she does, with little resistance and without explanation.
The show clocks in at an hour and a half, and with numerous scene changes and some distracting offstage miscues, it gets bogged down. The script could use refinement. But the performers attempt to provide inner lives, and through the calming influence of Moser and the charm of Dominguez, sparks of chemistry flare here and there. Grade: D
“OPEN MIC NIGHT AT THE BOOBIEHATCH”
For a G-rated extravaganza, join Timothy Simpson for his one-man variety show “Walter Ego-Father of Odd,” written, directed and produced by Simpson. He has Multiple Acts Disease, aka M.A.D., and his different selves perform many tricks. He juggles, he sings, he plays instruments, he does flips — but above all, he tells jokes. Jokes such as “I got fired from the orange juice factory because I couldn’t concentrate,” ba-da-bing! In one bit he wears a horned Viking helmet with blonde braids and plays the accordian. He’s a member of the “Pillage People,” he explains. It’s saccharine stuff, but everything has its place. Grade: D
This is the final in a series of four Fringe Festival reviews by Las Vegas Review-Journal theater critics.