Fringe Festival offers mixed bag of styles, quality


Las Vegas Little Theatre’s fifth annual Vegas Fringe Festival boasts numerous offerings to choose from, all presented in traditional minimalist style. Here are reviews of a selection of the shows.

“THE ACTOR’S NIGHTMARE”

Endless Productions brings vivid life to a quintessential dream with its hilarious presentation of the one-act “The Actor’s Nightmare,” Christopher Durang’s existential take on the never-ending human search for identity. Accountant George Spelvin mysteriously finds himself onstage as the star of an unknown show, exchanging uncertain lines with actors he doesn’t know. Put on the spot he attempts to act through a variety of roles, metaphorically struggling to find the light and his voice after being rendered mute by the conventions of everyday existence. Director E’Dawn Severance creates an ambience of surreality by using hypnotic elevator music as background noise, and coaxes finely tuned performances from an excellent cast. Timothy J. Burris is both funny and touching as the perpetually perplexed Everyman Spelvin. (Grade: A)

“SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN” AND “THE FAMILY”

Also in the vein of existentialism is Downtown Theatre Group’s offering of two short pieces. With both apparently student-led and full of potential, they regardless play more like actors’ scene exercises than as finished playlets. In Mason Coffe’s “Somewhere in Between,” young man Steve inexplicably awakens in the waiting room of what could be either heaven or hell, caught in a tug-of-war between a godly maintenance man and a devilish lawyer who both try to win his soul. Drew Mojica’s direction gives a smooth yet undeveloped piece, with Jose Miguel Hermanson delivering a tormented, frenzied Steve. (Grade: C)

Local playwright Erica Griffin’s “The Family” has an intriguing premise that would be nice to see fleshed out. Set in 1964, it focuses on nervous young man Charlie, who arrives at the oddly doorless home of Lynette to pick her up for a date. There he encounters her unconventional dad Bill, who smokes dope and spouts off hippy ideals of freedom and openness. Directed by Elizabeth Alfieri, Jake Marino gives a terrific Charlie, jittery yet full of the innocent grins that effectively enable a twist to the story at the end. But the production falters with Jason Hernandez as the supposedly radical Bill, who dressed only in underwear lacks specificity, and comes off more as a screaming slob than as a hip free-thinker. And while ’60s music is used nicely to enhance mood, more period specific props would better define the era. (Grade: C)

“THE BOOB TUBE”

Found Door Theatre provides an hour of light entertainment with its sketch comedy show “The Boob Tube.” Written by locals, Troy Heard’s “Lessons in Hunting” and Tommy Watanabe’s “Tommy’s Divas” deliver on what the title implies: spoofs of all things television, old and new. With iconic lines from vintage commercials such as “Let go of my Eggo” playing before and setting a nostalgic tone, we are taken on a funny ride with an expert cast of six. (Grade: B)

“A FRINGE COMEDY TRIBUTE”

Finally, for those who appreciate stand-up comedy, Yo’ Mama presents “The Fringe Comedy Tribute,” which features an hour of stand-up and a skit called “Blinded by the Light.” But the comedy tends to be blinding, with some of the five comedians naturally basing their bits on vulgar sexual situations. To be fair, without a decent-sized audience the show feels like a practice session, but this X-rated stand-up may not be for everyone. (Grade: D)

This is the third of four Fringe Festival reviews by Las Vegas Review-Journal theater critics.

 

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