Local acting troupes combine so theatergoers can binge on Vegas Fringe Festival

Gertie is … how to put this discreetly? … frisky.

Hamlet’s cougar-queen mama swoons over her royal romps with King Claudius, earning the title "Your Hornyness" from a hairdresser who suggests that flighty Ophelia do a Google search on Prince Hamlet before dating the Danish downer who can "depress a laughing hyena." … Yo, Shakespeare? Got your dribble glass and whoopee cushion?

"Gertrude probably was oversexed, and Hamlet was this indecisive lout, so it brings them back to Earth," says Barbara King, co-director of "Ruby of Elsinore," in which "Hamlet’s" cast of tragedy junkies files through the salon of hipper-than-thou Ruby the stylist.

Diggin’ the wackadoodle vibe? Relax — if not, there’s 10 other plays from 11 local companies crowding Las Vegas Little Theatre’s twin stages for its Vegas Fringe Festival in a two-weekend blowout beginning Friday.

Expect a parade of productions from folks you maybe/kinda/never heard of:

Atlas Theatre Company, Butcher Block Productions, Chaos Theatre, Endless Productions, lil flo Productions, Found Door Productions, Rag Tag Entertainment, House of Tribes, Olde English, the UNLV Senior Adult Theatre Program — and their host, Las Vegas Little Theatre.

"Taking the plunge last year was a little risky, but we had some quality work, audiences responded and we made a small profit," says producer TJ Larsen. Charging companies $200 to participate, LVLT has set relatively modest ticket prices: $12 for individual shows, and $55 and $110 for multishow passes.

Calling their involvement low-risk, Atlas artistic director Chris Mayse notes: "We’re trying to explore the art form, rather than thinking, ‘I spent X amount, so now I have to have X amount coming in.’ "

Learn anything during the first spin around the Fringe? "We had scheduling conflicts that I’ve addressed, trying to stagger the performances enough so throughout the two weeks, people will have plenty of time to see all 11 plays," Larsen says. "We’re only in our second year so it’s still a work in progress."

("Staggering" also applies to backstage hullabaloo, as companies get 10 minutes each to ferry their relatively simple sets into and out of the theater.)

"You’re helping the theater community grow, instead of this segregation that unfortunately happens here," says Andrew Wright, producer of Rag Tag, whose contribution is "Pandemic! A Killer Flu-sical," recounting New York’s swine flu panic with show tunes. … Seriously.

Insists Wright: "It’s a very funny look at the swine flu outbreak." Hatched by ex-Las Vegans William Waldrop and Robert Williamson, "Flu-sical" features Broadway actor Derek Keeling (Danny Zuko in the "Grease" revival) in a piece getting its premiere in Las Vegas before the creators give it a New York go.

Bona fide heavyweights are Fringe-bound: Lanford Wilson’s "Home Free!" (Olde English), about "a man and his incestuously pregnant sister, living in a cluttered playroom with two imaginary companions" (is there a psychiatrist in the house?); "The Wind and the Willow" (Endless), based on Kenneth Grahame’s novel; and David Mamet’s cryptic "The Blue Hour" (Atlas) about "that time between day and night, light and dark, the beginning and the end of a moment in time." (Whoa … what?)

"They’re non sequitur scenes, we just wanted to explore his language," Mayse says about Mamet, celebrated as the Bard of contemporary street lingo and poet of profanity. Scanning the Fringe lineup, he adds, has been heartening.

"What’s interesting is, in this lineup there are a lot of first-timers who’ve been on the down-low. And (actors) who’ve been around a bit are trying their hand at directing or producing."

Toss in a few more oddball entries that seem Fringe-worthy: Daniel Hamilton’s "Love Stories During the Armageddon of a Citrus Fruit" (Chaos), in which "two men inhabit a world-sized orange" (do they go bananas?); Marco Ramirez’s "I Am Not Batman" (lil flo), featuring one actor and one drummer (and no Joker); and Erica Griffin’s "Casa de Nada" (Found Door), in which "dozens of homeless people are living in a rich woman’s backyard" (they aren’t the gardeners).

Rounding out the eclectic bill:

"Local Celebrity" (House of Tribes) addressing celebrity mania; "My Best Dish" (Senior Adult Program) about "recipes and rumors"; and "Sing to Me through Open Windows" (Butcher Block), about a magician and "a clown who lives in the shadows."

Back onstage in Bizarro Hamlet, ribald Ruby’s still riffin’: "This is Denmark," he says. "There’s always something rotten going on."

Queenie — whom Ruby now dubs "Your Superciliousness" — drones on lasciviously about her sexcapades, while Claudius pronounces his stepson "a fruitcake, he’s a freakin’ numbskull."

Rapping with young Hammy, skeptical Ruby says: "Your father’s ghost talked to you? You sure your college buddies aren’t punking you?"

Yet when Hammy’s black-hooded papa does pop in, Ruby offers the spook encouragement about his sepulchral male pattern baldness. The dispirited spirit declares that he hopes his bro who murdered him — that’d be Claudius — gets whacked by his vengeful kid, without the fussy speechifying.

"To be or not to be? What’s the problem?" he asks.

"Just stab the son of a bitch."

Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0256.

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