153 Reviews for the 2008 Fringe (In order from best to worst)


First, you can find out about me, and my extended thoughts about reviewing at the bottom of this page.  I think that the most useful aspect for my readers is the rankings.  I base the rankings on my enjoyment of the show, so they may not reflect the quality of the script and/or acting.  I prefer plays to comedy acts, but work in a little of the latter for diversity.   I have discovered that I have a penchant for true stories.    The comments are short because I have little time between shows, and, after all, I am here for the shows.  You can also see my 162 reviews for 2006, and my 151 Reviews for 2005.  If you wish to contact me, send e-mail to Sean Davis



Nocturne: (*****)

A piano prodigy recounts his life after shattering his family by accidentally killing his 9-year-old sister.  The monologue is full of so many evocative similes and metaphors that I found myself smiling often just because of their beauty.   Combine the prose with a well-tempered delivery and you have the most enjoyable play I have seen in a long time.   I am sorry it closes Aug 11th. (Aug 5, and again Aug 7)


Ed Byrne: (*****)

According Ed, and the people waiting in line, he is one of the comedians you know you have seen on TV, but cannot quite remember well.  His routines revolve around his button-down, nice guy, geekdom.  As a man only two months married, he has many gentle tales of courtship and wedding plans.  His final story of his thoughts in the instant after his intended temporarily refused his proposal had a great ring of amusing truth.  (Aug 1)


 Terminus: (*****)

A shy man who makes an ill-advised bargain with the Devil, a teacher turned counselor, and a lonely young woman give semi-poetic rotating monologues as their disparate life’s paths move toward each other.   The arrhythmic rhyming (that actually makes sense!) conveyed powerful images of a world of imps made of worms, lovers on crane tips, and unchecked vicious sadism.  Though it now seems quite dark in the re-telling, I found the lyricism enthralling.   (Aug 2)


Correspondence: (*****)

A man and a woman set about creating a story of a man and woman on a train trip, and intermingle their life’s stories with their creations.  The acting, script, atmospheric sounds, and short musical interludes all are perfect.   As the play progressed, I kept thinking that they could not keep up the delicate tone of the piece, but they did!  (Aug 11)


On The Waterfront: (*****)

An ex-fighter must choose between loyalty to his fellow stevedores, and loyalty to his brother and mob union bosses.  This play has everything: taut writing, a large cast of fine actors, and staging that effectively transformed stevedores into hoodlums and back again.  I had not realized what a difference it makes when older men are played by older men with life’s experiences really etched into their faces instead of young actors relying on face paint.  (Aug 24)


The Idiot Colony: (*****)

This mostly silent play follows the surreal lives of the three women in a mental hospital.   Whether bathing, recounting a tryst in a movie theater, or having their hair done, each scene is haunting.  They do not all make sense by themselves, but contribute to a very satisfying whole.    (Aug 9)


A Dog Called Redemption: (*****)

Two homeless men, one a young drug addict, and the other a naïve mental outpatient go through life together.  Each actor looks, and acts their disparate, interdependent parts perfectly.  The bare walls of the Baby Belly cavern contributed mightily to the dirty, isolated atmosphere.  I cannot help but think that this play is a diamond in the rough.  (Aug 21)


Expert at the Card Table: (*****)

A card sharp displays his talents while telling the life story of the 19th century author of the classic book of his field.  He tells the story of cheating, drinking, and murder well.  I have never seen a performer with his ability to quickly memorize a deck, and then deal out a number of a requested color upon request.  His final shuffle ordering trick is worth price of admission.  (Aug 19)


I Love You, Bro: (*****)

A 14-year-old retells his story of fabricating personas in a chat room to keep the attention of a young footballer in his town.  Based on a true story, the actor aptly conveys all of the online tricks, self-conceits, and emotional turmoil as he desperately tries to prolong the ruse.   It is powerful, pitiful, and scary.  The story is from a Vanity Fair article http://www.vantiyfair.com/ontheweb/features/2005/02/bachrach2005002 (Aug 9)


Reasonable Doubt: (*****)

Just before a re-trial verdict is to be announced, two former jurors meet in a hotel room to explore their differing views of the case and their own relationship.  This onion-layered play does a masterful job of exploring how new facts can change the perceptions of events.  Only a short, unconvincing scene on the bed taints the superb acting. (Aug 14)


I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change: (*****)

This musical tells tales of love from awkward adolescence, through marriage, and on to old widows and widowers.  The voices, the three-piece band, the music, the acting, and most of all the lyrics all worked well.  Two lovely ballads were highlights, “Tonight I’ll be Loved”, and another with an empty nester rejecting the stereotype and loving his wife.  The only the bad song, was the title song, and, ironically, it was the last one.  (Aug 13)


Regretrosexual – The Love Story: (*****)

A fellow who experimented with the gay life style has trouble telling his fragile, quirky girl friend of his past.  Everything works in this comedy as she portrays his mother, best friend, former girl friends, gay partners, psychiatrist, and love interest.   One of many high points is his imaginative way to stop her runaway cartoon train nervous breakdown.  (Aug 15) 


Alun Cochrane.  Owner of Shed. And a Son. Thinks the World is Wonky.: (*****)

Stand-up comedian Alun Cochrane relates stories from his life, spending extra time on his recent fatherhood.  The whole show is thoroughly funny and clean.  Having seen him do part of the routine at Stand Up for Freedom, I came to realize how every gesture is well considered and practiced, and that I was watching a fine actor/writer for an hour.  (Aug 19)


Nina Conti – Evolution: (*****)

The ventriloquist must deal with her “smartass” monkey dummy who wants to leave the show.  The whole show works beautifully, beginning with her being a dummy to the monkey, through when a dummy of her father, Tom Conti, interacts with the monkey, to when the monkey is manipulated by a children’s clown.  One of many highlights was when the monkey hypnotizes her, and then realizes he cannot speak.  (Aug 21) 


Jarlath Regan – Relax the Cax: (*****)

Irishman Jarlath provides standup comedy with a little discredited video at the beginning and end of the show.  Even when the topic is learning how to fight, his gentle tone permeates the work in a most agreeable fashion.   When he polled the audience, at least 90 percent, including me, came because he had personally invited them when flyering.  (Aug 25)


Jason Byrne: (*****)

I saw Jason two years ago, and he continues to have a wonderful mix of improv based on the front audience, and routines about his family.  As before, his prodding of his targets is not mean spirited, and serves as a starting point for some great riffs.  While he uses profanity throughout, his routines about sex are surprisingly observant rather than graphic.   (Aug 1)


Dead Cat Bounce…Late Night Radio: (*****)

At last, a midnight show worth staying up for.  Four guys mix an Indiana Jones story told as an old radio serial with well-played rock and roll to create an incredible pastiche.   A 911 call during labor leads to an endlessly funny digression between two archetypal Minnesotans.   They even pull off a happy go lucky tune describing four ten year olds killing a man.  (Aug 7)     


Dead Cat Bounce: (*****)

This time, these three guys apply their talents to sketch comedy.  These fellows explore a wider set of topics with more humor and less slapstick (none) than the other sketch comedy at the Fringe.  From non-executive vice president hopefuls dealing with a dead hooker, to a cockfight bag filled with a peacock and rabbit, to a demanding tandem bicycle partner, there are so many memorable moments!  (Aug 24)


Once and for All We’re Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen: (*****)

Thirteen Dutch teenagers bound about the stage in contrived chaos displaying the many interactions among themselves.  This show of seemingly uncontrolled exuberance swept up most of the audience, while some left disgusted at its at such a seemingly pointless hour.   The cast wisely demonstrated the underlying choreography of the many-ring circus of chaos by repeating the antics of the first scene almost verbatim in the second scene.  As such, I was the sole member of the audience that had my cheeks and forehead marked with lipstick, not once, but twice.  (Aug 12)


Free Outgoing: (*****)

In India, a widowed Tamal mother and her son must deal with the tremendous consequences of her teenage daughter’s sexual indiscretion.  From fierce loyalty and denial to frantic desperation, the mother’s portrayal is riveting.  I loved learning about a culture of which I knew little.  (Aug 12)  


Departure Lounge by Dougal Irvine: (*****)

After their plane is delayed in the Malaga airport, four high school buddies review their week of sex, and their individual encounters with one woman in particular.   Accompanied perfectly by two guitarists, the fresh songs reflect the complexity of relationships as well as the high jinx of teens.   There are two highlights: a duet of different perceptions of a friendship, and a voice with a range and strength seldom heard.  (Aug 24)


Bully: (*****)

A 32-year-old gay man tells of his life growing up with an abusive father, and trying to find happiness in the gay bar scene.  This well crafted monologue provides a fine mix of abusive events with coping techniques that include hiding, fraternal bonding, and escape.  Throughout the play, I could feel his recurring fear that, despite his best efforts, he would be drawn into another abusive relationship.  (Aug 21) 


George Orwell’s ‘Coming Up for Air’: (*****)

A 45-year-old insurance salesman in 1938 describes his home life, and his childhood and adult fishing adventures.  The 1930’s have always fascinated me, and Orwell provides all the details to understand the fears and angst of an everyman in pre-war Britain.   At some points, you can hear the first mutterings of the themes of ‘1984’.  (Aug 19)


Deep Cut: (*****)

Based on actual events, a mother and father anguish over the British government’s poor investigation of the death of their daughter, Private Cheryl James, at the Deep Cut army base.   The play provides powerful testimony that casts doubts on the findings of the commission that found that four deaths at Deep Cut were probably suicides.   Though it suggests that all four deaths were murder, it only provides an alternative scenario for Private James.  (Aug 12) 


Shakespeare Made Easy: (*****)

This children’s show presents abridged versions of Shakespeare’s tragedies, histories, and comedies.   Fast pacing enthralled the children, while clever synopses intrigue the adults.  Because they spent the most time on Romeo and Juliet, it seemed the most satisfying.  (Aug 10)


The British Ambassador’s Belly Dancer: (****)

A young woman describes her life growing up in Uzbekistan as it leads to her becoming the mistress of Ambassador Craig Murray.  From the beautiful flow of her arms in her introductory dance to her description of life under an unjust post-Soviet regime and on to her final description of English impoverishment with her lover, I found a rare, stark sincerity in this self-possessed woman.  I admire her honesty, her resourcefulness, and her love for Mr. Murray.  (Aug 3)


Out of the Blue: (****)

Thirteen men from Oxford combine pop a cappella with energetic, though somewhat chaotic, choreography.  Though still the best of the a cappella groups at the Fringe, it seemed a little weaker than in the past, with the leads often unable to rise above the group.  It was the very last show together, and their emotions ran high from joyful high jinx to tearful reprises.  (Aug 25)    


The Great American Trailer Park Musical: (****)

The arrival of a stripper in their trailer park disrupts the lives of an agoraphobic woman and her tollbooth attendant husband weeks before their 20th wedding anniversary.  This show had almost everything going for it; the voices, music, lyrics, acting, and band all were topnotch.  The only problem was that I could not understand many of the lyrics in the ensemble numbers.  (Aug 22) 


Russian Play: (****)

After a few songs, five women from St. Petersburg entertain children and adults with Russian games, and dances.  Though the young children stared in wonderment, when the singers tried to get the audience to join them in games and dances, most of the kids fearfully refused.  The only problem with the show was that the background music drowned out the singers.  (Aug 25) 


The Year That I Got Younger: (****)

Aindrias de Staic, an Irish fiddler, mixes music with tales of drugs and going on the wagon from the year he spent travelling about Australia.   He has the Irish gift for storytelling, and the musical talent for scat singing, Jews harp, as well as the fiddle.  An introductory video provides an excellent biographical sketch of his itinerant lifestyle.  (Aug 17)    


Answers: (****)

Three assistants to an MP help the prime minister’s press officer use social blackmail to manipulate a vote on a civil liberties bill.  The systematic use of lies to coerce one person after another was both plausible and chilling.  The play is shorter than advertised, but its abrupt end works.  (Aug 17)


Borough Market: (****)

A gay medical student reluctantly becomes a cocaine dealer to support his lover’s habit.  From the student’s despairing love to the supplier’s tough supervising to the lover’s descent into addiction, each character is finely wrought.  The only blemishes are the recurrent presentations of parts of the climactic scene.  (Aug 18)


One Small Step: (****)

Two young men use household objects from the 1960’s to tell the story of the Space Race from Sputnik to the first walk on the moon.  The creative use of sugar bowls, thermos jugs, and file cabinets provides much of the fun.  A slide projection of the first pictures of the Earth from the moon was a showstopper for me.  (Aug 19)


Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress: (****)

Joan Rivers talks about her life as she steps in and out of a play that has her preparing to interview stars on the red carpet at the Academy Awards.  This strong willed woman, with her stories about her family and show business, touched me with her sincerity.  The play, particularly the hairdresser seemed superfluous.  (Aug 25)


Behind the Mirror: (****)

An alter ego from the other side of a mirror disrupts the marriage proposal of a gibberish speaking mime.  The protagonist is clearly the star, and performs exquisitely, with an initial toiletry routine, and a mirrored image routine straight out of the Marx Brothers as highlights.  The storyline is appropriately simple with many opportunities for a variety of mimed activity.  (Aug 18) 


Scaramouche Jones: (****)

On his hundredth birthday an unnaturally white faced man relates his well travelled life, from son of a Dominican Republic whore to an African snake charmer’s assistant to Nazi concentration camp grave digger/clown.  I marvel at how the writer successfully links the wildly diverse and entertaining chapters of his life.  I must admit that when he had only told of his first fifty years, I was afraid that tales of the next fifty would make the play interminable, but, thankfully, he skips them.  (Aug 14)  


The Good Doctor: (****)

Chekov’s Russia as re-imagined by Neil Simon.  Wit, and timing characterize each of the stories from a successful seducer to a professional drowning man.   Each story seemed original except a tooth pulling that was straight out of W.C. Field’s “The Dentist” short.  (Aug 7)


Stand Up For Freedom: (****)

This benefit for Amnesty International had a collection of some of the best comedians at the Fringe.  As host, Ed Byrne provided a continuity of humor to the whole proceedings.  I would have given this five stars except that I was yet again confronted by an American comedian, Rich Hall this time, who thinks that hatred and saying F*** is funny.  (Aug 6)


How It Ended: (****)

The arrival of a Frenchman training to be an RAF pilot in World War II changes the life of an orphaned young Welsh woman who is living with her four sisters.  Slow, rich, and delicate in the telling.  Live, subtle sound effects, and a swaddled baby repeatedly created from a long sheet add to the magic.  (Aug 6)


I Caught Crabs in Walberswick: (****)

The night before their big tests, two teen buddies from different side of the tracks take a knockout girl to a club in a nearby town while their parents deal with their absence.  The play does a good job with most of its subjects, from male bonding to underage clubbing to peer pressured joy riding to marital disenchantment.  The incompetent, grief stricken father who incessantly plays an airline flight simulator seems too bizarre in such a real setting.  (Aug 21)


The Rat Pack – Live: (****)

Three young men, backed by a big band,  impersonate Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. doing a Las Vegas show.  Though they do not quite look their parts, and their voices do not quite match those of their idols, the whole show is quite satisfying and fun.  Frank opened the show with “Fly Me to the Moon”, which was the song I played when my bride first stepped into my MGB to start our honeymoon to ParisJ  (Aug 11)


Aeneas Faversham Forever: (****)

In Victorian London, a disgraced former policeman and a young doctor join forces to defeat a cult housed below the recently completed Tower Bridge.  Unlike similar efforts I have seen, this play maintains just the right amount of silliness throughout.  It was a pleasure to find cleverness instead of the slapstick and mugging common in other broad comedies at the Fringe.  (Aug 21)  


Slick: (****)

A self-centered couple discovers oil coming from their toilet and attempt to keep the treasure secret from their landlord as their 9 and 3/4-year-old son transports the oil to a refinery on his skateboard.   The key to this comedy is the half size puppets composed of an actor who provides the head and controls feet, a stuffed miniature body, and another actor that provides the shortened arms of the character in wonderfully miniaturized sets.   I found myself entranced while the company explored the many possibilities of their creations, including climbing staircases and outside walls.  The final scenes lacked such novelty, and served only to complete the story.  (Aug 12)    


After Liverpool: (****)          

Three actors and three actresses mix and match to create short scenes about dating and shacking up.  The recurring themes were sharing an apple, seeking approval, decision making, and lack of conversation in a longer relationship.  This is light, fast paced stuff that somehow worked for me than the other sketch comedies.  (Aug 22)


In Conflict: (****)

Slides combined with seventeen monologues based on transcripts tell the story of Iraq War veterans’ experiences in Iraq, and after.  From a constantly smiling doctor to a Navaho who has lost part of his spirituality to an alcoholic Harlem private trying to forget images of a baby run over by a convoy, each of the stories is unique and powerful.  The only problem is that, at two hours, the play needs either an intermission, or shortening.  (Aug 19)   


The Boy from Centreville: (****)

This play explores many aspects of the Virginia Tech killings through dramatizations, lectures, video, and recordings.  In the background, as some of the action progresses in the background, we see a seemingly endless chronological scrolling of dates and casualties of school killing incidents.  I found quite chilling the replay of a 911 call complete with gunshots in the background.   (Aug 18)


Six Wives of Timothy Leary: (****)

The play uses monologues by each of the six remarkably different, albeit consistently young, wives to provide the biography of this professor turned famous LSD advocate by describing her own intense experiences with him.  While the performances completely captivated my younger friend, I sometimes found myself drifting off to my own experiments in ‘70s.   I found it disquieting that the playwright omitted that he was the epitome of an acid burnout later in his life. (Aug 3) 


Call Me If You Feel Too Happy: (****)

A young woman describes her experiences dealing with bi-polar disorder while packing for a trip to America.  The play provides well-constructed stories of both the mania and the depression in a lighthearted fashion.  Since both my wife and I have degrees in psychology, I probably was not as fascinated as the rest of the audience was.  (Aug 3)


Fall: (****)

A troubled prime minister looks for solace in a stranger, and ends up finding a sacrificial savior for his desperate country instead.  The play provides a well-chosen blend of personal, political, and ethical dilemmas.  With strong performances throughout, the only weaknesses are a conniving assistant and a loving doctor who both act inexplicably rashly. (Aug 1)


Auditorium: (****)

A bookshop owner discovers a portal in his closet that allows us, the audience, to watch the goings on through a one-way wall, and then must defend his shop from a corporate buyout.  This farce does a fine job of exploring the possibilities of the situation, from having the audience actively participate to characters questioning their own existence.  Only a water drinking scene, and the company agent, cross the line into silliness.  (Aug 17)


Uncle Vanya: (****)

An old professor and his beautiful young second wife disrupt life on the estate of his first wife. Though set in late summer, the play of drunkenness, doomed romances, and essays on Russia’s decline seems more like people trapped in a Russian winter. I had heard that the company had attempted to mine the play for its comedy, but I found little.

  (Aug 10)    


Charlie Victor Romeo: (****)

In a mock airliner cockpit, actors re-enact the events taken from actual cockpit flight recorders of downed airplanes.   They perfectly convey both the professionalism and tension of each event.  A slide showing the actual casualties of each downing after each scene reinforced the sense of danger.  (Aug 9)


21:13: (****)

This two-hander uses mostly physical theater to tell stories of foreign language difficulties centered on an Englishman and Italian woman whose train is delayed overnight.  I liked that though I did not completely understand some of the scenes, they all felt within my reach.  I will long remember silent words portrayed as butterflying hands, and her perched on him swimming through a sea of pre-recorded foreign conversations.  (Aug 22)


One More Than One: (****)

After meeting online, a three-foot woman and a very tall Asian date.  While the verbal probing and sparring was good, the beauty and variety of their physical interaction amazed me.  The scenes at the beginning and in the middle, when they are separate, have a different, arty style that I found unappealing.  (Aug 23)


The Oxford Gargoyles – Jazz A Capella: (****)

Six men and six women provide wonderful arrangements of a wide variety of songs.  Beside good voices, they have some nice footwork to add to their energy.  One fellow sounded just like James Taylor.  (Aug 23)


In A Thousand Pieces: (****)

Three women provide an expose about the naïve East European girls kidnapped into the British sex trap.  The play utilizes physical theater, lip synched man-on-the-street interviews, and re-enacted testimony to great effect.  I found their dance to the sounds of a rape quite moving.  According to their figures, a woman purchased for 1500 pounds is raped more than 1500 times in less than a year!  (Aug 13)


The Censor – Anthony Neilson: (****)

While defending her pornographic film, a female director teaches a censor about love, sex, and sensitivity.  I found intriguing her instruction of how the sexual techniques changed in the film to reflect the varying state of the relationship of the lovers.  However, I was dissatisfied with her insights into background of the lovers and censor because they had observable basis.  (Aug 24) 


Christiaan Oranje: Boy Meets Piano: (****)

A Dutch pianist recounts his life from birth, with a large section where everything he did was fowt (sp? Dutch for wrong).   I sought Christiaan’s show out because I knew from seeing him in a midnight cabaret that his wistful low-key style appealed to me.  It did work for me, and the senior crowd, but I doubt younger audiences would have the needed patience.  (Aug 8)


Finished with Engines: (****)

A female officer and a male seaman banter while watching an island politically disintegrate. Much of the dialogue is quick and clever.  However, the play seems to peter out, and its misleading program hurt.  (Aug 5)


Inside Yerma: (****)

A Spanish wife looks to her neighbors for answers as she agonizes over being childless.  It wasn’t the clapping, dancing, magical ambience that impressed me.  The soulful, anguished voice of the man who played the wife captivated me.  (Aug 4)


Saving Tania’s Privates: (****)

This autobiographical monologue from a Jewish lesbian who had a mastectomy at age 21 tackles both the travails of lesbian dating, and the entire medical regime for finding and treating breast cancer.  She treats both topics with humor and self-honesty.  Her stories of seeming years of nausea and hair loss from chemotherapy, made me even more thankful that my own reaction to chemotherapy was exactly one afternoon nap.  (Aug 4) 


Elephant Man: (****)

A one-man show telling the story of Joseph Merrick, a 19th century man who suffered from the disfiguring Proteus Disease.  The host character provides a carnival barker light touch that keeps the story from becoming maudlin.  I think that the use of a trapeze to provide action during Merrick’s character was unneeded and misleading.  (Aug 22)


The Sword of Maximum Damage: (****)

Two young men, each with an assistant, play a Dungeons and Dragon game for the world championship.  While the bard detracted, the clever parallels between the characters in the dungeon, and the real competitors won me over.  I loved the victor’s clever and honorable solution to the final obstacle in the game.   People who have not played role-playing games would probably give the play a much lower rating.  (Aug 4)


Lynn Ferguson – The Plan: (****)

A one-woman black comedy has Death relating some of his/her more recent fatalities.  Ms. Ferguson’s quirky writing provides the necessary light touch to keep most of it funny without being silly.  It is surprising to me that though I enjoyed it, little is memorable.  (Aug 13)


The Positive Hour: (****)

At the behest of a social worker, a negligent mother, a single family friend, and a homebound student form a women’s group.  Their stories, both inside and outside of group, were well told, and seemed real.  Only an encounter with a latex-hooded man seemed a little out of place, though it well served its purpose.  (Aug 8) 


Borderline: (****)

A borderline schizophrenic tells of his addiction to ecstasy, violence, and days in an asylum.  The actor provides a fine performance as he veers from near sanity to drug induced highs to violence to withdrawal drug aided sanity.  I found the play particularly interesting since my wife has counseled a borderline person.  (Aug 23)


Lynn Ferguson – Heart and Sole: (****)

The one-woman show has a lonely schoolteacher falling in love with a fish at an aquarium.  This quirky tale works because Ms. Ferguson allows the teacher to be self-aware enough to know she looks daft to others and yet sincere in her love.  My only problem was that I could barely understand the Scottish friend’s brogue.  (Aug 13)


Jabberwocky: (****)

A banished young man agrees to try to slay a monster for the hand of a princess.   This children’s show works for kids, but is not adult fare.  I gave it four stars because the 4 to 12 year old kids became engrossed as the story progressed.  (Aug 7)


I Love You! And You… And You…: (***)

This is a set piece with a man explaining why each of his five relationships ended to a group of single women.  The diverse stories of meeting, sharing life, and final emotional commitment thoroughly engaged me.  The inexplicable lack of self-awareness that bridges the stories just does not work as a plot device.  (Aug 6)


The Art of Dating and Dumping: (***)

An emcee has two actors demonstrate the right way and wrong way to go about different aspects of dating.  Though this is light fair, the actors nailed the vagaries of the dating scene.  I was surprised to realize how many aspects of dating continue in my own marriage.  (Aug 19)


In the Pink A Capella: (***)

Eight Oxford women provide arrangements of a variety of songs.  Though their harmonies work well on softer songs, their mostly thin voices cannot get the full volume needed for such songs as “Foot Loose”.  I found their rendition of “Both Sides Now” particularly touching.  (Aug 23)


The Patriot Act: (***)

A liberal playwright must decide whether to write a play for the U.S. government, or stand trial in a military tribunal for sedition.  From the opening scene where he reads key passages from the Magna Carta exhibit through his final argument with his son, he provides an impassioned defense of the rights of an individual that resonated with me.  Unfortunately, the play lost much of its power because the actor playing his government adversary fell ill, and the actual author of the play took his place simply reading from the script.  (Aug 20) 


East: (***)

Two young men tell of the rough life in London’s East End.  The language is almost Shakespearean, and the two men appear as rough as their parts require.  My whole problem lay in my inability to understand many of their words because of the appropriately accented language.  (Aug 17)


Strippers & Gentleman: (***)

My last show had the audience roaming a space while three strippers and three white shirted young men prowled the space among us.  With video, loud music, dancing behind window screen, a shower, and terse dialogue this seemed like the epitome of the Fringe experience.  It was experimental, unique, imperfect, challenging, and insightful.  (Aug 25)


Sammy J in the Forest of Dreams: (***)

A Londoner crawls through a portal in his kitchen, and finds himself in a puppet land of happy forest creatures seeming ruled by a selfish king.  I enjoyed wide variety of puppets, from trees to birds to blobish sidekick, as well as the many allusions to feature length cartoons.  Despite the puppetry whimsy, the show felt hollow with jarring tragic plot twists such as Sammy J seducing the love interest of his sidekick.  (Aug 24) 


Shakespeare for Breakfast: (***)

Romeo, Juliet, Macbeth, and Lady Macbeth are transported into the world of television game shows.  This is light stuff with many wonderful corruptions of well known Shakespeare lines.  As usual, you get tea or coffee and a croissant.  (Aug 15)


A Pirate’s Life for Me: (***)

A busboy in a bar is shanghaied onto a pirate ship where he must learn how to be a pirate, and then help search for buried treasure.  This children’s show is action packed, and utilizes soundtracks from popular movies and Benny Hill to add humor to some scenes.  While the sword play is appropriately wacky for young children, there are too realistic punches and the use of  “boob” that seemed misplaced.  (Aug 24)  


Vincent: (***)

Shortly after Vincent Van Gogh’s death, his brother uses scraps of written artifacts to portray Vincent’s life and argue that he was sane.   It is an interesting story well told, though a little humor would have helped to break the unrelenting depressing tone.  The two montages of Vincent’s paintings provide a fine reminder of his diversity and talent.  (Aug 14)  


Torn Out Pages: (***)

A woman who suffered child abuse uses the ghost of her recently deceased mother to help overcome her fear of intimacy.  I am friends with the theater company, and so had a different, probably harsher, take on this play than others I have seen.  As I expected, the acting was superb and powerful.  However, the omission of an admission of guilt, and unneeded, poorly presented video detract from the play’s power.  (Aug 8)


The Bird & the Bee: The Bird: (***)

The crippled son of a Russian immigrant whore learns of life after his mother sequesters him in his early childhood.  Though the story is well told, because it is one part of a two-part play, significant aspects lack clarity.  I liked the use of a slowly encroaching “wall” of cardboard boxes to signify his physical growth.  (Aug 20)


NewsRevue: (***)

Two men and two women provide sketch comedy on current British topics.  Though the performers had lots of talent, of all the shows I have seen, this suffered most from me being from America.  I simply did not understand half of the references.  (Aug 25)


Same Time Next Week: (***)

Each week a teacher talks about his girlfriend and underachieving students while his marriage counselor drinking partner talks about a couple he is counseling and his own marriage.   While the plotting had potential, the marital problems of the couple in therapy seemed routine.  The inability of the longtime drinking partners to reveal their troubles to each other made no sense to me.  (Aug 25)      


Barry and Stuart: Part-time Warlocks: (***)

Two affable fellows have a nice comedic patter as they alternate doing magic tricks.  Almost all of the tricks are standard, and their sloppy work unintentionally reveals many secrets as they go.  In particular, for the sword stabbing card trick, the magician inadvertently revealed that the choosing deck had multiple ace of diamonds.  (Aug 23)


Army of Reason: (***)

A sinister interview of a playwright ends up starting a war between secularists and believers in England.  The opening interview provides a cogent argument for secularism, and the play portrays the subsequent acts by both sides as implicitly reprehensible, but the believers are straw men.  In particular, rather than providing a cogent response to a religious fanatic at the end of the play, a pedophilic pastor must simply read out loud a very, very long chapter of Leviticus that often has little relevance to modern life.  (Aug 11)


Shakespeare’s R and J: (***)

After hours at a boarding school, twenty-something actors play four young schoolboys re-enact an abridged version of Romeo and Juliet.  The boys find all of the vitality and emotion in the play.  The severe editing kept the memorable parts, but sacrificed pacing, and crucial facts.  (Aug 9)


The Aluminum Show: (***)

Six dancers utilized innumerable aluminum accordion tubes and Mylar pillows to create life forms and visually striking effects.  The highlight was the opening dance with each dancer within a 10’ creature composed of 2’ aluminum tubes.  The rest of the show paled a bit in comparison despite the creative use of aluminum puppets and air blowers.  (Aug 18)    


Absolution: (***)

A man describes the pedophilic acts of four priests, and how he goes about murdering them.  Though I found the acting and writing gripping, I left with sense of unneeded repetition.  (Aug 14) 


Assassins: (***)

Sondheim’s musical explores the lives of nine people who tried to assassinate the president of the United States.  Unlike the other musicals I have seen here, the cast had strong voices and the live band was well tempered.  I just did not enjoy the subject matter.  (Aug 10) 


Nycht-Hemeron: (***)

Three young women dance to Dawn, a Storm, and Dusk.  Only some of the slower, atmospheric parts interested me, but the piece really works when they dance to jazzy music with a beat.  (Aug 17)


The Rebel Cell: (***)

In 2013 England, two former rappers debate the best way to change the political system, from within or through direct activism, while one awaits trial for bombings.  The reporter, Baba Brinkman, cites philosophy and history, while the bomber, Dizraeli, recounts the lives of the downtrodden.    At then end of their prison visit debate, I found it essential and perfect that the bomber asks his friend to get a message to his mother.  (Aug 9)


Who’s Afraid of Howlin’ Wolf: (***)

An early morning blues DJ recounts his experiences with a sultry caller to his bored engineer.   Whether speaking or singing, the woman commanded my attention with her smoky delivery and tight red 1950’s dress.  The engineer provided good comic relief and counterpoint to the DJ, but the live guitars added little. (Aug 8)      


The Highwayman: (***)

A stable boy informs on a highwayman who is wooing an innkeepers daughter.  Though the plot is predictable, the story is well written.  The videos detract, and the noise of the cooling fans obscured the lines of the too quiet daughter.  (Aug 7)


66a Church Road: (***)

A fellow describes how he came to move into a flat, grew to love it, tried to buy it, and then moved out.  The odd suitcase props, his self-deprecating humor, and his explorations of love of place amused me without engendering many outright laughs.  The occasional blackouts with taped voiceovers contributed little.  Because the suitcase props are undersized, make sure you sit near the front to see them.  (Aug 5)


Undermind: (***)

A salesman for a startup company that offers memory deadening tries convince a distraught driver with PTSD to try the treatment.  As we encounter victims, girl friends, and bosses the plot explores the some of the ramifications of the introduction of such treatments.   However, the plot leaves to only a brief coda the meaty territory of how memory neutralizing would affect an ongoing relationship.  (Aug 6)


Our Country’s Good: (***)

In 1789, a Lieutenant tries to use convicts to present the first play in the Sydney penal colony.   The play does a good job of portraying the many facets of the rough life in a colony barely able to feed itself.   The lack of projection by the actors made many lines unintelligible.  (Aug 10)


Yasser: (***)

A Palestinian tells of his boyhood in Palestine, his respect for Yasser Arafat, and performing Shakespeare’s Shylock, a Jew.  The play wastes the strong acting as it jumps back and forth between different settings forcing him to re-establish his character and the mood.  The story wastes time on a stolen suitcase, when an airport scene already conveys the difficulties of being a Palestinian in Britain.  (Aug 19)


One from the Heart – in concert: (***)

Two singers and a band perform ten songs written by Tom Waits from the movie of the Coppola movie ‘One from the Heart’.  Her voice was good, and it was fun to have a full string section for the ballads, but he sang too quietly.  While ‘Broken Bicycles’ has novel, evocative lyrics, others songs seemed rife with clichés.  (Aug 22) 


Glenn Wool – Goodbye Scar(***)

Glenn provides a standup routine with mixed results.  He has some fine set pieces, but his patter is mediocre.  I found his piece about stifling a giggly marijuana laugh in a queue for ‘Shindler’s List’ the best of the night.   (Aug 19)


The Straight Man: (***)

A man who wants to marry outside his faith tries to win over his fiercely Jewish mother by saying he wishes to marry a gay Black man.  The two marrying men stay within the bounds of reality while the rest of the cast goes to extremes.  Had they backed off this could have been quite good.  (Aug 9)


Root of -1: (***)

Separately and together a couple seeks help from a counselor to deal with the loss of her young sister who was a math prodigy.  Numbers pervade the script as the woman decides to continue her sister’s math course, and a nursery rhyme involving numbers figures prominently.  While the novel ongoing references to the properties of numbers proved interesting to me as a computer scientist, the story of reconciliation with grief seemed mundane.  (Aug 8)


Black Stuff: (***)

A honeymooning couple find themselves stuck at a very remote gas station in Latin America.  What starts out as an engaging piece on economic and cultural differences takes an unsatisfying turn into absurdist theater with instant wars, and unreasonable flash floods.  The highlight of the show had the station owner dancing to the rhythm of locking and unlocking the couples SUV as he manipulates its remote key.  (Aug 11)


Involution: (***)

In the future, a young man nags his sister and friend to take their drugs for a genetic disease while the Christian government uses DNA coding to regulate employment.  The writing works well for all of the relationships, particularly the love between brother and sister.  A barely audible Christian actress, and a superfluous sex robot detracted from the play.  (Aug 13)


FxP2 in Trouble!: (***)

Four young men provide a variety of comedy sketches.  The kept the sketches with punch lines appropriately short.  They have two send-ups of music videos that the younger people just loved.  (Aug 17)


Sketchy Beast: (***)

I found this young troupe of five(?) men and one woman presented sketch comedy that was better than other amateurs I have seen.  While there is still too much reliance on silliness, there are some good characterizations.  The scenes utilizing the fine talents of the comedienne rise over all the others.  (Aug 10)


Max and Ivan: Exposed –The Edinburgh Fringe: (***)

Two comedians present sketch comedy while waiting for a telephone call reporting important breaking news.  I am afraid I must lump this in with the other amateur sketch comedies.  There are a few good sketches, but the poor ones really hurt the whole.  (Aug 25)


Anna the Slut and the (almost) Chosen One: (***)

On his 21st birthday, a very nice guy visits a bar for the first time and tries to chat up a sexy woman who turns out to be a goddess.  The play mixes current live action with the shadow puppet story of how the goddess became trapped in Hell.  The play works because the Christopher Reeve-like protagonist seems so genuinely nice and naïve.  (Aug 17)  


The Miller’s Tale: (***)

We see the original bawdy Miller’s Tale by Chaucer intermingled with an updated version with a supposedly gay PhD student seducing the wife of his bigoted upper crust landlord.  The translation to modern times works very well.  While the landlord’s gullibility matches, his horrible table manners played badly against type.  (Aug 17)


1913 or Nude Descending a Staircase: (***)

Four actresses portray the real events of the Russian Countess Tarnowska who was tried in Venice for having one her lovers kill her fiancé in 1913.  The prologue tells us that she was a captivating young woman, but we only see her beauty and desperation throughout her story.  This dour, one-note play is missing the humor, and vivacity that she must have had.  (Aug 15)   


Boys of the Empire: (***)

A gay schoolboy finds love, spanking, hazing, odd teachers, and intrigue at his new public school.  The play relies on a peculiarly British fascination with schoolboy homosexuality and spanking for much of its humor, and has as its moral that is better to be loyal to your school chums than to your family and friends that their parents have had killed.  Though much of the audience loved this stuff, I found it “tasteless”, particularly after a cast member took my daily Guinness, then drank it on stage, and never bothered to replace it!  (Aug 19)


Kiss of the Spider Woman: (***)

The warden of a Latin American prison tries to coerce the gay man to gather information from his revolutionary cellmate.  This play had three problems with its songs that conspired to muddle a good play: weak voices, an over loud orchestra, and poor sound engineering that often failed the singers.  (Aug 4)


Mother Land: (***)

Intertwined monologues repeat the recorded words of more than ten wives and mothers of soldiers assigned to Iraq.  While the topic is certainly of great import and power, the choice to alternate throughout the telling of each pair of monologues seriously detracted from their impact.  The effort to understand so many heartfelt discontinuous heavily accented (for me) stories wore me out.  (Aug 4)


Sir Barrington Granch: My Life is Art: (***)

Set in his mansion’s drawing room, this play follows the fictional career of an 85-year-old actor from his first surprisingly successful audition while swatting at a wasp to final TV cameos.  The story is replete with video of films and TV shows, and photos with real stars.   The comedy is light and inconsequential.  (Aug 7)


Simply Fancy: (***)

An addled father and each of his two teen children go on separate quests for fruit in their magical land.  As the title indicates, this is a wonderfully fanciful comedy full of whimsy.  Unfortunately, I lost interest as the Teviot Turret became unbearably hot.  (Aug 20)


Secret Agents: (***)

A jazz obsessed secret agent has only one week to foment a terrorist act in London.  The plot is humorous, but the play needs serious cutting.  The shows projected text and scenes to great effect.  (Aug 11)


X-Files Improv with Dean Haglund: (***)

The host creates a stereotypical X-Files episode utilizing audience participation and suggestions.  While I laughed often, I realize now that Mr. Haglund spent much of his time ridiculing his audience participants after he had set them sometimes difficult predetermined tasks.  When it came to utilizing audience suggestions, he could repeat them during the episode, but lacked the clever elaborations that mark a fine improv performer.  (Aug 4)


Whacker Murphy’s Bad Buzz: (***)

A young Irish man tries various schemes to come up with 1500 pounds in three days after a sale of stolen DVD players falls through.  The story has many of the fanciful embellishments of a good Irish tale.   I particularly liked the part where his plan to euthanize an old dog by feeding him MSG laden Chinese food fails as the limping dog goes into a frenzy and bounds over a fence.  (Aug 13)   


Volpone: (***)

A man feigns a grave illness and with the aid of his servant dupes prospective heirs to give him gifts.  Though Jonson’s farce has a clever plot, the company still found it necessary to play this with over the top characterizations and silliness.  The addition of a subplot involving a television travel reporter added nothing.  (Aug 23)


There’s Something in the Fridge that Wants to Kill Me!: (***)

A woman tells of her efforts to manage her eating while dealing with her Spanish, French, and English cultural roots.  Isabelle Gregson is slim, pretty, and vivacious, but should not be singing in this.  Her trim body undermines the oft cited theme of having legs like tree stumps and big Spanish butt.   This last point became moot when days later I learned that the show was an autobiography of Ms. Gregson.  (Aug 15)


The Shadow: (***)

A poet that only writes of beauty and light has his shadow leave him in a quest for truth.  While I liked the allegorical device of the shadow to argue for the necessity of darkness and ugliness to have real truth, the later plot of role reversal and sickly princesses did not work for me.  (Aug 24)


Lady Garden: (***)

Six actresses provide sketches.  Though I was occasionally bemused, nothing here engendered an outright laugh.  The amateur sketch comedies just do not seem satisfying this year.  (Aug 20) 


The Boom Jennies: Shindig: (***)

Three women present sketches ranging from cheeses on platter to preparing for an 18th birthday gala.   Many sketches were of the form of confusing build-up with a final punch line that clarifies.  It hurt the show that the actresses seemed to keep the same characterizations throughout, whether cheese or dancers.  (Aug 6)


Oxford Imps: (***)

Seven Oxford students provide improv based on audience suggestions.  Two years ago, I had given the Imps five stars so I was expecting quite a lot from them.  By comparison, this team seemed quite pedestrian, often relying on mundane repetition instead of wacky creativity.  (Aug 20) 


Pornography: (***)

We follow the lives of several sets of people in the days leading up to the subway bombing in London.  The stories for which the bombing is of only tangential significance seem banal.  Those more on point had more poignancy.  I found particularly touching a scene where an old woman forced to walk a long distance home courteously requests some barbequed chicken from a homeowner. (Aug 1)


Tina C. – Tick My Box: (**)

The show is treated as a purported campaign rally for a country western drag queen singer who is running for U.S. president in 2008.  The canned music backed by a live choir is good, but most of lyrics are forgettable.  It particularly bothered me that she did not have well rehearsed answers for obvious questions, such as Iraq, during a planned ten-minute Q and A session about her policies.  (Aug  21)


Theatre of Sex: (**)

A man and a woman provide a taste of their Academy of Sex that is suppose to improve the sex lives of its students.  Though the topic is sex, their dry, deadpan delivery provides no titillation, nor spark.  Between the small audience, and the methodical presentation, the show just had very little energy.  (Aug 13)


Old Girls: (**)

When five glamorous, wealthy women gather for a reunion, murder ensues.  Except for one moment of sincerity involving a gift, everything is over the top in this farce.   I suppose the idea was that the audience would enjoy seeing each of the haughty, self-centered women killed, but I cared little.  (Aug 10)  


Dr. Brown and Duncan Bolt: (**)

Duncan Bolt needed notes written on his hand to remind him of the new jokes with which he opened this twin bill of comedy.  His infrequent explosion of rapid-fire descriptions usually worked, but there was a lot of time nervously wasted.  In perfect contrast, Dr. Brown’s deadpan minimalist persona had the audience rapt from the moment of his entrance.   One audience member with infectious laughter who tested Brown’s composure, and another who good naturedly attempted to mimic the minimalist provided fodder for ten minutes of unrepeatable laughter.  (Aug 8)


New World Order: (**)

Using Shakespearean language, this one-man play has a king explain how to manipulate the masses in terms of 9/11 with a layman occasionally commenting on the king’s lecture.  While the language has a few beautiful lines, the king’s lecture is scattered and repetitive.  I found the conspiracy theory laden script unconvincing.  (Aug 22)


Tied Up in Knotts: (**)

Karen Knotts provides an autobiography as well as a homage to her comedian father Don Knotts.  I could feel her love for her father, and sincerity throughout.  Unfortunately, the writing is leadened, with each joke falling achingly flat.  (Aug 13) 


Architecting: (**)

In the American Old South, we see three stories of reconstructing lives intermingled.  The play uses a proposed re-make of the “Gone with the Wind” film to fine effect to explore the Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War.  However, the other two stories of more personal resurrections were a mess that made the play too long, and severely reduced the power of the first.  (Aug 12)


The Tailor of Inverness: (**)

A Polish immigrant tells of his family’s ordeals during World War II.  While the underlying story is quite dramatic, this tale has too many proper nouns.  I was a little tired, but it seemed to me that only his story of his rise from apprentice to plant supervisor avoids the curse of a flood of city names and family names.  (Aug 14)


Womb Man: (**)

A monkey is transformed into a man while dealing with the repeated appearances of male historical figures, and then the process is restarted as it is transformed into a woman with female figures.  While the actor certainly demonstrates tremendous range and energy, the script is too frenetic.  Rather than longer deep discussions of man’s motives, the play treats us to as many as six characters arguing with each other in less than a minute.  (Aug 22)


The Gymnast: (**)

Physical theater depicts events related to the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia that killed hundreds of thousands Cambodians.  Despite the tremendous effort of the talented dancer/actress, I could comprehend almost no aspect of the play.  A huge chest of drawers topped with a large shrine cabinet served many imaginative purposes—from disappearing act to stairway.  (Aug 11)


The Exquisite Corpse: (**)

The theater company presents fifteen scenes in random order that deal with dogs, death, angels, dates, and soul searching, among other desperate topics.  The actors do a fine job with each scene, but the scenes did not form a cohesive whole for me.  Instead of one playwright carefully crafting a single story that could be randomized, they present a hodgepodge written by many.  (Aug 10) 


Generation Divide: (**)

A 45 year old former Punk rocker, and a posh twenty-something split an hour of comedy.   The older fellow spent most of his time telling of life as it relates to his punk core, and generated only a few chuckles from the small audience.  Having learned from his partner’s experience, the posh found the his recently written doggerel had a much better reception.  (Aug 7) 


Silence in C Minor: (**)

Two office workers trapped in a massive Orwellian company try to discover the truth of their situation.   There is lots of silliness here, but it had little soul.  I did find engaging the way the lead would literally slide from one character into another.  (Aug 9)  


Jumping the Shark: (**)

Several young men provide mostly uninspired sketches.  None of it memorable. (Aug 7)


Crypt of a Thousand Horrors: (**)

A fellow mostly reads horror tales based in and around Edinburgh.   He does a fine job reading, and the tales are well written.  It is just that I come to Fringe for more than reading hour at the library.  (Aug 6)    


Wanderlust: (**)

A woman on stilts brings the whole audience on stage and has them dance, massage each other, wave a fabric tent, drink vodka, and many other things while she tells the story of her life.   The whole scene is surreal, and would work best if the audience was already a little bit smashed.  Her story is too bizarre to comprehend, and serves only as distraction and filler.  (Aug 23)


Edges: (**)

This musical uses two couples to explore modern dating.  The four must sing every line, and the lyrics have neither rhyme, nor convincing sentiment.   The piano and bass provide good music, but the drummer should be eliminated, or at least taught how to play softly.  With only one strong voice, the only highlight is when the entire cast sings about Facebook while accompanied by slides of their Facebook pages.  (Aug 14)


She Stoops to Conquer: (**)

A young man and woman play tricks on their parents, and lovers in 19th century England.  I found it difficult to stay alert during this long, lifeless play.   Each character seemed to be a cipher rather than a whole person with which I could I identify, and thus care about.  (Aug 6)


Augury and Entropy: (**)

These three high concept dance pieces proved fairly inaccessible to me.  I liked the circus-like rope tying and balancing, and one segment of the very long final piece.   The arrhythmic, atmospheric music did not help.  (Aug 8)


Actor’s Nightmare: (**)

An accountant awakens to find himself an understudy rushed into plays in a theater company of which he has no memory.  The play uses his amnesia as only a source for broad laughs as he tries to guess his lines under the unrelenting gaze of co-stars and spotlight.  It descends to questionable slapstick in the final scene.  (Aug 6)


Greg Fleet and Friends: (**)

As with all late night samplers, this show is as good as its host and booker.  Most of Fleet’s routines are funny, but his patter is dull and his “friend” is fine guitarist with lousy lyrics that kills the room.  The three comedians ranged from very good, to decent, to barely passable.  (Aug 5)


Mommie & the Minister: (**)

Two children spend twenty years locked in a rat-infested basement by their mother.  The unrealistic bizarre behavior of adults growing up in such a cramped unchanging environment provides the bulk of the play.   Because the actors yell almost all of their lines, there is little room emotional content.  (Aug 4)


 The New Electric Ballroom: (**)

Three spinster sisters remain stuck in their home re-enacting the older sisters one failed romantic effort over and over again.  Long pauses, and dull characters make this quite boring.  Only the daily fishmonger’s tale of insecurity brings any life to their lives and the play.  (Aug 2)


Dinner: (**)

A haughty wife hires an ominous waiter for a special dinner for her author husband, his old vegan flame, and his microbiologist friend and sexpot wife.  Though each character has a few lines that give them heart they remain shallow because the play fails to develop such moments into whole scenes.   There is some wit here, such as primordial soup, but, despite a lot of yelling, it felt dull.  (Aug 16) 


Calvin Wynter’s V.I.P. Lounge: (*)

This midnight cabaret presents three acts with comedian Calvin Wynter as the emcee.  Because I thought it unfair to rate it on a poor first night of the Festival, I revisited it the last weekend.  In both cases, it was substandard.  Of the five acts I watched over the two nights, only one was worth viewing.  The last night started a half hour late, and Wynter’s continued to choose to be an absentee host speaking from the wings rather than providing some of his own material to warm the crowd and segue between acts.  (Aug 1 and 22)


Out of Your Knowledge: (*)

An actor, accompanied by a violinist, provides modern day observations as well those of the poet John Clare as he retraces the poet’s 1841 trip from his asylum back to his home 90 miles away.  While some of Clare’s writing is lyrical, much of the script is mundane observations of how things have changed.  As the play proceeded, I kept looking at the provided map, and measured how much more boredom I would have to withstand. (Aug 21) 


All Dressed Up To Go Dreaming: (*)

A man in top hat and tails criticizes opera, and then serenades a woman.  The actor is a quite talented song and dance man, but this is a scene, not a play.  This deserves only one star for charging 6.50 for a scant 15 minutes of performance.  (Aug 20)


Fawn: (*)

A woman riding on a tram suddenly finds herself running in a forest, and then she is in a hospital bed.  The play has an incredibly slow pace with few words, and is even less coherent than the “plot” indicates.  At one point, she is running in place facing toward the audience while the video behind her is also moving towards us instead of receding.  The only redeeming part is a short section where she relates a story of her daughter’s near drowning.  (Aug 15)


Apocalypse: The Musical: (*)

The Devil convinces God that he needs to start Apocalypse, and they decide to use a dairyman and whore in a rural American town as their recruiters for their respective armies.  With nary a strong voice, nor clever song, this off-the-wall play just never interested me.   However, I did find the antics and dancing of the Devil amusing.  (Aug 3)


One on One & Working Saturdays: (no stars)

This is actually two plays with one scene each.  Working Saturdays has two bored shipping receiving clerks trying to kill time.  One on One has a man brutally torture a bound man, and nothing else.  Though the acting was superb in the latter, I found absolutely nothing enjoyable in watching a man convincingly torture another man.  At one point, he pours bathtub cleaner in his victim’s eye, and we then watch as the man writhes in pain for a full minute.  It is the most revolting play I have ever seen.



I am a 55-year old Computer Science lecturer from the University of California in Davis who thinks even a bad play is better than no play at all.  Besides teaching, I work as a house painter / handyman to earn the extra money to pay for my travels.  I have been to the Fringe five times before.  Five years ago, after two weeks touring France, my wife and I spent nine days of our honeymoon at the Fringe.  We shared 45 plays, and I attended ten other events besides.   In 2005, I fulfilled a dream of seeing an entire Fringe Festival.  I saw 151 performances.  You can read my short reviews of those at 2005 Reviews.  In 2006, I saw even more, 162, by devoting most days to only one venue to maximize the number of performances I could see.  Those reviews are available at 2006 Reviews.  Last year, I did not come because my nephew had his wedding in August in California.  I expect this year to be similar to 2006—lots of performances, lots of new friends.


After attending more than 300 performances, I have a much better idea of my biases and prejudices in the role of a critic.  I find that I prefer fact to fiction, innovation to repetition, coherence to creativity, the concrete to the symbolic, and cleverness to depth.  I realize that many of these are antithetical to the spirit of the Fringe, but I cannot deny my nature.  In particular, I just do not like shows that push the bounds of creativity beyond my ability to make sense of them.  Because I choose to fill time slots with whatever is available, I still expose myself to such shows, and do not mind.  However, I do feel a little guilty giving a low rating to a show on which a company has worked so hard, and with such commitment.  But I envision that that is my role—to accurately report my enjoyment so that others may better use my ratings.  In all but a very few cases, I admire the effort of each company, and wish them well.


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