200 Reviews for the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe Festival (In order from most enjoyable to least)


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 three sentences because I have little time between shows, and, after all, I am here for the shows.  You can also see my 177 reviews for 2009 Fringe, 153 reviews for 2008 Fringe, 162 reviews for 2006 Fringe, and my 151 reviews for 2005 Fringe.  I always enjoy chatting with both audience members and dramatic artists.  If you wish to contact me, send e-mail to Sean Davis.



Ovid’s Metamorphoses (*****)

With World War II Britain as a touchstone, the company uses a little of everything to present innumerable Roman myths.  Whether it be a puppet dangling from a real face, videos of destruction, Andrews Sister songs, music, or speech, every aspect of their performance works perfectly to present the myths in a clear and fun way.  I loved how they used four sliding 4’ x 7’ screens in various configurations, particularly when one would slide across the stage and a god would appear as the screen continued on its way.  (Aug 30)


Freefall (*****)

An orphaned man feels tired in the morning, and relives his recent and distant past.  As they entered the performance the mini-cam and staged sound effects seemed unnecessary intrusions, but as the play evolves they become a critical, integral part of the whole experience.  The blend of past and present works beautifully, with an earlier English lesson on trochee vs. iamb metrical feet laying the groundwork for the climax.  (Aug 7)


Lidless (*****)

In 2018, a florist and her family must deal with her denied life as a Guantanamo interrogator when a former detainee enters their lives.  Rather than focus on the horrors of interrogations, this play looks at their repercussions many years later.  The utter humanity of the interrogated man, particularly as he responds to the florist’s daughter, is more damning than any torture scene.  (Aug 12)


The Silver Darlings (*****)

This saga chronicles the lives of an early 19th century Scottish woman and her son from when her farmer husband is lost at sea trying to fish for herring through to her own son’ mastery of fishing.  The play takes full advantage of its extra time with an intermediate section on the cholera “plague” that gives a sense of the times in northern Scotland as well as establishing the character of the son and mother.  A separate scene of the young son capturing and then squishing a butterfly, and then regretting his action works particularly well to demonstrate both his sense of adventure, and his sensitivity.  (Aug 11)


You’re Not Like the Other Girls Chrissy (*****)

A perky young Parisian woman tells of her life from visiting England and meeting her true love in the 1930s through their separation during the Nazi invasion to just after VE day.  The mix of whimsy, tenderness, period descriptions, and five set piece containing suitcases worked perfectly for me.  I’ll not soon forget her story of her first, horrible tennis game as her as yet unmet lover keeps shouting “Bad luck.” (Aug 4)


Out of the Blue (*****)

The Oxford male a cappella group returns with their good natured choreography and great sound.  As I expected, they performed both upbeat numbers and ballads with equal aplomb.  One particular ballad held me enraptured with their soft harmonies.  (Aug 30)


The Blues Brothers –Live! (*****)

Two singers portray Jake and Elwood with appearances by James Brown, and Cab Calloway among others with a good band behind them all.  This was the last show of the Fringe for most, and the audience was into it by starting to dance right from the start.  By the end, only one person in the entire room was not dancing to the great rhythm and blues!  (Aug 30)


Speechless (*****)

Based on a true story, after a series of racial confrontations a pair of Black identical twins retreat into their own world and will not speak to any others, and end up in Broadmoor Prison.  Though the two actresses are not identical, they conveyed the sister’s peculiar bond perfectly, particularly with their stilted movements as they looked for mutual assent in new situations.  Their mother, mutual heartthrob, and teacher each provide well-acted insight into the twins’ interactions with those social spheres.  (Aug 5)


It’s Always Right Now, Until It’s Later (*****)

Daniel Kitson provides more than thirty scattered vignettes from two lives that intersect for but a moment to illustrate that each life is composed of billions of moments that reverberate.   Kitson’s always poignant, and often humorous vignettes are generally in chronological order for Carline, but are in roughly reverse for William.  The semi-randomness of the timelines had me concerned about when the play would end, but when the climax came, the culmination of events left me in tears.  (Aug 10)


No Child (*****)

One woman portrays a janitor, a drama teacher, and a room full of troublesome inner city high school youths learning a play.  Each character comes alive as she instantly switches stature and voices as the people carry on conversations.  When the students finally perform, we rejoice in their individual expressions of pride in their accomplishment, and pity the hyper kid who unexpectedly babysat instead.  (Aug 13)

The Man Who Was Hamlet (*****)

George Dillon starts as Hamlet, but quickly switches to the ghost of Edward De Vere telling of his life in Elizabethan court.  The play implicitly argues that De Vere actually wrote Shakespeare’s work by having De Vere meet an illiterate Shakespeare, and portraying other events in De Vere’s life that end up in Shakespeare’s plays.  In both roles, Dillon presents a well-measured performance that enthralled me with Shakespeare’s words and De Vere’s privileged but volatile life. (Aug 28)


The Girl in the Yellow Dress (*****)

In Paris, after a French Congolese man hires a white English woman to teach him English, their relationship becomes more complex.  I enjoyed the grammar lessons, and the clever banter using conditional sentences.  Her facial expressions as he first touched her bare feet reflected all of her hidden complexity that we suspected was there.  (Aug 5)

The Man Who Fell Out of Bed (*****)

A man with amnesia remembers snippets of his recent life while a voice in his head tries to guide him through political intrigue.  This maintains the fine balance of being chaotic, and yet providing just enough clues to make sense by the end without the need for a final long exposition.  The lead does a fine job of conveying his constant ambivalence in deciding what to believe at any given moment.  (Aug 15)

Wonderland (*****)

In 1899, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) shares a flat with the actress Isa Bowman who plays Alice Little of “Alice in Wonderland.”  As the pair move back and forth between Wonderland and Eastbourne, they alternate between the playfulness of their fantastic world, and the sexual repression the Victorian house.  With great unamplified voices, top notch acting, and touching songs, this had everything.  (Aug 26)


Camille O’Sullivan – Chameleon (*****)

The Irish singer puts on quite a show as she progressively disrobes while she applies her soulful voice to ballads and rock.  Unlike last year, she was not working hard to entertain, but instead was enjoying the band and her own performance.  I had a firsthand experience of this as we shared a lighthearted mutual aside when her costume malfunctioned.  (Aug 26)


Penelope (*****)

After years of wooing Penelope, her four remaining suitors prepare for the return of her irate husband, Ulysses, and try one last time to woo her with speeches.  The play has a perfect mix of banter and drama, as some of the suitors move from hubris to self-revelation.  While the eldest must suffer the most barbs from his competitors, he also presents the most affecting speech to Penelope.  (Aug 7)


Pulse (*****)

In a city park, six people await the explosion of a missile sent to destroy a 10-mile wide meteor threatening all life on Earth.  I found it compelling to watch as each of their attitudes and actions change, sometimes subtly and sometimes radically, as the situation changes.  The atmosphere of the worldwide bank holiday leads to many thoughtful revelations about choices in life.  (Aug 15)


Firing Blanks (*****)

A man who has discovered he is infertile talks with a teenage girl in a park about using donated sperm to impregnate his wife.  The girl’s unblinking questions and comments work well to elicit the man’s doubts about his manhood and potential love for the proposed baby.  His final paean to his new daughter brought tears to my eyes.  (Aug 23)


Mission of Flowers (*****)

Based on a true story, in the 1930s, Bill Lancaster, an Australian aviator, awaits a rescue party after crashing in the Sahara.  The play has a taut ebb and flow as it alternates between the suspenseful scene at the crash where he is counting down his days of water, and flashbacks detailing his experiences with his two loves—aviation and an aviatrix.  Part of the power of the play is that though Kingsford-Smith acts as if he is writing in his logbook at the crash site, he is really reading from the Lancaster’s actual logbook.  (Aug 8)


The Man Who Was Hamlet (*****)

The actor George Dillon starts as Hamlet, but quickly switches to the ghost of Edward De Vere telling of his experiences in Elizabethan court that end up portrayed in plays attributed to Shakespeare.  Besides demonstrating the mimicked events the play continues to implicitly argue that De Vere actually wrote Shakespeare’s work by having De Vere meet an illiterate Shakespeare.  In both roles, Dillon presents a well measured performance that had me enthralled with both Shakespeare’s words, and De Vere’s privileged, but volatile, life.  (Aug 27)


Transformation (*****)

A 39-year old dancer/actress tells of her life of abuse, drugs, dance, cutting, sex, and her recent reformation.  Gemskii demonstrated her mastery of dance throughout the performance.  She also proved to be a fine playwright and actress as my attention never strayed.  (Aug 29)


Our Town (*****)

Thornton Wilder’s play looks at life in the village of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire in 1903, 1906, and 1917.  Throughout the wide variety of events, the core agrarian honesty and sincerity permeates the play.  Though the use of three actors for each of the two leads was initially confusing, it permitted the re-visiting of an earlier time in the third act to be easily understood, and all the more powerful for it.  (Aug 27)


A Solitary Choice (*****)

Faced with an adulterous pregnancy, a woman thinks must choose between her safe, unfulfilling life, and an exotic dream life in Peru.  Here imagined wild, black-haired Indian fetus provides a perfect counterpoint to her disinterested husband and frustrating, stifling finance job.  I will try to get the script just for a counselor’s wise advice on making life’s choices. (Aug 25)


Teenage Riot (*****)

A video camera is passed among several teenagers as they perform the bulk of the show within an opaque ten-foot cube on stage.  What could be seen as total chaos is clearly highly choreographed.  The initial close-ups of the cube’s inner walls set the tone as they look like the camera person is moving randomly until we realize it was all carefully planned.  (Aug 17)


River in Hiding (*****)

River Phoenix faked his death, and has been living in the basement of a college bound teenager for five years.  Both the charming Phoenix, and the studious girl seem real within the confines of the basement.  I liked the way the play used their discussion of their different reading lists to provide access to their needs and thoughts.  (Aug 13)


Adam Hills Mess Around (*****)

This year the Aussie comedian decided to use the audience as the source for the bulk of his generous humor.  Though does have a few set pieces about sign language and performing for the Queen, it is his interactions with the audience that make this remarkable.  From the seven hat-wearing kids celebrating a twenty-first to the fit 49-year old to well preserved 75-year old, he found wonderful humor without putting anyone down other than himself.  (Aug 24)


Danny Bhoy – By Royal Disappointment (*****)

Bhoy combines spontaneous humor with routines based on his travels around the world.  His use of an audience member’s former banking job as a starting point for quips about the banking industry rather than ridicule for the patron was example of his good natured throughout the performance.  If anyone is the target of his humor it is himself, as when he admits unintentionally shifting into Shakespearean speech when he met the Queen.  (Aug 9)


Shadow Boxing (*****)

After watching his father be pummeled in his last boxing match, a boy grows up to believe that his own self worth depends upon winning a boxing title.  Unlike “Beautiful Burnout”, this actor has the moves and power of a real boxer.  The drive of the boxer moves the gritty story relentlessly forward as his life outside the ring has a greater influence on his boxing.  (Aug 9)


The House of Mirrors and Hearts (*****)

A man researching an 18th century poet takes a room with a hard drinking woman, and her two troubled daughters.  It was a joy to hear a musical with strong voices, melodic music, and interesting lyrics that rhymed.  I was touched by the researcher’s final assertion that it is the poetry that is important, and not the poet’s life.  (Aug 15)


One Man Lord of the Rings (*****)

One fellow presents the entire content of the three “Lord of the Rings” movies by recreating an amazing number of memorable lines, actions, and sound effects.  Aw with his “Star Wars” trilogy, his thoroughness and allusions are amazing.  This year, his voices for Gollum and Sam Gangee were spt on.  (Aug 18)


Pedal Pusher (*****)

Actors play Lance Armstrong, Marco Pantani, Jan Ullrich, and an interviewer/coach recreating their experiences of the Tour de France from 1994 to 2002 when drug testing became a way of life.  The play uses a good mix of off-course vignettes and race simulations to help us understand the three men’s lives.  I found it particularly enlightening hearing how Armstrong and his coach duped Ullrich into thinking Armstrong was weak until Armstrong could deliver a psychologically crushing blow by easily passing Ullrich.  (Aug 21)


Des Bishop – My Dad was Nearly James Bond (*****)

The comedian describes how his handsome Irish dad went from model to actor to salesman to manager to terminal cancer victim, and how these changes effected Des.  He leavens the touching story of how he has become emotionally close to his father after the diagnosis with many bits of funny family history.  Two extended tales have to do with his boyhood pride in his dad’s one B-movie scene, and his recent conversations with his dad that have the family laughing into tears as his father relates his early sexual experiences.  (Aug 22)


Stripped (*****)

This one-woman show has a naïve girl learns the ropes of the lap dancing in a seedy strip club.  From the initial gritty laying down of the club rules to her final seduction each scene is touching and real.  There are many memorable moments, with her voiced thoughts during her first pole dancing strip the best.  (Aug 22)


‘Jordan’ by Anna Reynolds with Moira Buffini (*****)

A woman whose abusive lover leaves before her baby is born sets out to bring up the baby until a year later he returns to try to legally claim the child.  The story is true, and the acrtress does a fine job of seeming troubled and a bit simple.  As the story unfolds, I could understand her state of mind that led to her sad decisions.  (Aug 29)


‘Dream Man’ by James Carroll Pickett (*****)

Since customers are charged $39 flat rate until they have an orgasm, a gay phone sex worker prides himself on making his clients come in less than five minutes.  The story alternates between him creating stories tailored to his repeat customer desires, and him trying to help his former lover.  The whole play worked well with the phone calls providing comic relief, particularly the one where he assumes the role of a young California surfer, complete with “dude”.  (Aug 27)


Peter Straker: I’m Still Here … (*****)

The veteran entertainer sings songs from Queen to Johnny Mercer.  His voice is still strong, and his song selection was perfect as he moved among upbeat pop, rock, and ballads with nary a non-melodic tune to be heard.  He allowed the band to shine with numerous guitar and piano solos.  (Aug 26)


Belt Up’s Antigone (*****)

King Creon has decreed that the loyal brother of Antigone should be buried with honors while his equally valiant brother, who fought against the king, must be left unburied.  Though Antigone’s decision to bury her brother has fatal repercussions, it is Creon’s vexing choice between family and regal duty that is more difficult and intriguing.  The repeated replay of the fight between the brothers works both as fine physical theater, and as a reminder of their valor.  (Aug 15)


All the Queen’s Children (****)

A large troupe of young people portrays the lives of illegal immigrant children from the negotiations with traffickers in their homeland to their perilous journey, and then to their varied experiences in Britain.  To address the subject the play focuses on the lives of an oversized 16-year old trying to prove he is a child, a pair of girls being drawn into the sex trade, a girl lost between two worlds, a girl from homeland to tending pot plants, and a trio of oblivious British tourist children.  While that seems like it would be too much, the play rotates through the stories flawlessly without losing their power.  (Aug 8)


Dance Doctor Dance (****)

A real professor of psychology demonstrates his findings on the influence of dance on the minds of dancers and their observers.  The most interesting finding was that women during the fertile part of their menstrual cycle dance with only their hips, which causes men to focus on their hips, while those women in that part where conception is unlikely dance using both hips and arms.  By asking the audience to do seated exercises first he makes them comfortable as he gradually asks for more until by the end everyone is comfortable doing a full dance routine.  (Aug 20)


Misconception (****)

A 40-year old woman discovers she is fertile even though she and her husband had agreed on no children long ago.  The addition of their philosophical mutual friend serves as a catalyst for discussions of honesty and moral responsibility.  The plays seems mature until the friend start wearing a baby sling before the baby is born.  (Aug 26)


Elvis – Live! (****)

A fellow dressed like Elvis signs his songs working roughly backwards chronologically.  Though he didn’t match Elvis’ voice, the songs are so great, I didn’t care.  When he started in the white jump suit, I feared that we were only going to hear the New Elvis stuff.  (Aug 30)


The Terrible Infants (****)

Les Enfants Terribles apply their macabre 19th century music hall treatment to four dark tales.  One protagonist is a puppet head made of two garbage can lids, and two others are ragged dolls.  Even though their execution was fine, I do not what it is about their productions that make me sleepy.  (Aug 23)


Blackout (****)

The son of a wife beater changes from a Goth to a violent Skinhead who has a run-in with the law.  The initial blaring video montage had me afraid that the production would suffer the acoustic curse of the Big Belly, but the play quickly shifted into a physical character study.  The pale, skinny lead embodied the nervous, bullied, kid that could lash out if his rage was unleashed with drugs.  (Aug 17)


The Demise of Christopher Marlowe (****)

The Elizabethan playwright is the focus of Robert Poley’s search for enemies of the crown.  Each actor suits his character perfectly, particularly the robust, quick, and sure Marlowe.  I was left wondering what was based on historical sources, and what was merely conjecture?.  (Aug 15)


The Fragility of X (****)

A working woman seemingly cheerfully accepts the challenges of dealing with her hyperactive Down’s Syndrome son.  I was impressed with the many examples of her patience and resourcefulness, including a caged TV and the use of a trash bin in which he must stand for punishment.  Both her brittle cheerfulness and his wild interactions with the world are quite believable.  (Aug 17)


Imperial Fizz (****)

In the 1930’s, a cocktail swilling husband and wife trade quips and barbs.  The banter is fast and clever in the spirit of Noel Coward.  However, when the wife whispered, I often could not understand her, and her monologue was not as clever as the rest.  (Aug 25)


Sticks, Stones, Broken Bones (****)

One man performs shadow puppetry using oddly shaped material that when combined become recognizable objects on the screen.  Throughout the show he takes advantage of the loss of the depth by having objects interact on the screen even though they are not close to each in the third dimension.  He performed a chess game by laying on his back with each hand holding a head and his feet holding hands to move the pieces.  (Aug 25)


Lockerbie: Unfinished Business (****)

David Benson plays Jim Swire, the father of a passenger on the bombed airliner who argues that the trial and conviction of XXX was a cover-up for an Iranian funded plot.  He presents his argument by first providing evidence for an Iranian backed Germany-based terrorist band that created almost identical bombs, and then discrediting the witnesses at the trial.  The play had less power for me because I am always skeptical of advocates when they provide no opportunity for rebuttal.  (Aug 30)


The Rat Pack – Live! (****)

This year’s version of Frank, Dean, and Sammy has three new singers front the 11-piece big band and three backup “sisters”.  As always, the song choices are excellent, with a good blend of upbeat signature tunes and ballad, but the imitations are only superficial.  Dean only imitates the singer’s drinking but not his breezy phrasing, and Sammy can barely whistle and does not even try to dance.  (Aug 8)


Running on Air (****)

A young comedienne welcomes an audience of five into her orange VW camper van to tell of her first year in the bus and the trials of balancing her recent marriage with the demands of her career.  She charmed us by combining minimalist audience participation props, a windscreen video screen, and her gentle anecdotes.  I am not unbiased here since I own an almost identical orange VW camper, and lived in a VW bus for a year in the 1970s.  (Aug 4)


The Meeting(****)

On the day before his release a convict must face the wife of his victim we see flashbacks of the important events of his life leading to the meeting.  The lead actor provides a solid base of a good young man whose life is detoured by one short act.  Only the telegraphed, predictable ending spoils the play.  (Aug 5)


The Author (****)

Four actors hidden among the audience initially, tell of the making of a play about the Balkans war that contains horrific, graphic violence.  The playwright challenges the audience to think about the effects on the theatre company and audience of creating and witnessing such unpleasant acts.  The play is quite thought provoking, but the graphic descriptions caused more than ten people to leave. (Aug 5)


The Ballad of Backbone Joe (****)

In a small Australian town, a detective uses a wooly beard disguise to investigate a boxer and his promoter about the disappearance of the boxer’s girlfriend.  The three men start off with a song playing drums, guitar, and a bass violin made from a steamer trunk; and continue with word play, cardboard props, breaking the fourth wall, and even a reasonable story!  The show works because the songs, props, and acting all maintain the cheeky approach.  (Aug 9)


The Big Bite-Size Breakfast—Menu 2 (****)

Each of the three Bite Sized menus presents five short, unrelated plays.  I found all of the plays clever and a good start on the day.  I particularly liked one where a man plays a Rottweiler explaining the events, including sleepless nights and poorly designed fences that lead to him attacking two new neighbor dogs. (Aug 6)


The Big Bite Size Breakfast—Menu 3 (****)

This was my second sample of this sketch show, and it was almost as strong as Menu 2.  The best sketch explored how a man with no sense of touch, and a woman with no sense of smell could find ways to express their love appropriately during intimacy.   The ten minute version of “Pride and Prejudice” was the weakest, probably because it was the least original.  (Aug 13)


The Big Bite Size Breakfast—Menu 1 (****)

This way my third sample of this sketch show, and it was similar in quality to Menu 3.  One sketch provides a series of scenes with couples and singles demonstrating the different rituals of using the bathroom in the morning.  Another has a simultaneous interpreter harassed by both her clients as they get into an insult match.  (Aug 17)


Beauty is Prison-Time (****)

In a Siberian prison camp, a woman reviews the events that led to her incarceration while preparing for a beauty contest whose winner is set free.  Her broken English gave her an appropriate air of an uneducated, naïve woman.  Her ever so slightly stilted dance routine perfectly reflected her desperation, lack of confidence, and lack of skill.  (Aug 22)


The Door (****)

A former enlisted man and his former commander await a hearing on the death of their comrade in a skirmish in Iraq.  The plot twists nicely as they take turns playing prosecutor.  The door of the title randomly slams throughout the play, and seems more of annoyance to all of us than anything else.  (Aug 16)


The Cage (****)

Months after his bride spurns him at the altar, a man takes a gun and confronts his ex-fiancé and his best friend in her apartment.  The play kept my interest throughout as he resists changing his initial notions of infidelity despite explanations to the contrary.  Only the unnecessary character of an obvious audience plant hurts this play.  (Aug 9)


The Wake (****)

To clear a charge of adultery, a mimic recreates the wake of his father for his wife by playing all of his family members.  As the wife starts mimicking the family too, their quick change of roles is quite clever.  The play does have a problem with the replaying of a revelatory taped message that she would have heard at the original wake.  (Aug 20)


Emma Thompson presents: Fair Trade (****)

A woman in Darfur and a woman in Rumania accept free flights to England from people they trust, but find themselves forced into the London sex trades.  The sex slave auction scene worked well to inform the audience of their low value (1000 – 3000 pounds), and their possible seamy roles besides prostitution.  The huge tally used to count their sexual encounters was a powerful visualization of the hundreds (thousands?) of rapes they suffered at the hands of punters out for a good time.  (Aug 19)


The City and Iris (****)

A little girl misunderstands an opthamologist, and for the rest of her life believes that her weak myopia means that her eyeballs will bore into her brain if she ever takes her glasses off.  The troupe portrays every aspect of the grown woman’s physical world both at home and as she travels to her work as a rigid librarian.  The play has this living world conspire to help the woman rethink her understanding of herself and the world around her.  (Aug 22)


The Vaudevillains (****)

The owner a century music hall is murdered at the beginning of the show, and we are treated to each vaudeville act along with its motivation for the murder.  From knife thrower to magician each act is a macabre parody the 19th century original.  While leaving, I heard many complaints about the sight lines in the Palm Court (Aug 16)


The Penny Dreadfuls (****)

The three men return with ten sketches ranging from professional racecar competition to children dealing with their step dad to a parody of “Twilight.”  My favorites were the two short, police identification sketches where we are lead to believe that the person is doing something entirely different from describing the criminal.  Not surprisingly, since I have not seen “Twilight,” I saw little funny in that sketch.  (Aug 30)


Legend (****)

In search of glory, the son of King Theseus shipwrecks on an island populated by a defeated general, the general’s daughter, and the last immortal dreamcatcher.  The small cast does a fine job with the tragedy, and the multiple uses of screens was inventive.  The one problem was the decision to have the chorus actor show up late to the play, and for him to often break character to interact with the prologue actor.  (Aug 15)


Gyles Brandeth – The One to One Show (****)

The theatrical personality and former Tory MP amuses the audience with anecdotes from both his careers.  His many years of theater serve him well as he is a master raconteur who knows how to interact with his audience.  As a 57-year old American Anglophile, I could understand most of his reference to events of the 1960’s and 1970’s, but I would not recommend this for anyone less than 40.  (Aug 5)


Rachel Rose Reid: I’m Hans Christian Anderson (****)

Rachel interweaves stories of Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid”, Anderson’s own life, and her own romantic misadventures.  Rachel is a master storyteller who clearly spends a lot time making her choice of words before the performance to paint wonderfully evocative tales.  Unfortunately, as with last year, her style is so fast and dense that I tired, and nodded off for a minute or two again. (Aug 5)


Reel-to-Real (****)

In the 1930’s, the son and daughter are sent on a race around the world by their billionaire father, and find opportunities to recreate famous song and dance numbers of movie musicals.  The son demonstrated a great voice, and strong tap dancing, particularly in “Putting on the Ritz.”  The show is hurt by not exploiting the daughter’s dancing prowess, and an Asian visit without any musical numbers at all.  As usual, I sat in the front row, but think it would have been better to sit much further back to see the video projections on the whole of the façade. (Aug 5)


My Romantic History (****)

After a fellow has what was supposed to be a one night stand with an officemate, they find themselves sucked into a relationship based on misperceptions while they pine for lost loves.  After hearing his view of the events, we are treated to her view with just the right amount of subtle changes to understand how her life contributed to the events that traps them.  When they inadvertently meet their lost loves and discover how their fondness had idealized them, it reminded me to doubt my own view of past lovers.  (Aug 4)


Apples (****)

Adolescent classmates gossip, party, and have sex.  From the naïve OCD virgin who must learn how to woo his love to the suddenly pregnant party girl to the druggy rich girl each well-defined character learns a different lesson of life.  Though everything is well done, I could not help but think that this overdone subject should be left to the many gap-year theater companies, and not the Traverse.  (Aug 10)


That Moment (****)

An out of work actress becomes the dog sitter for a famous old director and uses her position to further her career.  From an agent that shuns her to disinterested casting director to her own jealousy the play seems to portray perfectly the life of a aspiring actor looking for that one big break.  Since my play companion for years is such an actress, I could help but sympathize with the character.  (Aug 11)


A Slacker’s Guide to Western Theatre (****)

As the title suggests, the troupe provides descriptions and short examples of Western theatre starting with the Greeks, and them moving forward until concentrating on the 20th century  Six actors representing 37 Shakespeare plays competing in a horse race to determine the best is an example of how the whole play was both informative and fun.  I loved their final medley of showtunes with their lyrics altered to become theater oriented, and found their “Flyering in the Rain” particularly witty.  (Aug 20)


Colours (****)

As she dresses for her work as a prostitute, a widow talks to her husband’s grave about the changes she has seen in Zimbabwe.  Her gestures and facial expressions seemed too large for the small Baillie Room.  I did like how she treated the weeds at the grave tenderly because she believed that their roots reached down to her husband’s bones.  (Aug 19)


Bud Take the Wheel, I Feel a Song Coming On (****)

After eight years, a land developer returns home to his family, including his abusive father.  Abusive ancestors, unwanted pregnancies, and provincial conservatism all blend to provide satisfying motivation for all of the family dynamics.  The unexplained arsons, and minimal boyfriend weaken the play.  (Aug 23)


Memory Cells (****)

An older man keeps a young woman prisoner as his “wife” in his bomb shelter.  The big man’s anger at her supposed ingratitude combined with his paranoid rationalizations make him quite intimidating.  The one flaw is that the story becomes confusing when it violates its reverse chronological flow in one scene near the end.  (Aug 16)


Kindly Leave the Stage (****)

This farce begins with the performance of a play about a couple announcing their divorce that veers into an exchange of accusations of acting incompetence and marital infidelity.  The barbs are uneven, but the cast keeps a good pace of increasing lunacy.  The addition of old thespian souse, who launches into his King Lear with minimal prodding, provides nice relief from the bitter recriminations driving the rest of the play.  (Aug 14)


The Terrible Tales of the Midnight Chorus (****)

Five macabre music hall actors and three musicians use stick puppets to tell three dark tales.  The haunting instrumentals, clever solo ditties, and beautiful four-part harmonies were both well written and well performed.  Despite being in our full view, the puppeteers transferred the four controls so seamlessly that I almost never noticed.  (Aug 20)


Long Live the King (****)

A one-woman show tells of an Elvis-loving pregnant Indian woman who coincidentally emigrates to Australia on the day Elvis dies.  Though Elvis permeates the show, his is always in the service of the themes of Indian family life and childbearing.  Particularly memorable is the woman’s first date with her husband at an Elvis-centric café where she argues for the supremacy of Elvis over his love of the Beatles by singing songs from their respective catalogs until they both hear Elvis sing “Something” over the café speakers.  (Aug 10)


I, Claudia (****)

An actress presents the tale of a young girl dealing with her parents’ divorce by creating a fantasy world in her school’s basement.  The other characters pale in comparison to her bouncy, desperate little girl trying to recreate her life.  The use of half masks hinders her  ability to communicate without gaining anything.  (Aug 13)


The Virtuous Burglar by Dario Po (****)

This farce has a trysting Italian councilman interrupting a burglar.  An opening phone call to the house from the burglar’s complaining wife sets a great tone.  The play escalates in wonderful complexity from there without the yelling or madcap action of so many weaker farces.  (Aug 18)


Just Macbeth! (****)

This children’s show has six “students” put on a severely abridged Macbeth.  They do a good job of explaining the basics, and even provide an understandable lesson on the meaning of “soliloquy” by giving examples.  The kids loved the whole thing, particularly when Macbeth stuffed his mouth with more than twenty marshmallows. (Aug 26)


Tony Tanner’s Charlatan (****)

Tanner impersonates the Russian Sergei Diaghilev, who was the founder of the Ballets Russ in Paris in the early 1900s, and the spurned lover of its star, Nijinsky.  While Tanner does cover Diaghilev’s early ascent into the cultural nobility of Russia under the Czar, Tanner concentrates most of his energy on Diaghilev’s interactions with Nijinsky.  I found his description of the visit of the now insane and unresponsive Nijinsky to the company quite touching.  (Aug 6)


The Truman Capote Talk Show – Bob Kingdom (****)

Bob Kingdom impersonates the flamboyant and gossipy author Truman Capote.  Kingdom does a fine job of blending Capote’s literary and personal life.  While sprinkling the work with many of Capote’s catty comments, Kingdom wisely uses Capote’s description of his “party of the century”, the 1966 Black and White Ball in New York City, to demonstrate Capote’s social wiles and conceits.  (Aug 6)


The City of the Dead Tour (****)

A guide provides a walking tour of Cowgate and Greyfriars Graveyard.  While he started with an overly gruesome, though accurate, description of a tortured family accused of witchcraft, the balance of the trip he proved an able historian, paranormal scientist, and performer who provided many safety warnings about the uneven ground.  It seemed he spent too much time on crowd control, and not enough on the characters of the graveyard.  (Aug 3)


Last Easter (****)

Four twenty-something friends try to help one of their members deal with terminal cancer.  The play’s bright comedy and light romance provide a good balance for their trip to Lourdes and wrangling with euthanasia.  Having had my father die of cancer in his 80’s, I found the story particularly touching, and its naiveté understandable.  (Aug 6)


The Not-So-Fatal Death of Grandpa Fredo (****)

The political satire has a tiny moribund town experiencing the whims of political notoriety when the Sarah Palin-like mayor discovers that a townsman has a rustic cryogenic shed that contains the remains of two people.  The play makes a pointed inditement of the instant pandering in politics as the mayor changes from prosecutor to defender of individual rights overnight.  Live bluegrass/country music, and the sets-in-box shed, including a boat on a lake covering the entire stage, contribute to the lighthearted ambience.  (Aug 7)


A Commedia of Errors (****)

A Hawaiian high school presents Shakespeare’s play of two sets of lost identical twins.  For a young American company, this was an excellent production.  While they wisely played it for laughs by keeping seemingly every line of the comic Dromios and adding clown sound effects for him, they avoided the pitfall of adding slapstick to the rest of the performances.  (Aug 8)


Winner by Submission (****)

Derek convinces his two high school friends, Kelly and Jared, to invite Shannon over to watch “Inception,” when they really plan to give her a date rape drug.  From Derek’s plan on becoming a cage fighter to the boys’ interest in phone sex vids, and then to Shannon’s succumbing to Derek’s wiles, the scenes seem real and up to the minute.  Of particular note is how the three boys stay true to their roles as bully/braggart, weak idolizer, and just plain good kid.  (Aug 14)


Anatomy Act (****)

The playwright joins three women to provide his views on everything from grave robbing to women.  Despite its self-centered approach, there is enough self-deprecating humor to keep this from becoming a vanity piece.  He has written many thoughtful lines, and many clever lines, but the frantic chaos weakens them.  (Aug 12)


Another Someone (****)

An uptight hard-driving legal intern moves in next to a contented chef and his roommate waitress.  This blend of acting, modern dance, songs, and commentary works well as the lawyer learns to appreciate the moment.  As is often the case at the Fringe, the engineer had the sound so loud that many of the lyrics were lost.  (Aug 20)


Under Milk Wood (****)

Guy Masterson tells of the day in the lives of Welsh fishing village starting with dreams, and then moving through their morning rituals, work, and finally back to bed.  This is a tour de force as he slips between the lives of more than ten characters at each point in the day.  With so many characters, I had troubles keeping track of them all.  (Aug 24)


Keepers (****)

Two lighthouse keepers on the Small Islands in 1801 must deal with boredom and storms using only two chairs and a ladder for the set.  Both the dedicated veteran with his rigid maintenance routines, a his assistant with his interactions with the outside world contribute to the sense of isolation and hardship.  I was confused when it looked like the assistant had drowned, and yet showed up in the next scene.  (Aug 29)


A Midsummer Night’s Madness (****)

This version of Shakespeare’s play of love potions and buffoonery has energetic dancing and songs.  The cast brings great hip hop moves to the story, and does not eliminate any crucial aspect of the play.  The high stepping, wise cracking Puck was perfectly cast.  (Aug 28)


Touching the Blue (****)

Clive Russell plays a former snooker champion recounting his rise and fall as he prepares for his comeback match at the national championship.  This is a man who crassly refers to his ex-wife as Big-Boobs, but also clearly loved her, and regrets having to travel so much.  I could see the 17-year old Thunderbolt as the 57-year old drunk simulates the significant games of his life.  (Aug 18)


Anatomy of Fantasy (****)

Five dancers and a musician/flamenco percussionist present a piece involving death, courting, birth, and who knows what.  I could only guess at the meaning of some scenes, but they felt like they fit together.  I was particularly taken with the synthesized flamenco, and the use of red yarn both to connect and to entrap beings.  (Aug 24)


Ernest and the Pale Moon (****)

A man who does nothing but sit in a darkened room and watch a light sensitive young woman in a nearby building, becomes violent when he sees a man talking to her.  The company has created a gruesome tale well matched to their trademark 19th century macabre music hall styling.  As with previous Les Enfants Terribles shows, I had trouble staying awake because of the dark staging and somber tone.  (Aug 25)


The Caucasian Chalk Circle (****)

When the governor’s mansion is overrun, the cook ends up his new baby, and raises him as her own despite being pursued.  The blackened eyes emphasize the satiric aspects.  The newly installed judge is an odd combination of drunk, rebel, and wise man (Aug 29)


Soap!  The Show (****)

A circus performs using six bathtubs as their set instead of three rings.  From jugulars to gymnasts to trapeze artists, all the performers were topnotch.  Though the clowning woman integrated water into her antics, most of the rest of the show was just typical circus acts.  (Aug 21)


Lovelace – a Rock Musical (****)

We follow the life of the porn star as she runs away from her heartless mother to marrying an abusive husband who pimps her and forces her to make “Deep Throat”, and finally escapes to become a feminist with a normal family life.  Though she comes across as a pure woman wronged by her husband, the gritty story is dramatic and real enough.  All the voices and music are top notch, and only few poor lyrics hold the show back.  (Aug 23)


Stand Up for Freedom (****)

This benefit for Amnesty International had several stand-up comedians.  As in years past, Adam Hill proved a great compere, and the on stage sign language women provided many laughs as they valiantly translated lewd phrases.  The line-up seemed weaker than in previous years, with a cameo by Jason Byrne faking being a sign language interpreter being the highlight.  (Aug 19)


Some and Mirrors (***)

This one ring circus has gymnasts, a magician, trapeze artist, a bearded lady, a singer, and a great band.  The first act was quite impressive, particularly because the close proximity of the gymnasts allowed me to see their muscles shudder as they made things look so easy.  The problem was that after intermission, the same acts came out again and their routines were consistently weaker than that before the intermission.  (Aug 28)


The Hub (***)

This light comedy has a woman returning from an attempt at an acting career in Hollywood to her old job as announcer at a BBC radio station with mixed feelings from the other announcers.  The diverse characters, from compassionate gay man to socially inept do-gooder, provide opportunities to explore many aspects of life.  Though funny in many places, most of the characters are too broadly drawn to be thought real.  (Aug 19)


Up ‘N’ Under (***)

Arthur Hoyle, an old rugby player, wagers his house that he can train a horrible team to beat that of a loan shark.  Though TV personality Abi Titmus is the draw for many as the gym instructor trying to train the unruly bunch, it is Hoyle that is focus of the play.  Everything is done well, including the simulated climactic game, it just seemed so formulaic that it never grabbed me.  (Aug 19)


Reverie (***)

A sleep researcher who has been hired to keep a Dictaphone diary of his lucid dreams finds his dreams better than reality, particularly when his current girlfriend listens to the diary.  The extended series of dreams with his former girlfriend made sense, but it is not explained why he did not stop as he had previously.  His current girlfriend’s reaction seemed uncharacteristically irrational for her.  (Aug 27)


The Last Five Years (***)

At the time of their divorce, the wife works backwards through their relationship, while the husband sings songs starting from the beginning of their courtship.  The onstage string quartet and piano really highlight the beautiful music.  Unfortunately, the lack of vocal amplification, unmasked the weak voices of the leads, particularly that of the wife.  (Aug 24)


Michael Topping – ‘Heels over Head in Love!’  (***)

Michael, one half of the comedy duo Topping and Butch, has a quieter solo show of campy ditties.  He’s charming, and the ditties are full of clever metaphors for sex.  “Boy of Brighton” is a lewd rewriting of “Girl from Ipanema” with even nuns turning their heads as he walks by.  (Aug 22)


Wild Allegations (***)

A slob convinces a fledgling journalist to play his girlfriend so that she can investigate his brother who is a much beloved TV comedy star.  Things are made more interesting as the star’s girlfriend commissions the journalist to expose the star’s shallowness.  The likeable, though conflicted, star, and his erratic girlfriend work, but the brother is played as way too much of a boor for it to be credible that the star would believe that refined journalist was his girlfriend.  (Aug 20)


David Leddy’s ‘Sub Rosa’ (***)

As we silently toured the Hill Street Theater, we came upon characters who were all involved in a fictional serial murderer in that theater.  The idea of moving around an old building is interesting, but the tales were not particularly compelling.  The gruesome murders seem straight out the Les Terrible Infant writing team.  (Aug 30)


The Glenn Miller Mystery (***)

In his dressing room at his last gig, a retiring Sinatra imitator meets a personable fellow who knows a surprising amount about Glenn Miller and the singer.  The play is joy when the singer tackles Sinatra and Miller tunes.  The underlying plot about the downing of Miller’s plane works until the unsatisfying climax.  (Aug 21)


Waiting for Lefty (***)

In 1930s London, cabbies are not making a living wage, and their seemingly corrupt union leadership is arguing against striking.  This leftist play from that period has all the emotional stories of good propaganda: a hardworking husband with a starving family, young lovers forced to postpone marriage, a heroine who quits rather inform, and even an industrial cripple who becomes a great orator for the masses.  Each scene is strong, but the whole feels contrived.  (Aug 11)


en route (***)

Your are guided through Edinburgh with an Ipod, text messages, and packets you find along the way.  Though the beginning of the trek retraced my steps from my own Cowgate hostel, the balance took me to new areas and sights, with the vista from the top of a car park surprisingly grand.  I found that the initial ambiguous text made me so nervous that I spent a lot time worrying that I was following the route instead of listening to the Ipod’s evocative music and poetry.  (Aug 25)


Pedestrian (***)

A man describes his dream of walking along the sidewalk of a shopping mall, and his experiences with each store.  With a video backdrop, each of the fantastic stories comes alive.  Though everything was suitably surreal, I kept hoping that there would be a destination for the play/dream.  (Aug 23)


Five Clever Courtesans (***)

Venus brings together five famous historical courtesans who present their accomplishments, and discuss their personal lives.  From the concubine who becomes Empress of China to a Parisian whore who demanded jewels for her elegant services, each of their tales provided very different takes on the profession.  The problem with the play is that after the five describe their lives, the discussion that follows seems aimless, and left me wondering when it would ever end.  (Aug 21)


An Acre and Change (***)

The people of East Anglia, a restive English speaking province of France, want to rejoin the United Kingdom.  This thinly veiled allusion to Northern Ireland argues that fight for land is senseless because there is an acre of land in the world for each person.  While the play provides a nice contrast between the extreme hardliners and the people who suffer from violence, the underlying argument ignores the fact that much of the world’s land is uninhabitable.  (Aug 20)


The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (***)

In 1930s Chicago, a mobster uses murder, arson, and blackmail to force a protection racket on green grocers.  The whole cast clearly relishes playing mobsters and their molls, particularly the gunzel G.  The problem lies in an overly complex plot broken up into almost 20 scenes.  (Aug 14)


Beautiful Burnout (***)

We see the fate of five young aspiring boxers who are originally under the guidance of the same old, strict trainer.  The play suffers from a lack of back stories to explain most of boxers’ actions, and from the failure of four of the actors to look convincing when boxing.  Though the initial choreography of each dance piece finds its inspiration in boxing movements, they consistently abandoned these for more mundane movements.  Though the theater is in an arena configuration, the designer placed video screens so that two side sections of the audience could not see them and the actors at the same time.  (Aug 4)


Uber Hate Gang (***)

The audience chooses to become of a webcast of this terrorist group that will blow up the room in an hour, but the group’s solidarity weakens with the introduction of a children’s entertainer.  The initial twist of having the audience unwitting, but now voluntary members of the group tion wonderfully mind bending.  However, their ill-defined justification, odd responses to the entertainer, and final death make little sense.  (Aug 23)


Speed .. Mating … (***)

A comedian and a real  professor of biology look at sex in the animal kingdom.  The presentation of the  of nature was informative and fun without need for the comedian.  I was surprised to learn that more than one species uses “prostitution”, i.e., sex in return for favors.  (Aug 27)


Face (***)

A Korean woman talks about the experiences of her mother in a Japanese “comfort station” during World War II.  The incredible daily 16 hour non-stop sexual abuse the women experienced was heartbreaking, and damning when we learn that current Japanese politicians reject deny their pain.  Though the subject matter was certainly powerful, the presentation seemed low-key.  (Aug 30)


More Light Please (***)

An immigrant shoe saleswoman serves her clients and herself from shelves full of a hundred shoe boxes.  Nothing in particular stands out with this play.  (Aug 29)


Poland 3 Iran 2 (***)

With the World Cup as their common touchstone, using a slideshow an Iranian and a half-Pole Englishman alternately describe the events of their families since 1939.  The Iranian’s family were Communist leaders until the revolution, and the Englishman’s POW father was freed by the Russian in World War II to fight the Nazis.  The Englishman had a natural charm as he described his artistic creations for his fantasy Subbuteo World Cup matches, but the grainy YouTube vides of the real games contributed nothing to the show.  (Aug 18)


The Cry (***)

For the full hour, a poet suffers repeated battering, roped arm stretching, and waterboarding by two masked men trying to force him change his political views.  This is intense physical theater with the actor developing welts and really being subjected to waterboarding for many minutes.  Though he is a poet, and he does speak a few lines, this play is more about forcing the audience to experience non-stop torture for an hour.  This is the most intense play at the Fringe, and may not be suitable for many.  (Aug 16)


I, Elizabeth (***)

Rebecca Vaughan plays Queen Elizabeth talking about her life, and her approach to ruling Britain.  The play is informative, but she repeats many thoughts often.  The lightning/thunder every five minutes seems to serve to no purpose since she continues with the same sentence after the interruption.  (Aug 13)


Bette/Cavett (***)

Two actors with only a passing resemblance to their roles reiterate the words from an interview of Bette Davis by Dick Cavett in 1971.  Because the show wants to mimic the hour-long TV show, it repeatedly interrupts the interview with commercials from the era.  The show wastes even more time by starting with the Cavett actor quizzing the audience about Davis trivia rather than showing film clips, or simply providing a biographical sketch.  (Aug 28)


Why Men Cheat (***)

With the help of another middle-aged man a “researcher” demonstrates his findings from interviewing 250 married men about cheating.  The assistant provides many laughs any finding to an absurd degree.  I was uncomfortable when the two men said how women feel and think.  (Aug 10)


There’s Only One Lord Byron (***)

On return from Greece, Lord Byron visits his favorite London brothel where five whores have learned to act like his significant lovers of the past.  As Byron rejects each effort, we learn of his past as well as his search for contentment.  This is the second play that portrays Byron as solely a narcissist, rather than the whole sensitive man.  (Aug 27)


Sex Idiot (***)

The performance artist has created a piece based on her experiences contacting her ten former lovers to notify them she has a sexually transmitted disease.  Her performance varies from a dance about being single to singing an ode to her current love while wearing a mustache made with scotch tape and the pubic hair cut from the audience.  While she is talented at creating odd performances, her singing and dancing are weak.  (Aug 29)


Virtuous Flock (***)

After suffering constant abuse in a convent, a daughter returns home for her father’s funeral—and revenge.  This parody of 19th century melodramas has many fun moments, with the pregnant cook having the best vulgar lines.  I did have trouble with the gruesome murder of the cook using a hand drill through her vagina and fetus.  (Aug 15)


Double Booked (***)

A harried middle class woman must deal with her texting son, partying daughter, doddering mother, and belittling “friend”.  From the son caught watching a wanking video of himself in class to the efforts to support her denture-losing mother, her challenges resonated with the many women in the audience.  I found I had little patience with her because though the initial problems were not of her making, all of her later troubles arose from her unwillingness to approach a situation honestly.  (Aug 9)


Sunset Song (***)

This saga looks at early 20th century Scottish farm life through the eyes f a young girl as she grows into motherhood.  The play is thorough in its exploration of the vagaries of both farming, and family.  Because of the strong accents used, I had a serious problem understanding many of the words.  (Aug 18)


Doctor Faustus (***)

This version of Marlowe’s play about a man making a pact with the Devil concentrates on those scenes when Faustus is dealing with the Devil’s henchman Mephistopheles.  This allows Faustus some time to express his selfish desires and hatred for God as well as his later mix of contrition and denial.  The supporting cast’s interpretation of the seven deadly sins seems like seven individual pieces straight out of acting class rather than some coherent whole.  (Aug 8)


Under the Lintel (***)

A Dutch librarian becomes obsessed with tracking down a patron who returned a very long overdue book.  I found the librarian’s gentle Dutch humor, and the early pursuit of “Da Vinci Code” type obscure clues quite captivating, but his slide into obsession was unfulfilling.  His most memorable detective work was when he searches the English pet quarantine records after learning his quarry had a dog on a Bonn trolley.  (Aug 6)


Of Women and Horses I Have Known (***)

A cast of six provides excerpts from the life of Jean Hislop, the breeder of the “horse of the century” in the 1970s.  Though most of the show was quite enjoyable and informative, the concentration on Jean’s eccentricities and brashness made her a caricature.  The occasional, inexplicable frantic milling by the cast detracted from the experience.  (Aug 6)


Do We Look Like Refugees?! (***)

Five Georgian actors sing, and, with the aid of earphones, reproduce the recorded speech of South Ossetian refugees in Georgia.  They had good harmonies, and many of the slice of life stories were touching.  While they provided supertitles for the speech, they failed to provide it for the songs.  Note that because of the supertitles and the need to see the projected scenes behind the actors, you should sit towards the back of the auditorium.  (Aug 6)


Decky Does a Bronco (***)

Set at an actual swing set in a park, this play has a group of 9-year old boys enjoying their summer vacation with the typical hijinks for that age.  The wonderful aspect of the play is that its mock battles, amateur competitions, and general camaraderie bring back memories of my own childhood.  However, the story is slight, and keeping track of the older versions of the kids was confusing.  (Aug 17)


Bang Bang You’re Dead (***)

Five high school students killed by Josh tell him of their lives and dreams.  The play does a fine job of piecing together the events both small and large that led to the killings.  The kid’s final litany about what they will never be able to do seemed more suited to a play for high school students than adults.  (Aug 14)


The Trojan Women (***)

After its fall, the women of Troy must reconcile themselves to the loss of their men as well as the Greek decisions to enslave women, to make other women concubines, and to murder some of their children.  The endless laments of Euripides’ play wore me down.  The ethereal voices of the four a cappella women, particularly that of the soprano, provided a welcome relief.  (Aug 14)


Feathers (***)

A man and wife must deal with her fragile ex-addict sister and her party girl sister.  The cautious ex-addict is finely drawn as we see her become more secure and open with her new lover, and yet still tentative with wife she had betrayed five years earlier.  By contrast, the one-dimensional husband has no redeeming characteristics, and the unseen baby is never cared for by the mother and yet is the focus of the climax.  (Aug 14)


Spring Awakening (***)

In late 19th century Germany, young adolescents sexual curiosity encounters the conservative strictures of their school and community.  The brilliant liberal schoolboy and his dullard sexually confounded friend have many compelling lines, but the few lyrics I could understand were mostly rubbish.  The one snippet of a cappella late in the play made it clear that the sound engineer had consistently boosted the orchestra so loud that it drowned out almost every lyric.  (Aug 12)


Occupied (***)

This show has more than ten sketches all set in different bathrooms with scenarios ranging from replacing tile to shaving in the dark to accidentally meeting a new romantic interest.  One of the best was the opening sketch has a boy sensibly refusing his girlfriend’s orders to confront a burglar while he is in only his boxers.  Another makes a wry comment on the times by having three partying girls blithely taking pictures of themselves while a companion repeatedly vomits in the toilet.  (Aug 8)


Daddy Ate All My Easter Eggs and Never Replaced Them (***)

Starting with a medley of popular songs about Jack the Ripper, four actors provide ten sketches on a variety of topics.  One sketch has a happily married middle aged man trying to buy insurance against a crappy life, and having the agent explain that the premiums would be high by putting the man’s future in the worst light.  Another sketch has a man and his broker use only the language of house realty, e.g. semi-detached and large front porch, to describe his requirements for a mate and the available women.  (Aug 15)


Lesbian Bathhouse (***)

A male film director decides to develop a film about lesbians by directing a play using lesbians in traditional stag film scenarios.  With the first few scenarios of teacher’s pet, pizza girl, and randy electrician the play did have an initial funny twist, but after those the joke got old.  Only one of the six lesbians had any significant off-set story, and even hers was not of much interest.  (Aug 28)


Bane 2 (***)

In this sequel, noir Bane is the tough as nails enforcer for a loan shark.  This show follows the pattern of most failed sequels; it reuses the fresh aspects of the original Bane, and then wraps them in a story beyond credulity.  In this case, the reuses the same actor “miming” all interactions with invisible objects while a guitarist provides a jazz score, but this time monsters from hazardous waste and his brutality with innocents are less clever parody than second rate comic book science fiction.  (Aug 11)


Your Dream Wedding (***)

An Ipod guides you to an beautifully appointed store where you are treated as bride selecting her bridal gown.  The delicate Michael knows how you should approach your wedding to make it most memorable, and expensive, while constantly dismissing his assistant as inferior.  I must admit that the Carpenter’s “Top of the World” did buoy me as I walked through St. Andrews Square, but I wish that had explicitly given us a time limit when asked to describe our dream wedding.  (Aug 7)


Shakespeare for Breakfast (***)

This year’s version traces the story of King Lear through a selection of popular British TV series.  While I could relate to “Who want to be an Heir,” since I live in California and almost all of the rest were unique to British TV, I did not understand their references.  While the Brits do love this format, I keep hoping that they will return to their earlier format of an original plot sprinkled with lines from throughout the Shakespearean canon.  (Aug 8)


Zambezi Express (***)

The story of an aspiring footballer traveling from a rural town to a big city of Zimbabwe to try out for its team is told through song and dance.  The first speech about the poverty of the region made me feel that the performers danced in modernized traditional costume dances out of desperation and not joy.  The later scenes in the modern city garb worked better for me, but the feeling of colonial entertainment never quite left.  (Aug 10)


Some Gorgeous Accident (***)

A bon vivant teaches his married friend how to seize life with many personal and professional repercussions.  The bon vivant uses an lazy Irish accent that was so thick that not even my British companion could understand many of his critical lines.  We both agreed that a court trial that excluded him was the best part of the play.  (Aug 24)


Flesh and Blood & Fish and Fowl (***)

In his office, a biophobic social isolate manager must deal with a progressively more invasive world, including his amorous administrative assistant, a fly, hyperactive plants, and a menagerie of animals.  His sticky flypapered hand routine covered all of the possibilities for that classic gag.  However, unlike the rest of the audience, the ever-escalating chaos left me wondering at its source rather than laughing.  (Aug 3)


Story Shakespeare: King Lear (***)

A young cast presents a heavily edited King Lear.  While the acting was fine when it happened, too much of the time of the play was spent having a narrator explaining events.  I have seen other abridged King Lear’s that could retain more of the lines of the play.  (Aug 21)


My Dearest Byron (***)

After a ten year absence, Lord Byron runs away from London society to visit his married sister, and finds his only solace to be in her arms and in her bed.  Though we hear snippets of his beautiful poetry, it is said so fast and his actions are so consistently self-centered that I could never develop any sympathy for the wastrel.  On the other hand, his incestuous sister is a more realized character with her concerns for her family as well her brother.  (Aug 12)


Flor de Muerto (***)

Seven years after his parents died, the teenaged Gabriel still often resorts to living in a comic book fantasy world instead of accepting their deaths.  The large skeleton puppetry is inelegant, and the slow story seems slight.  The small cast did a remarkable job of creating a crowded Day of the Dead tumult for the son to navigate.  (Aug 20)


Julien Cottereau: Imagine-Toi (***)

Julien is not silent, but a non-verbal mime who relies on highly amplified noises he makes to inform his actions.  His early routine with a lassoed fly was well done, though not original.  While his first two audience participants followed his signed instructions beautifully, he horribly mishandled an older man who could not grasp his role, and angrily tried to leave the stage out of frustration and embarrassment.  (Aug 26)


Mysterious Skin (***)

A young gay hustler and his friend return to Kansas from a stay in New York City, while another young Kansan becomes involved with a woman who shares his belief that they have been abducted by extra terrestrials.  Though the play would like us to think of the characters as real, except for the hustler’s friend, each lacks depth.  The final abuse of the hustler seems to serve no purpose.  (Aug (


Kafka and Son (***)

Based on Franz Kafka’s “Letter to His Father”, the author tells of his life in the shadow of his overbearing, larger than life father.  In his role as a son, he is a complex mix of idolization, humiliation, and efforts of self expression.  The tone of the play never changes as it relentlessly move from one unpleasant experience to another.  (Aug 20)


Carnivale (***)

The audience of twelve joins five actors at the black tie dinner party of a renowned host.  Though I found myself distracted actually eating, those scripted malicious conversations that I did hear did help prepare me for what followed.  The second half does not work because the host’s “powerful” argument about the global economic murder was weak, and his surprise was predictable.  (Aug 9)


Performance Postponed (***)

A man and a woman use physical theater in a variety of situations.  The only memorable scene was when the man whiled away his time by contorting himself on his chair.  (Aug 15)


Righteous Money (***)

A TV financial guru has difficulties maintaining his cool when his administrative assistant rebels, and a guest does not show up.  The actor does a good job of playing the brash egomaniac who argues the case for unethical financial.  Since we care little for his character, his subsequent profanity and uneven repentance is unimpressive. (Aug 4)


Jack the Knife (***)

The South African theater actor and raconteur Jack Klaff says he is risking “career suicide” by presenting a play about how people must reject false forced choices to rebel against an unjust system.  As an actor, Klaff demonstrated his entire stentorian prowess, but as a playwright, his admitted proclivity for digression, and his lack of organization saps the power of his argument.  For instance, he points out that a South African ad used “… buy it for one you love” for Whites, and “… buy it for one who loves you” for Blacks, but he leaves a parallel point about mature couples on the TV program thinking of each other until much later. (Aug 6)


My Hamlet with Linda Marlowe (***)

With the help of puppets Linda Marlowe voices all of the parts of Hamlet.  Despite the fun use of puppets, this production seemed dull.  I cannot tell whether this was because I’ve seen Hamlet too often, or Marlowe’s reliance on the puppets to differentiate the characters instead of her voice.  (Aug 13)


The Crying Cherry (***)

This is a supposed adaptation of a 5th century Japan legend of twins separated at birth to avoid a prophecy that they would kill each other.  It seems that the Dutch company could not decide whether they were making a comedy or a tragedy as the two actors weave back and forth between straight-faced Japanese kabuki speech and movement, and slapstick pantomime.  In the end, the play settles on a final, ever escalating battle of absurdity when they use a single hair as a deadly dart.  (Aug 9),


Vive Le Cabaret (***)

This typical Fringe cabaret had a double entendre spouting compere and acts from other Fringe shows ranging from banjo players to strippers to dancers.  This is an overpriced show with only the presence of “Fascinating Aida’s” Dillie Keane separating it from any other cabaret.  Beside Ms. Keane’s sexy ditties, the two dancers were also good.  (Aug 17)


Miranda (***)

A man plays an Indian woman who is recruited into a touring company rehearsing “The Tempest” in Goa, India.  While the on stage violinist and drummer provided both lively music for both his/her dancing and the perfect soundtrack for the rest of the play, the story of phantoms and lies never grabbed me.  The choice to have a man play a woman remained unexplained, and seems to be an effort either to showcase the actor, or to draw attention to an otherwise ordinary show.  (Aug 10)


Soho Storeys (***)

Immigrants in London’s Soho must deal with racism, finding work, and marital stress.  With bad sound, and so many stories interwoven within such a large cast, the show just became a blur to me.  The rapidly moving staircase chase was fantastic though.  (Aug 21)


Burns Bites Back (***)

The small troupe portray twenty of Robert Burn’s poems as skits.  They played it all for slapstick laughs, but I was at a loss as they stayed true to Burn’s Scottish.  Nonetheless is was fun to share haggis pies with a bunch of older Scots who could recite Burns along with the actors.  (Aug 26)


Youth and Will (***)

This workshop had three actors tell of experiences from their own lives, and then find germane excerpts from Shakespeare.  I came in late, so I only heard of one actor’s quandary over his political inaction, and another’s confusion over a Shakespearean director’s lack of person sensitivity.  I think that by concentrating on a theme of choice this play would work well in schools to illustrate the importance of personal choice.  (Aug 13)


Jacob’s Ladder (***)

Five strangers form a cult lead by a man suffering from Asperger’s syndrome.  The bulk of the play has each character telling their disparate back story of alienation.  The cult murder plot is poorly justified, as is the apocryphal climax.  (Aug 16)


Homo Asbo (***)

It is five days after seeing this play, and the only things I can remember about it is my star rating, and ironically, that the songs were forgettable.  (Aug 17)


The Changeling (***)

In London, a changeling who has endangered his immortality by taking human form searches for the word that will same a fellow human changeling who is dying.  Not surprisingly, the word he finds is as anti-climatic as the end of the play is sudden.  The biggest problem with this production is the two onstage musicians who played their drums so loudly that I could not hear many of the lines.  (Aug 11)


Alcatraz (***)

A woman who has become an expert on one specific hotel room recreates the lives of its occupants from clues and tape recordings.  I liked the interesting use of white boxes to create different settings.  The initial play-defining statement that every cell on Alcatraz can see San Francisco is not true, and put me off the whole play.  (Aug 19)


Frances Ruffelle: Beneath the Dress (***)

The Tony Award winning singer dresses in sexy costumes and signs some old standards, and some new songs.  She still has a great voice, and the band was great.  She put too much effort into trying to be sexy, and not enough into song selection.  (Aug 19)


A Perfect Corpse (***)

In the early 19th century, an anatomist accepts the ill-gotten cadavers from his young illustrator.  I liked the section negotiating a contract with a condemned hemophiliac in an inn with the hangman because it gave a sense of the prison system at the time.  Dancing bookshelf bric-a-brac, and a lack of findings from his dissections made the protagonist a weird imitation of the historical figure.  (Aug 27)


Dean’s Dad’s Ducks (***)

Dean’s father lived a lie for decade so adding another seemed natural.  It was intriguing to hear how he lied about so much, and yet his children felt that he loved them.  It was touching to hear how his children hid his continued bigamy from their mother.  (Aug 29)


Lovesong (***)

A nightclub singer tells of his life of sex, drugs, music, and the abused boy next door through vignettes and song.  He presented his vignettes about the seamier side of life with just the right amount of grit and passion.  While the music was good, the lyrics of the songs were mostly prose and consistently poor.  (Aug 12)


Mood Swing:  A Manhattan Cabaret (***)

This is not a cabaret, but rather a performance of obscure pop songs by the opera singer Michael Zegarski.  There is a reason the songs are obscure; their lyrics and/or tunes are of little interest.  Zegarski has a great voice, but his song selection and his last act in drag left me cold.  (Aug 17)


Quality Control (**)

Two quality control workers, one conscientious and the other not, fall in love with married men, and must deal with their insecurities.  Though their approaches to life differ, their lives parallel each other with different actions leading to identical results.  I could not figure out the meaning of recurring mutilating pliers until a fellow audience member provided a plausible interpretation after play.  (Aug 10)


While You Lie (**)

After breaking up with her boyfriend over her insecurity about her body, a beautiful immigrant resorts to seducing her married boss to get her much-delayed raise.  These first three characters work well, but an overly slick plastic surgeon performs unexpected miracles, and the pregnant wife unnecessarily visits him rather than her obstetrician.  The play wastes our time as we hear of an unseen nanny who spoils an equally unseen troubled 5-year old daughter, but later is not responsible for quieting the crying child.  (Aug 4)


Tales from the Blackjack (**)

A croupier presents stories about three of his customers.  Only the story about a housewife’s descent to whore because of her gambling addiction had the ring of truth.  From the very outset, the actor was too antic.  (Aug 23)


Kvetch (**)

A couple, her mother, and his workmate have dinner together, and spend much of the time presenting soliloquies complaining.  Most of the time they complain about their own insecurities, but they also have the others as secret targets.  Though “Kvetch” is the title, the lack of personal growth really bothered me.  (Aug 26)


The Inconsiderate Aberrations of Billy the Kid (**)

A little boy kills his mother and then convinces a pizza delivery girl to stuff herself into his mother’s skin to fool his dad.  The piece continues its effort to challenge the audience with three feminist angels that act as a SWAT team.  Though I appreciated the play’s appeal to the spirit of the Fringe with its effort at being bizarre, its songs and script are weak.  (Aug 20)


Belt Up’s ‘The Boy James’ (**)

A boy lives in his own world with an older protector until a girl tries to seduce him.  When his protector tries to leave he desperately tries to prevent it by fighting him.  The plot, and the play as whole are minimal.  (Aug 27)


Belt Up’s ‘Quasimodo’ (**)

A hunchback has the priest of Notre Dame as a father figure, and falls in love with a gypsy woman who feels tenderness towards him but not love.  Belt Up chose to have all of the action take place at a table with the audience seated on cushions all around the table, but then did not take into account the layout.  Almost all of the play took place with actors at either end of the table, so people at the ends were blocked from seeing anything but the back of an actor the whole time.  (Aug 18)


First Love (**)

This one-man show adapts Beckett’s novel about a withdrawn man who ends up sharing a house with a prostitute.  While the acting is top notch, the subdued, stilted delivery is soporific.  I did find his description of desperately emptying a room of junk to create space for himself amusing.  (Aug 9)


Marion Allen’s Number One Hobby (**)

This slight one-woman play has a wife talking about her addiction to sweepstakes, and her efforts to give away thousands of Crunchie bars she won.  The central tale is amusing, and her dealings with a remorseful drunk driver are poignant.  However, without innumerable unnecessary minute-long blackouts, the whole story would take only fifteen minutes.  (Aug 9)


Darcy’s Dilemma (**)

Mr. Darcy, from “Pride and Prejudice” mulls over his past action as he writes a letter to Elizabeth Bennet explaining his supposed mistreatment of Wickham.  Though the idea of seeing Austen’s world from Darcy’s perspective is appealing to me, this show sets him in one room with first a monotonous defensive tone, and then a monotonous apologetic tone.  As the woman next to me said, “I do not want to see him portrayed as a whinger.”  (Aug 8)


Two Brothers and One World Cup (**)

Under the guise of re-forming their musical duo, two fellows describe England’s performance in each World Cup as well as their own relationship since 1982.  Their animated commentary about each of the eight tournaments may entertain some English football fans, but they left me cold.  The story of family interactions worked, but it was only a small part of the show.  (Aug 16)


Stationary Excess (**)

For the half hour, a woman constantly riding an exercise cycle describes the life of her estranged lover, Superman.  Her endless exercise, even while applying her make-up certainly conveys her desperation, but there is little more of interest.  From the too often used ploy of repeating phrases to the broken down cycle everything seems in service of conveying here desperation, and nothing else.  (Aug 23)


Honest (**)

A bureaucrat describes the uselessness of his job, and his department.  The actor was charming by the story seemed slight.  Because the show is performed in the noisy Milne Bar, a few of the audience, including me, often could not hear him.  (Aug 18)


The Master and Margarita (**)

The Devil visits atheist Moscow in the 1930s, and wrecks havoc on its literary elite while a poet and author languish in an insane asylum.  The individual scenes selected from Bulgakov’s novel are dramatic, but, without more exposition, many aspects make little sense in the larger context.  I found the character of the Devil utterly charming with the close of a dandy and succinct wit.  (Aug 8)


Waiting for Apollo (**)

In Argus, after Orestes and Electra kill their mother, the queen, they must face the wrath of their people without the aid of their uncle, Menelaus, husband of Helen of Troy.  The play lives up to is flier as a “… mish mash of high and low art.”  Unhappily, the mishmash surrounding the core Euripides play, including tennis playing in the background, contributes nothing but inexplicable chaos.  (Aug 6)


She’s Dead of Course (**)

The current pharmaceutical company driven health system prescribes progressively more dangerous treatments for a woman who has swallowed a fly.  This is a one-note play that just takes the nursery rhyme and uses it to criticize the current medical system.  Even the commercials on the TV stick to the messeage.  (Aug 26)


Lulu (**)

This black comedy centers on multi-talented vaudeville woman.  The plot is sketchy at best, and most of the characters drew little of my interest.  If the woman had not been so talented with hula hoops, ropes, and roller skating, this chaotic play would have earned only one star.  (Aug 29)


Hamlet, the End of a Childhood (**)

A French boy deals with the arrival of his new father by staging Hamlet in his bedroom.  I quickly grew tired of alternately reading the long supertitles, and watching the actor.  The use of everyday bedroom objects, like bed pillows as characters, helped bring a little whimsy to the dour play.  (Aug 16)


Maff Brown – Looking After Lesal (**)

Maff tells of his familial events since his mother fell ill, and died.  There were some good sections, including a scene at his mother’s funeral where almost all of the mourners were dressed as Death at the deceased’s request.  Throughout he spoke too fast, often spoke his punch lines as an aside, and failed to pause to allow time for recognition and laughter. (Aug 4)


Martin Creed—Ballet Work No. 1020 (**)

Martin Creed, a conceptual artist, plays lead guitar and sings in front of a four-piece band while five women perform simple ballet steps in front of video screen backdrop.  As a whole, the performance was coherent, but I found the minimalist slow progressions in the music and lyrics wearing.  The same approach in the dance did provide some interesting, albeit quickly predictable, images.  (Aug 7)


Swann and Company Present: The Sad, Miserable Tale of Albert Belacqua and his Family of Doomed Neurotics. (**)

This farce has a play within a play with a writer/director who is full of himself and a recalcitrant cast trying to perform his adaptation of “Heart of Darkness.”  From the confusing lack of demarcation of the play’s back stage to the excessive volume of the actors to the mundane script, this play fails on many fronts.  Surprisingly, for the few moments when they actually settle down to do the Darkness play I found that interesting.  (Aug 8)


Tokyo Love Song (*)

The actress/director tells a story of a woman dreaming on a crowded Japanese train.  She is vivacious, but the presentation is childish, often incohoherent, and amateurish.  It is hard to give one star simply because she seems so committed to her vision, and so happy and grateful.  (Aug 24)


Kabaret Kantor (*)

I think ‘Oedipage’ is a physical theater rendition of Oedipus.  It was after one in the morning, I had a headache, and most of the performance was silent except for an occasional cryptic remark by a woman in a huge dress.  It was just too avant-garde for me at that moment.  (Aug 23)


And Another Observation (*)

The play constantly asks the audience what they notice when presented with simultaneous videos, overhead projections, speeches, and movements.  While the question is initially of interest, the one-note play continues to ask throughout the performance.  Such questions are easy to answer and soon boring, while a much more interesting question would be why we choose to notice some things and not others.  (Aug 14)


Gutted.  A Revenger’s Musical (*)

A woman marries a man so that she can take revenge on his family for killing her parents.  Despite the best efforts of the cast, the lyrics and script made this farce so unoriginal and ill conceived that many walked out in the middle.  Who would guess that a swordfish used in a swordfight could be humorless, or that its use as murder weapon would be nothing more than expected?  (Aug 7)


When the Sex is Gone (*) 

With a synthesizer-playing accompanist, a hermaphrodite alternately sings and rants about his plight.  The lyrics are simple, raunchy, and uninspired, and the music is repetitive and melody free.  While many of his diatribes have clever lines, he yells them so loudly and quickly that most are unintelligible.  (Aug 6)



I am a 57-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 six times before.  Seven 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.  Since then, I have been here for the whole Fringe every year except 2007.  I have learned to devote most days to only one venue to maximize the number of performances I can see.  I expect this year to be similar to last—many performances, and many new friends.


After attending more than 600 performances, I have a much better idea of my biases and prejudices in the role of a critic.  To limit my analyzing shows during their performances as much as possible, I have intentionally avoided any training in criticism and the dramatic arts, both formal and informal.  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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