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On the Fringe

Fringe Fest Reviews: Cabaret Macabre, Antebellum, American Sideshow



Fringe runs all weekend, and NoDef is here to help you navigate the masive schedule. Today, check out reviews of Cabaret Macabre, Antebellum and more!

 

CABARET MACABRE

Friday's performance of Cabaret Macabre to a sold-out audience at the Marigny Opera House has been one of the highlights of Fringe so far.  Brought from Washington D.C. by Happenstance Theater, the piece matches verbatim its promise on the programs: "witty, visual, theatrical collage and live music played with deadly flare."

 

The play consists of a series of well-timed vignettes, sometimes related in a loose narrative arc that allows for the few hauntingly tender moments in the piece. Designed to be free-standing, most of these vignettes are sidesplittingly hilarious with a rotating cast of characters inspired by Edward Gorey and "Victorian nightmares." Composed of five actors and a wickedly multi-talented musician (think playing the piano and trumpet simultaneously), the company seamlessly jumps from one character to another, whether as a couple that has a propensity to make bad situations worse, a little girl who likes acting out the death of famous women in history, or a murderously jealous best friend.

 

While the actors do not speak many words, the relative silence becomes a testament to their physical vocabularies as the stories develop with such clarity. The members of the company have studied theatrical techniques ranging from clowning to puppetry, and apparently everything else.  Wonderfully talented performers, every single movement on stage is precisely constructed and delivered, leading to surgeon-like accuracy for comedic timing. Notably, two performers within the company, co-founder Mark Jaster and actress Sarah Olmstead Thomas, hilariously utilize faces that stretch like putty to angles that only further the laughs.

 

Another successful segment shows a slow-motion, accidental croquet battle that leads to the vengeance and vindication of an oppressed maid.  Choreographed to the point where one wishes he had more than one set of eyes to catch all the action, this section became a crowd favorite.

 

The costumes in the piece are perfectly and prudishly Victorian, leaving the actors' body-work and voices most of the creative space. As each performer has a variety of characters, incessant costume changes match the quick-paced clip of the show. Another costume includes a ghost dress magically expanding and becoming the bodiless dance partner of Alex Vernon.

 

The Marigny Opera House (725 St. Ferdinand), in its eternal state of beautiful disrepair, is the perfect venue for this performance, not only for its aesthetic, but also its size. Cabaret Macabre deserves the sell-out audiences it has been receiving. If you can go see this, go treat yourself.  Catch the show Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 9pm. 

-Philip Yiannopoulos

 

READ: NoDef 2013 Fringe Reviews, Vol. 1

READ: NoDef 2013 Fringe Reviews, Vol. 2

READ: NoDef 2013 Fringe Reviews, Vol. 3

 

JOHN MICHAEL AND THE ORDER OF THE PENIX

John Michael Colgin shines in this one-man piece that flows as a narrative diary entry from the pages of an outrageous and brutally honest young, gay man. This is the third solo performance from the Dallas-based monologist and his artistic mentor/director Matt Tomlanovich from the Nouveau 47 Theatre. While the plot doesn’t necessarily mirror that of the J.K. Rowling novel, he uses Harry Potter references throughout as a medium for expressing deeper thematic issues with being young, misunderstood, and gay. Colgin’s presence on stage is captivating and his dedication to the role unapologetically demands your attention throughout -- even the most uncomfortable moments. 

 

The story of the Order of the Penix begins with John Michael using Rowling’s Mirror of Erised to introduce his character’s comedic lament as a pizzafaced, urban boytoy who desires nothing more than an acne-free life of happiness and promiscuity. His delivery is sharp, outrageous, and often (extremely) vulgar, leaving the audience to wonder if they are seeing someone merely pushing for shock value or actually witnessing cutting-edge comedic genius. The way John Michael figure skates through his space, utilizing every inch of the Shadowbox Theatre to tell his story, adds to his charismatic allure. It’s clear that Colgin comes from a strong performance-art background and it really comes out in this act. 

 

He progresses in a candid and confessional sermon-like monologue, recounting anecdotes of his hilarious and sometimes reckless life as a young man working at a gay porn store in Dallas. His loves, and loves lost, are the centerpiece in what is a deeper thematic motif that really comes full circle during the final moments of the performance. You wouldn't think that a one-man show that so bluntly speaks on issues like HIV and death could be a laugh-riot, but John Michael and the Order of the Penix pulls it off. It’s a deep and serious social commentary that one would think to be incongruous served with playful pop-cultural references and Harry Potter metaphors, but you still have a heart-felt empathy the main character during every second of the performance. It’s brilliant.

 

John Michael and the Order of the Penix runs at the Shadowbox Theatre (2400 St. Claude Ave. Friday at 9pm, Saturday at 11pm, and Sunday at 5pm.

-Owen Legendre

 

AMERICAN SIDESHOW

Possibly the most self-explanatory spectacle on the Fringe schedule, American Sideshow is a traveling group of pain-loving performers. The vintage freakshow devotees of FreakShow Deluxe practice classic conventions of the genre, and they do it effectively, if you are into that sort of thing.

 

Host Reverend Tommy Gunn, Miss Malice Afterthought, and Raven Lunatic were featured at last night’s performance at the Allways Lounge and Theatre (2240 St. Claude Avenue).

 

Gunn hams it up in his role as the ring leader, making dirty jokes, pulling up audience volunteers, and maintaining his showmanship throughout the relatively short performance. The entire thing ran for about 50 minutes

 

Needless to say, sideshow acts are not for the squeamish. People lay on nails, deep-throat balloons, and shove six-inch nails into their nostrils. There is also a cringe-inducing stunt involving Gunn’s penis, or a very convincing fake penis, and a chandelier.

 

Aside from the gross-out factor, Gunn and his team do a good job of keeping their crowd engaged. Malice acts as the ring girl, holding up signs to let the crowd know when it is time to clap, say “oooo,” or yell “More Danger!"

 

The venue suits the act perfectly. Audience members can grab drinks and use the bathroom as they see fit, and iphone use and photo taking is encouraged, provided users upload their photos to Facebook or tweet them.

 

In a creative spin on the New Orleans pin-a-dollar-on-my-shirt birthday trick, Gunn invites every member of the audience to staple a $5 on to Raven Lunatic. Yes, Gunn offers everyone the chance to “maim another human being” for the cheap price of $5. More than one person took him up on it.

 

See American Sideshow at the Allways Lounge tonight, 11/22, at 11 p.m., or Sunday, 11/24, at 9 p.m.

-M.D. Dupuy

 

 

KEEBLES' COMEDY CABARET

Keebles’ Comedy Cabaret features the eclectic showcase of a dysfunctional, yet enchanting show-business family from Alabama. From the minds of mother-daughter duo Brenda German-King (Maw Keeble) and Aimee German, the variety-hour structure introduces the audience to each member of the Keeble clan in the time it takes for a batch of brownies to be cooked in the on-stage oven. Some bits outshine others in a comedic sense, but the whole experience has the genuine charm of a living-room recital put on by family members during a Christmas party. Adina Valerio rounds out the three-piece cast as Cousin Agnes Keebles, who’s timing and appearance brings to mind an early Gilda Radner with her absurdity and sincere charisma. While Brenda German-King and her daughter originally hail from the south, the production is in town from New York City where German and Valerio reside. 

 

The performance is somewhat of a time warp, paying homage to the slapstick humor of early 20th century vaudeville cabarets in which comedy bits are scattered amongst traditional saloon songs and old-timey dance bits (including a couple strip-tease routines by Valerio). When real-life mother and daughter Aimee and Brenda German share the stage, their natural timing is truly something to admire and their cadences are something akin to a lost episode of I Love Lucy or a more boozy version of Laverne & Shirley

 

The venue at Backyard Ballroom is a fitting and charming atmosphere for the show’s campy delivery and bodes well for the intimate sideshow feel of the performance. Crowd participation is elevated in some bits more than others, so expect to join in on a few sing-a-longs and gags. You may even find yourself being brought onstage for a barnyard dance off or a death defying minibike stunt. 

 

Keebles’ Cabaret runs Friday at 7pm, Saturday at 9pm, and Sunday at 11pm at the Backyard Ballroom (3519 St. Claude Ave.). Tickets are $8 with a Fringe button. Beer, wine, and other concessions are available for purchase at the venue. 

-Owen Legendre

 

ANTEBELLUM

New Orleans history has long been an inspiration for art beyond the "distinguished swamps", as a character in Antebellum puts it. But Gogol Annex' Antebellum goes beyond sazeracs and jazz. The work, which is being given its first spin at Fringe by the New York/Toronto-based company, digs into three infamous personas of pre-Civil War history for inspiration. With three characters who never talk directly to each other and no set, the company delivers one of the more intriguing productions of the 2013 Fringe program.

 

The "Living History" vibe dominates the warehouse upon entrance. First, a board informs who the characters are based on with summaries that could have been taken from a museum wall. The audience learns that the characters are based on gambler Charles Starr (the Colonel), beloved and hounded opera singer Jenny Lind (Nightingale) and serial killer Mary Jackson (Bricktop). But the characters' historical personas are merely jumping-off points.

 

Continuing the museum theme, audience members find that they will be standing for the performance, and are free to wander around the viewing area. When the performance begins, the characters open by moving with precise and repetitive motions, perhaps recalling the animatronic mannequins of Disney World. It would all be a very placid educational field trip if two of the characters weren't looking troubled and holding knives.

 

Setting the tone for the drama that is to come, the production is backed by a moody soundtrack that weaves its way between the characters and provides definitive start-and-stop points for the separate "numbers." On Thursday night, the music filtered its way into the production perhaps too deeply, as it drowned out Taylor Sutherland during the opening stages of a monologue as the Colonel. The simply lighting also helps set a darker mood, with a green background providing no hint of the over-stuffed Orleanian landscapes.

 

The piece contains a mixture of coordinated motion and dialogue between the players, and even a few songs. The latter portion moves into monologues that introduce the characters, and are loosely based on the historical figures.Violence, lifting of the skirt and much talk of good eating follows.

 

Before the good times can roll, however, performers Nicole Kontolefa, Leah Loftin and Taylor Sutherland provide the dramatic and thematic heft that most trips through history leave to the quirky anecdotes.The production succeeds in being more than an art installation because each of the characters' monologues goes through a well-defined arc, even though the production's method of delivering the tales is by no means linear, or direct. In the case of the Nightingale and the Colonel, the characters find themselves exposed as they repeat lines that soon melt away as a facade. For instance, the colonel starts by enjoying his meal, but we soon find out it was purchased not by riverboat winnings, but by loans.

 

Gogol Annex' approach to dramatic storytelling may not club you over the head with their directness, but the performances are dynamic enough to keep the audiences enrapt, and the excavation of three lesser-known figures from the city's rich history offers a necessary change of pace with a festival that features a healthy dose of Storyville. There aren't many other considerations of New Orleans history that include the question, "What the hell am I doing with this city?"

 

Antebellum plays at the Mardi Gras Zone warehouse (Architect's Alley) on Sat., Nov. 23, at 7 p.m. and Sun., Nov. 24, at 1 p.m.

-Stephen Babcock

 

DOWN-AND-OUTSKIRTS

With the end of Storyville came the beginning of an underground culture of all the "immoral" activities like jazz and prostitution. In Down and Outskirts, the New Orleans Poetry Brothel takes both meanings of "word-of-mouth" to its logical end, staging a series of dramatic poetry/spoken word recitations in the tucked-away Backyard Ballroom. 

 

For this Fringe Fest show, the St. Claude venue transforms into one such hideaway club trying to preserve the depraved district's trappings after the authorities have come through and ruined all the fun. Still, some good times are left to roll, as the poetry readings (literally) pop up from the audience. 

 

While viewers may be struggling to make connections between Storyville and a kitten-prince, the later pieces in the work come full form in transporting the audience back to their era by reminding of time when being suggestive actually meant using some allusion. The lineup of original works are set to rotate for the remainder of the Fringe Fest, and provide a quality showcase of what one of the city's fledgling performance groups has been up to over the past year.

 

Down-and-Outskirts plays at the Backyard Ballroom (3519 St. Claude Ave.), on Nov. 23 at 5 p.m. and Nov. 24 at 7 p.m.

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Contributors

Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde

Photographers


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.

Editor


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt


B. E. Mintz


Stephen Babcock

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