NoDef brings another round of Fringe Fest reviews, from she-wolfs, to musical performances, to drunken coin tosses.
A lot of people talk about the seven-year-itch, and how the bliss of a new relationship just inevitably starts to fade. Well, the production of W.K., directed by Katherine Wilkinson and devised by the Gale Theatre Company, exhibits how that itch can start even earlier, and it is nothing but a puffy, scratchy, and annoying pustule on the supposedly smooth skin of a relationship.
The two-person cast made-up of Celina Chapin (also the choreographer) and Aaron Alexander start off the main performance with a typewriter on a table. From there a large stream of paper typing requests, such as “Write down the name of your first love,” fills the empty space between the table and the celling. Seeing the ream of paper, easily triple the size of the typewriter, move as if Chaplin herself was typing the words, is the first notion that this production is going to use the slimmest set design, but have an incredibly full effect.
With only two chairs and a table on stage (designed by Sarah Loucks and Zoey Cane Belyea) the performers passionately flip and push the table around so it becomes an apartment, a bed, a hiding place, a Ping-Pong table, and a division between the two of them. Watching Chapin and Alexander throw the props and set around was just as impressive as how willing they were to give their bodies over to the performance.
It’s in the sixth year of the relationship that the absolute dedication of Chapin and Alexander comes to the forefront of the production. Sure, there have been orgasmic scenes, food fights, love cuddling, and some star-gazing with head lights strapped to their foreheads, but the sixth year of their relationship asks them to throw, drag, and sacrifice their bodies to one another, and they do.
Chapin is strewn across the stage; Alexander’s body is used for its strength as Chapin jumps and scissors her legs around whatever body part she chooses. The scene goes on for minutes, and it leaves the performers exhausted with fatigue.
At this point, you start wondering, Why the hell would anyone chose to be in a relationship?, but W.K. shows that side as well with images of well-known movies, such as Before Sunrise and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, projected behind the characters. I heard one audience member say, “I was really hoping they would work it out.” Is it that we’re suckers for love? Is it that we are all hopeless romantics? Do we all not mind an annoying itch for the little pleasure it may bring from the scratch?
None of these questions are answered in W.K. But as the note from the director states, she hopes “…to bring you a performance that, if nothing else, is human,” and that is what she has done.
You can see and scratch your love-itch by seeing W.K. at the Old Firehouse on November 22 at 11 p.m, November 23 at 5 p.m., and November 24 at 7 p.m.
SHE-WOLF OF SPAIN STREET
Thursday night saw a particularly misty rendition of The She-Wolf of Spain Street, written and performed by Lisa Pasold. Presented as a walking tour, the piece told the tale of the Princess Vladimir, a gambling she-Wolf from Monte Carlo. Pasold informs her crowd that she met the she-wolf in the carousel bar in the Monteleone Hotel. Her use of places and names familiar to New Orleanians made the piece particularly effective.
A few stops of the evening synced up well with the story, namely the view of the docks where the wolf prowled for derelicts, as well as the Cake Café, previously a bastion for the Italian community in the neighborhood. However, an abandoned lot with sparse banana trees did not remind audiences of the botanical gardens outside Monte Carlo, the same way a stop outside of a pet store seemed a bit out of place.
A talented performer, Pasold did a remarkable job interweaving history and stories of fantasy and times long gone. The audience hears tales of Bernard de Marigny, the wealthy playboy Creole who owned the land which now has his name but lost it after a life of high risks (spoiler: all werewolves gamble compulsively…). In the same manner, we find that the Princess, after a few too many murderous nights in Monte Carlo, came to New Orleans in search of the Loup Garou, the fabled swamp werewolf.
Pasold maintained a strong hold of her audience, impressive for a walking tour–especially one where her voice stayed in a slow, breathy secret. Where some would try to slam their audiences with energy in the telling, Pasold successfully cast a spell over her audience with subtlety and grace. In fact, the haunting cadence of her voice held such sway that very few of the audience dared chatter in between stops, and those who did only whispered.
Dressed for the piece in a simple, nondescript coat, the costume seemed timeless, something that helped to transport audience around the world and over the span of a century. Her details in the storytelling, down to the drinks she had with the She-Wolf at the bar, give all the color the story needs.
A wonderful choice for fringe; locals may learn a thing or two about their own city's history, and visitors get a chance to walk around one of New Orleans most colorful neighborhoods.
A fun piece with a fantastic performer, catch The She-Wolf of Spain Street every day this weekend at 5pm, rain or shine. The tour meets in the Fringe free-for-all lounge in Architect's Alley.
NIGHTMARES…A DEMONSTRATION OF THE SUBLIME
Nightmares…A Demonstration of the Sublime opened Thursday night at the Marigny Opera House with an audible pop. The Buran Theatre presented a talks-fast, thinks-fast, sings-fast, happens-fast interdisciplinary tour of Mary Shelley and Dr. Polidori’s fateful night of inspiration.
Translated into the present moment at times, the play slips in and out of post-post-modern day enough to keep everyone on their toes. The play succeeds wildly in its ability to transport the audience through one hour and fifteen minutes in the blink of an eye. Thrilling, fun and funny, it is a challenge to the mind and not just a commentary on the digital age and its inability to satisfy.
Sex, drugs and over-indulgence play through a particularly exuberant and winsome chorus who also portray the main characters in this play-inside-a-play. They sing, dance, party and orgy while their creators stress over what is (or isn’t) in the refrigerator. The play avoids dictating morally, but alludes instead to the emptiness of a solely academic or solely sensual pursuit of the sublime. Nightmares rejects these pursuits, or at least makes good, dirty fun of them. The masturbation scene drew a particular splurge of laughs from the crowd, fearlessly portrayed by Lara Thomas, Zechariah Williams, Steve Ducey, Ashton Wilker and Val Smith (a spritely, bobbed-haired young woman who gracefully) takes up the mantle of androgyny in the form of the men’s modest Victorian bathing suit, but emerges sexy anyway.
The musical interlude that served as the play’s climax was truly sublime, but a lot of the opening night crowd might have been either too old or too young to fully appreciate it. Composed by Casey Mraz and CS Luxem and performed by CS Luxem, the score interacted with the play like another character, but a magical character, the embodiment of the bare-chested female deity. (Yeah, it’s got a deity!)
The real magic is that the play’s plagiarist, also its writer and co-director, is our hero, our theatrical stand-in, and a damned good metaphor. We are all plagiarists when it comes down to it, but it shouldn’t destroy the singularity of experience. Jud Knudsen and Laurie Winkel charm the pants off of everyone as the Narrator and the Cowgirl, respectively. Winkel’s charisma is hard to corral, but Adam Burnett and Jud Knudsen manage it well. Bianca Jiminez is an especially persuasive Insistent One, so insistent that it was tough to take your eyes off her. Mention should be made of Philip Ouros, whose capacity in the play may escape you after you’ve had the pleasure of seeing him in his underwear. High marks on all facets of drama for this show.
Nightmares is the delicious domain of the Gen X’er, the middle-aged ruckenfigur in crisis. Still impressed with technology, the Gen-X’er still thrills at the THX intro – this is art that means something, still has the ability to take us to the precipice. The 35 to 40-something crowd might appreciate the naked specter of the Lynchian exotic behind the curtain, for example, on a few mystifying and exhilarating levels. More than just a one-night stand, Nightmares proves to be an enjoyable and lasting cure for academic ennui. The choreography is incredibly animated, spilling past the stage without diluting into its audience. Like a good lover, Nightmares brings you along for the good time but maintains its boundaries, leaving a few frontiers yet unexplored. Pushing the audience to lift the veil of dogma, it presents the world just a little anew, ripe for examination.
Nightmares plays at Marigny Opera House (725 St. Ferdinand St.) on 11/22 11pm, 11/23 5pm, 11/24 7pm.
Fringe goers may be skeptical when they see “kid-friendly,” and “storytelling” in a description, but Negras Quilombolas brings talent, entertainment, and precision that transcends age.
Young musicians and dancers use the story of an Afro-Brazilian woman warrior, Dandara, as the basis for their energetic show. As the warriors fight for their freedom, a 12-piece band and traditional dancers add new layers to the story.
A mixture between a linear plot-based play, a concert, and a dance performance, Negras features an adult narrator and singer who guide the audience through the action.
The almighty Dandara, a Capoeira warrior, captivates the crowd. At one point, the narrator says, “War sees no gender, only warriors.”
Peeter’s drum team is on point, providing a sound that is both raw and clean, and the music filled the warehouse.
Dancers do not miss a beat, swinging their limbs and hurling their bodies across the stage in a way that looks effortless, yet deliberate. Anyone who has ever danced knows that seemingly simple movements become difficult with a stage full of dancers keeping count. The kids’ movements are tight, and they stay engaged throughout the performance.
At one point, a mask falls off on stage. All the adults narrow their gazes, fearing a disastrous slip from one of the many dancers as they hop and whirl to the music. Unfazed, the young performers avoid catastrophe. The unexpected costume malfunctions are only a testament to the kids’ abilities.
Another moment that showcases the children’s hard work is two kids on stilts, showing off on one foot at a time, putting Mardi Gras hipsters to shame with their elevated skillset.
The hard work of directors Ja’nese Brooks Galathe and Marco Peeter is clear throughout this performance, and it is a fitting addition to Fringe as the festival continues to attract diverse crowds and families.
Negras Quilombolas is playing again Friday, 11/22, at 5 p.m., Saturday. 11/23 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, 11/24 at 5 p.m. The venue is the Den of Muses (72 Architect St.) behind Mardi Gras Zone.
50 HEARTBREAKS (And I'm still in Love with YOUkraine
My Lord, you feel bad for the two women on stage in 50 Heartbreaks (And I’m still in Love with YOUkraine). There is literally one disappointment after another peppering the stage throughout this hour-long production. But, just as the performance does, let me go back a little to tell you why Heartbreaks is so…well, heartbreaking.
The concept for Heartbreaks was created by Jenna Bean Veatch and Maria Sonevytsky, and it is performed by Veatch and Nadia Tarnawsky. It’s a personal piece that tells the story of Nadia’s relations and Jenna’s understanding of heartbreaks. Looking back to the early to mid 20th century, the presence of the Bolsheviks, and the slaughtering (physically, mentally, and emotionally) of people in Ukraine, both of the performers recount these heartbreaks by placing numbered props in front of the audience.
The creative design team uses paintings, videos, music, dance, and film to depict the stories of love between families, lovers, friends, and those left behind. Each heartbreak is numbered, and the “Little Blue Jay” heartbreaks #8, 13, 19, and 32, are shown in the form of a stop-motion film. Dolls in the film tell the story of boy-meets-girl and girl-loses-boy. The jump cuts and purposeful editing of the film, written and recorded by Maria Sonevytsky, provide a taste of the variance in this multi-media production.
Juxtaposed to the painted cardboard that reminds the audience of each heartbreak that’s been released is the unbelievably strong voice of Tarnawsky. Throughout the performance she sings or interprets traditional folk songs from all different regions of Ukraine (Kyiv, Poltava, Bukovyna, Polissia, and Steppe). Her voice, although completely different, is equally met with the sweet tone of Veatch, who performs her own song “Hello,” on ukulele. It’s not just the vocal talents of these women that creates their voices, it is also the stories they tell and how they tell them.
Tarnawsky reads from Bloodlands and “talks” to her relative as his interview, recorded on film, is projected behind her to tell the story of her family and the people of Ukraine. Veatch takes on many characters, including a character giving homage to Pussy Riot, and it is through her words and her dance as a girl, a bunny, and a woman that she makes the stories of the performance visually alive for the audience.
I imagine that the stage of Heartbreaks is one of the most cluttered—with hand-painted cardboard signs, food, tables, and clothing—at Fringe Festival, and it is through this clutter of heartfelt pieces that Veatch and Tarnawsky dance and smile as the song “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted,” plays on the speakers at the Old Firehouse. We can see what became of Veatch and Tarnawsky, and their sharing of heartbreak is one that should be met with a filled audience.
50 Heartbreaks is performed at the Old Firehouse (718 Mandeville St.) on November 22 at 5 p.m., November 23 at 7 p.m. and November 24 p.m.
WITH LOVE, FROM THE UNDERGROUND
First of all, this piece barely meets theatrical requirements to be deemed a show. That being said, if anyone finds themselves in the mood to sit in a beautiful, quirky space while drinking two fingers of free warm whiskey, this is an event for you.
Walking into the Red House, one sees a oddly arranged set of chairs and other seating apparati, with remarkably unclear delineations as to which is perfomance space and which is for the audience. The seats closest to the lion-taming whip turned out to be the best seats in the house, albeit sticky.
Presented by the Second Foundation, the piece consisted of a woman mumbling her mildly entertaining drug experiences while occasionally mentioning Hades, the Underworld and pomegranate vodka. Other events included a poorly played game of beer pong, throwing crushed-up cans at audience members defending themselves with bats and a failed attempt at a magic trick involving a Corona bottle, that only ended in blood.
Her words, sometimes scrambling memory, sometimes vague attempts at poetry, all came across as drunken. Luckily, no one seemed to be paying attention, as the audience chatted the whole way through, and the piece devolved into a party-like atmosphere.
Things were punctuated by a coin toss. Apparently that was the end of the show. So if, by the end of the evening, festival-goers are ready to lounge on a sweaty chaise and drink some whiskey, go see With Love, From the Underground, Friday at 12am, Saturday 5pm, and Sunday 8pm. The Red House is located at 2820-26 St. Claude Ave.