So we saw five shows at this year’s Capital Fringe festival, and – truth be told – with one exception, we thought them pretty good.
1. We started with an abridged version of the 17th century play by John Webster, “The Duchess of Malfi”, which I had never seen before and knew little about. Apparently loosely based on a true occurrence, it is a sad, sad story. The widowed young Duchess decides to marry one of her employees (apparently, her chief financial adviser), something that displeases her two brothers, the Duke of Calabria, and a Cardinal of the church. OK, you can’t pick your family, and the Duchess had very bad luck in the two scoundrels that were picked to be her brothers. As you can imagine, by the end, everyone dies.
It was well acted, and well staged. My only objection would be that, in cutting the play by half, things sometimes seemed to move a little too fast. On the other hand, by cutting it in half, we didn’t have to sit through a 3 hour play.
2. We then went to see “The Interrogation”, a bizarre show that started with little promise, and ended worse. So, our host gets on the stage and welcomes us, telling us that we are not a random audience, but in fact, this is a sting, and we are suspects in something that we don’t quite understand. He calls up a couple of people from the audience (I think they were plants, but it was hard to say), and asks them some dumb questions like “Are you a terrorist?”, while things appear on the wall screen that you can’t quite figure out.
Who is this guy? Hard to say. He works for some private company but used to work for the CIA or something like that, and he is a good questioner, in his opinion, and he’s out to find who the traitor is.
The third person that he calls up begins to answer the questions with questions of his own, eventually showing that our host is not who he seems to be, and that he is the bad guy. And then it turns out that this third person works for the government, and he apologizes to the audience for our having been fooled by our original, now disgraced, host.
3. Then, “The Goddess Diaries”, the type of show that you would think I would roll my eyes at, but – surprise, surprise – I thought it was very good. A series of monologues, derived from interviews that the author had with real women, with women telling their important life stories – the preteen trying to figure out life, the teen who can’t live with her parents any more, the older woman whose husband left her thirty years ago, the mother who mistakenly sends her kids to a fundamentalist bible camp, etc., interspersed by a narrator and a song. I thought that it was well written and well acted, and that each story did have something to teach.
4. “The Dish”, a parody on the Food Network. I wondered if this would go over my head, because I have never watched anything on the Food Network. But not to worry.
A show with four hosts – a gay man (who wants to talk about his husband, Raul), an African-American woman and food blogger with a chip on her shoulder, a Paula Dean act-alike (who was absolutely terrific), and a Chinese-American (from Little Rock). They spar with each other (and with the show’s director), there is a contest between the two women, and they have a chef-guest, a different one for each performance. The guest chef the night we saw the show was Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore’s (H Street NE, a favorite) – he was an absolute delight in his mostly impromptu role, his demeanor, he quick wit, his smile. This show was an absolute treat.
5. “Districtland”, which apparently may one day become a hit TV show, is based on the life of several young professionals in DC, who live in a group house, and their contacts with the outside world. The large cast did a very good job with a script that most people seem to like a lot. I have to admit that it bored me, in spite of the good production. Maybe if I were a 28 year old single, just moving to DC, living in a group house……….
At any rate, I think we did pretty well this year……..Next year, Capital Fringe will be in their new headquarters on Florida Ave NE. We will see how that changes things.