Criticism and Essays

I’ve been writing for the Washington City Paper’s Fringeworthy blog since 2010.  Here’s my take on some of my favorite shows.  (Click through the links to read the full reviews.)

An Adult Evening with Shel Silverstein

Ahoy, dazed sailors of the steamship Life! Let go of that rusty handrail, pull off your amulets, and toss your swimmies overboard… Captain Shel, with an energetic assist from the Actors Repertory Theatre, will give LOL voice and slapstick movement to your frustrated existence! Thus is the promise, largely fulfilled, of An Adult Evening…, a series of seven sketches awash in sophisticated camp. Whether tackling the absurd or themes bordering dangerously close to reality, this light-hearted hour ups the ante on the petty challenges and twisted poetry of the everyday and, in doing so, transforms life’s conundra into something bearable and, perhaps, quaint. (More…)

Assembly Required:  Comedy A to Y

At the supernova start of Assembly Required, Joshua Morgan hops onto Brian Sutow’s back and then scrambles beneath his outstretched arm, as if he’s a teat-seeking monkey infant. So cute, but… something doesn’t seem quite right about that throbbing house music. In another moment he’s cradling Rob’s torso like an inverted tortoise shell, forming a layer of homoerotic kevlar, and by the time they fall to the floor in an embrace worthy of Boogie Nights, a wave of barely-contained anarchy floods the theater. Is that nervous laughter I hear? Not quite, but you get the sense that Rob (Sutow) and Flick (Morgan) would prefer it that way in this raucous and raunchy free-for-all that feels as though it’s always about to come unhinged. (More…)

On the Rag to Riches

Watch out, you puffed up playas, heartbreakers, and wannabes – Katie Molinaro’s sneering brand of righteous girl power isn’t cast from the Spice Girls’ vacuous mold! Her fist-pumping hour includes fifteen salvos of pop-punk bravado aimed squarely at the dickheads and louts who make growing up oh-so-difficult nowadays, and that goes for all you obstructionist moms and teachers out there too. Right from the opening number, Molinaro (as her alter-ego, Janey) smashes her battering-ram wit into the barriers stacked against young women everywhere. The result – at times earnest and searching, at others petulant and a wee bit vulgar – is pure, unaltered FUN. (More…)

The Storehouse

Fret not, history-phobes! The Storehouse does its Deadwood-best to overcome your perceptions of stodgy period theater, packing its hour with enough “cocksucker” fusillades to stretch the very notion of frontier anachronism. Al Swearengen would indeed be proud. Here, the profanities spew from Russian soldiers about to leave for home after a three-years-to-the-day stint in occupied Poland. But before the long march back to St. Petersburg, some unfinished business – who will pay for the botched takeover and ensuing massacre of this hapless burg? Playwright Michael Silver’s taut story, with its array of stooped, disillusioned characters stuck in a near-empty supply depot, tackles the question confidently, if not always successfully; what ensues is the outline of a promising production that, with some significant rework, might one day generate some buzz. (More…)

OTHER REVIEWS

An Adult Evening with Shel Silverstein
Assembly Required: Comedy A to Y
Barter (or, Stealing Other People’s Credit Cards)
[best imitation]
Cavers
The Circle
Domino’s Pizza Saved My Life
Embodying Poe
Florida Days
How the Money Goes
The Imaginary Autopsee
Losing My Religion: Confessions of a New Age Refugee
The Malachite Palace
No Gentlemen of Verona
On the Rag to Riches
The Poet Warriors
President Harding is a Rock Star
Salem!  The Musical
The Storehouse
Table 8

Case Study:  Orbit Chef’s Apocalypse Picnic

$3,015.

That’s how much revenue my sketch-comedy group, Orbit Chef, needed to scrape from the Washington-area masses to break even with Apocalypse Picnic at 2012’s Capital Fringe Festival. That number used to be $2,500, but that was before an opening week panic attack drove us to splurge on an ad in Express. Bye-bye, $117. Then our prop wagon was hit with a $100 parking ticket as we loaded into our performance venue. And then further panics led us to buy another ad ($99) after the first one may or may not have goosed our opening night house to near-full capacity. We’d do a marketing study to find out for sure, but the fact is, we simply can’t afford it.

Although those extras add up to only $316 in additional expenses, you’ll notice that our revenue target grew by more than $500. That’s because our cut of the gate amounts to just 60 percent of sales. Fringe gets the rest. And before I consider whether or not this is a good deal, let me throw out an obvious point: For each full-priced, $17 ticket, the artist receives slightly more than 10 bucks in revenue. So when we pulled a budget number from the part of our brains that wanted to sound both cost-conscious and serious—$1,500, to include the $825 bundle of application, participation, and insurance fees required to be in the festival—we figured that we’d need to sell 150 tickets to break even. That meant we’d have to fill slightly less than half of the chairs in our 70-seat venue for each of our five shows. (More…)OTHER REVIEWS

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