After seeing dozens of shows each week of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Ashley Steed shares her top picks in a series called “Fringe Raw”.
by Ashley Steed
I haven’t been on a date in a really long time. So needless to say, I was a bit nervous. Now, I know that this isn’t a real first date, but I believe it’s far more enjoyable to fully give in to the conceit: I’m meeting Emma (Lauren Flans), a woman I met online, and after brief email correspondence (filling out a “profile”) we’re meeting in Hollywood for a date.
I don’t want to give too much away, but there are clues in the email dating profile as to what will be discussed, and with this being a one-on-one performance it is sure to be unique for each participant. For me, I went in wanting to make a good impression and to be a “good date.” I tried to be kind and inquisitive. In other words, I played along. As the title suggests, there are “red flags” almost immediately (with the first text) and those red flags slowly build throughout, revealing a deeply troubled woman.
There’s a structure to the piece, but Flans makes that structure invisible through genuinely connecting with you – asking questions, allowing awkward silences, answering questions, and moving the conversation/piece forward. I talked about falling in love with my husband (he was absolutely fine with the date), and my dead mother (which is excellent first date material). I asked her about her parents and she asked me about my fears. One-on-one performance isn’t for everyone, but if you’re intrigued definitely give this one a try. Flans (along with writer/director Lauren Ludwig) has developed a dynamic character and an unforgettable experience. I definitely won’t be going on a second date with Emma, but I hope a made a positive impression.
Red Flags for Hollywood Fringe is sold out, but they will be extending it this summer. For more information visit http://www.capitalwperformance.com/redflags/
A couple hours before my scheduled one-on-one performance for Annie Lesser’s A(partment 8) I was emailed a waiver. Having spent the evening chatting with friends I didn’t see the email until I was walking over to the check in point, so I signed the waiver without reading it. And I’m glad I didn’t read it (although I don’t condone signing documents without reading them) because it made everything that happened a complete surprise — which is the best way to experience immersive theatre. Not wanting to give away the surprise to those who haven’t experienced it yet, I’m going to be vague.
Performer Keight Leighn is intense, captivating, and haunting in this brief 10-minute experience. The writing is poetic and evocative, and although there are opportunities to verbally respond, I was in such a state of wonderment that I could barely muster gestures and whispers to her questions. This is in part due to the precision of the setup of how they have you “enter” someone else’s flesh. It reminds me of video games where it starts off with your character waking up somewhere and not knowing how they got there or what’s happened prior. The same happens here – I “woke up” wondering how I got there and what led to this point. Perhaps that’s why I was speechless, disoriented.
If you are comfortable with dark subjects, intense one-on-one performances, being touched, and getting dirty, then you must be on the lookout for another remounting of A(partment 8) (as it’s sold out for the Fringe), which is part of Lesser’s ABC Project. For more information visit http://annielesser.com/abc
Singer and harpist Lexi Lowell, who performed on Broadway on Deaf West’s Spring Awakening, has put together a workshop solo performance interspersed with original music based on her battle with depression and bulimia. Although more work and detail is needed in crafting a cohesive performance piece, Lowell’s candor and charisma keeps the piece engaging and touching. She recounts her Catholic upbringing and the accompanying feelings of guilt and shame which eventually led to severe depression and eating disorder. “No one talks about these things” she says to the audience in an intimate loft space in Hollywood.
Using bullet points on a screen to help keep her on track, Lowell’s piece relies on a conversational style which makes it that much more intimate and genuine. Between stories and observations she sings her songs while playing the harp — all of which showcase a hauntingly melancholic, yet hopeful, voice. Her songs relay the troubles this young woman faced wanting, needing, self love, and acceptance. It’s clear that she’s on the right path, and I hope she continues to refine and sharpen this piece.
The Loft 1617 Cosmo St. Suite 403; http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4324; Playing through June 17; Running time 50 minutes
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