Photo by Ken Howard
The Fringe So Far
What I've Seen
Thursday, June 23, Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd.
And He Became Man, Carpa (Tijuana), Diversionary Black Box Theatre
The Hamlet Comedy Hour, Naked Shakespeare Company (San Diego), Diversionary Main Stage
Friday, June 24, Tenth Ave Arts Center, 930 10th Ave Downtown
T.S. Eliot: A New Musical, American International Theatre and Jamil Akim O’Quinn
Let’s call him Manuel, this man who has cerebral palsy, and who communicates his story with the help of others. Because there was no program provided, I can’t tell you his full name, nor can I name his associates, who provide music, dance, masks and narrative. Let me assure you, though, that as the evening progresses we become accustomed to Manuel’s speech – and there is no vocabulary simplification – and it becomes more and more intelligible. Not only that, the character becomes more and more lovable, a vivid human being.
Subsequent to writing the above graph I found the And He Became Man postcard I was handed at the San Diego International Fringe Festival media preview. The playwright, who plays Manuel, is Samuel Valdez. His collaborators are, as near as I can determine by squinting, actors Rick Zazueta, Tricia Hernandez, and singer Zyanya Rios.
Son of Mexican immigrants, playwright/actor Valdez was born in Riverside and received his B.A. in theatre with an emphasis on directing from San Diego State University in 1991. Since then, he’s been writing and directing and is now a resident of Tijuana.
|And He Became a Man|
Photo Courtesy of SD Fringe
Quite obviously autobiographical, And He Became Man takes us through “Manuel’s” life, from childhood (he had a devoted, loving mother), public school’s playground taunts and torture, through loss, alcoholism, longing, learning how to confront and communicate with his father, striving for independence, and on to his search for meaning, specifically what it means to be a man.
As the evening goes along one becomes more and more familiar with Valdez’s speech, which is rife with million-dollar words. And the man becomes so dear and admirable that one wants to leap over the non-existent footlights and give him hugs. Indeed many playgoers did so at the end of the play in which Manuel urges each of us to tell our own story, a step on the road to becoming our own man.
And He Became Man is a must-see. Additional performances at Diversionary Black Box 7:30pm Saturday, June 25; 10:30pm Monday, June 27; 2:30pm Saturday, July 2.
The Hamlet Comedy Hour
Presented by Naked Shakespeare Company
The less said about Naked Shakespeare’s The Hamlet Comedy Hour the better. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead it is not. The billing as a burlesque comedy drew me, and so did my extreme familiarity with and love of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
|The company of The Hamlet Comedy Hour|
Jeffrey Gles as Hamlet, foreground
Photo Courtesy of SD Fringe
Let us just say that in order to spoof something so iconic one must first thoroughly understand and inhabit the material and have the ability to play it with absolute sincerity. Many actors in this production had not the slightest idea what they were about. Needless to say, in spite of the fact that some of the sight gags – (Ophelia is a Caitlyn Jenner look-alike) and the costumes are amusing – I mostly suffered. In case you’re inspired to go (I now discover that the director is Christopher R), additional performances at Diversionary Main Stage are 11:30am Saturday, June 25; 9pm Sunday, June 26; 4pm Wednesday, June 29; 4pm Saturday, June 2.
T.S. Eliot: A New Musical
Produced by American International Theater and Akim O’Quinn (what a splendid name! who plays Rev. Hammond).
J. Alfred Prufrock (Liz Marsden) and T.S. Eliot (Bradley Beamon) are the main characters as Prufrock, title character in Eliot's 1915 poem, endeavors to save Eliot (later a Nobel Prize winner) from himself, an American-born British poet and essayist with homosexual proclivities (the international jury is still out on this matter). We all know what happened to his first wife, Vivienne, but the musical doesn't take us that far, though she is a character in the play.
In William Roetzheim’s book (and lyrics), Eliot waxes long about his love for Jack (Leviticus Padilla) while Prufrock tries to convince him he can never be successful in Great Britain without a “normal” life – wife and children.
There are 11 songs, written by Vladimir Spasojevic and Andrew Fox, in the almost sung-through piece. Most sound alike. The clever title and perhaps the most memorable song is “Sin Just a Little Bit.” The 11 person company does a good job of articulating the lyrics, though few of them have vocal and musical chops, and few could be termed singers. A trio of dancers is included in the scene, which includes the potential bride with an unfortunate high note, the forbidden lover, a fortuneteller and the requisite Furies. Poor Eliot.
Though not original, the premise is clever. The piece needs to be reconsidered and stripped of redundancy. This group from Jamul can do it.
For a schedule and tickets to all Fringe shows (only $10 each; plus Fringe tag,(one time, $5) go to sdfringe.org