'Duets' combines the polish of the mainstream, the quirkiness that is Fringe
For Fringe Festival newcomers, "Duets" might be just the thing for easing into the less-polished aspects of the festival, given that the group behind the show is the established, if fledgling, company No Rules Theatre. The acting is of high quality, the stories are engaging and the backing musicians are skilled. Yet the musical manages to stay true to the Fringe mission of experimentation, in this case playing with different genres and styles. The three vignettes that make up the production are held together by the subject of relationships and the recurrence of actors Jonny Price and Bligh Voth.
The first chapter -- a Kurt Vonnegut short story set to music -- is straightforward and old-fashioned, the quaint tale of an army private who goes AWOL for a girl. The sweet narrative in no way prepares the audience for the second piece, "Ex's and O's," an occasionally raunchy, expletive-laced look at the awkwardness and expectations associated with meeting up with an ex. The discomfort is comical, and the pop score is just catchy enough to distract from the steamy heat of the makeshift theatrical space.
The final installment, based on portions of Dante's "Inferno," goes in the rock-musical direction and follows a man in hell confronting his childhood bully, ex-girlfriends and one reprehensible teacher in an effort to get to heaven. But be warned, hell is expectedly painful, complete with high-pitched screeching and potentially seizure-inducing flashing lights. Still, the ungodly sounds are offset by Voth's singing. Late is better than never, I suppose, and this final vignette allows the singer to demonstrate the full power of her resonant voice with some bluesy numbers about heartbreak.
-- Stephanie Merry