Now: Pinky Swear returns to the rock musical format with “Cabaret XXX: Love the One You’re With.” While last year’s show was about the sadness, anger and acceptance of breaking up, this year’s entry looks at relationships in progress.
Then: Although he had wanted to mount a one-man show for decades, the exceedingly affable co-director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies had never appeared onstage before he brought his first solo show, “Krapp’s Last Power Point,” to 2009’s Capital Fringe Festival. The key takeaway was that acting can be a terrifying, stressful situation. At least until the good reviews start rolling in.
“After the first night I told my wife, ‘I’m never going to do this again,’ ” he recalls. “And then after the last night, about a week went by, and I said, ‘Here’s my idea for next year.’ And she said, ‘Wait a second, you said you were never going to do this again.’ ”
Feffer has returned to Fringe every year since with well-received shows and honed his acting skills on the job while mounting ever more complicated productions.
Now: Feffer draws from his own experiences for “The Pundit.” His first ensemble production looks at the consequences after a person is pressured into appearing to be an authority on a subject that he or she doesn’t fully comprehend, just to feed a 24-hour news cycle.
“I create a character who goes out on a limb to talk about a situation he’s unfamiliar with, and the consequences are considerable,” Feffer says. “The consequences are considerable in a comic mode, but about halfway through the play you realize it’s not a comedy anymore.”
Another first this year: Feffer will take his show on the road, to the New York Fringe Festival in August.
Then: Banished? Productions artistic director Carmen Wong likes to joke that the group is the problem child of Fringe, always creating quandaries for festival co-founder Julianne Brienza. For example, how do you sell traditional tickets to a performance-art piece that also doubles as a mobile dining experience?
Such shows raise more questions than answers, so maybe it’s appropriate that there’s a question mark in the middle of the company’s name.
The group’s first production, Pablo Picasso’s “Desire Caught by the Tail,” took place during Fringe 2006, and Banished? has returned every year since, offering increasingly audience-inclusive performances. The group’s most notable show, “A Tactile Dinner” (which spawned last year’s spin-off, “A Tactile Dinner Car”), exploded the fourth wall and gave viewers an avant-garde multi-course meal of dance, music and squashed snack cakes.
“We work in a mode that really allows the audience to sink in and relax with us and be part of the show, or at least be part of the spirit of the show,” Wong says. “And, increasingly, we’ve made them do more.”
Now: After “Into the Dollhouse,” February’s well-received examination of adolescence at Flashpoint, Banished? returns to Fringe with more experimental work. “The Circle” is an audio walk that blends fiction and non-fiction stories inspired by Dupont Circle. Theater-goers simply don their headphones for a guided amble, but, for a requisite twist, the walk unfolds around Fort Fringe instead of Dupont, taking the geography-based tour out of context.
Pointless Theatre Company
Then: Given that Fringe performers share stages with other groups, putting up and taking down sets can be its own fast-paced art form. As a result, most companies go with the less-is-more approach.
Not so with Pointless Theatre Company, formed by a group of friends who met at the University of Maryland.
“One of the running jokes in our company is: ‘More stuff,’ ” says Lex Davis, who directs this year’s production.
Pointless has gained a reputation as a puppet company, beginning with Fringe 2010’s “The Sleeping Beauty: A Puppet Ballet” and moving on to “Hugo Ball: A Super Spectacular Dada Adventure,” both of which took home Fringe awards for best experimental production.
“But once we started branching out into trying to develop new shows, it wasn’t just about puppets,” says co-founder Matt Reckeweg. “[We said] let’s add masks, let’s add dancers, let’s add fights, let’s add any sort of technical element, so that what we have now is not a puppet company but more of a spectacle company.”
The result is a kind of magical ambience, which has extended to shows such as “Minnie the Moocher,” last spring’s sellout at Flashpoint that featured a lot more stuff, namely, a seven-piece jazz band.
Now: With eight actors and three musicians, “Imagination Meltdown Adventure” looks at — and subverts — the archetypal hero’s journey, which begins when the main character unleashes a fantastical apocalypse. Next up, the group begins work on an adaptation of “The Canterbury Tales.”
Capital Fringe Festival
Thursday-29. Various locations. 866-811-4111. www.capfringe.org.
$17, plus a one-time purchase of a festival button, which is $5 through
July 12, $7 thereafter.