Capital Fringe Festival reviews: ‘King Lear,’ ‘VindleVoss Family Circus,’ more


Mixrun Productions presented the play ‘King Lear’ as part of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festital. (Kristen Quade/COURTESY OF CAPITAL FRINGE)
‘King Lear,’ ‘VindleVoss Family Circus,’ ‘Between Takeoff and Landing’

Getting hung up on uncovering the Best of Fringe is so not the spirit. Fringe, styled as the people’s festival, is the midway: You stroll the sidewalks of New York Avenue NW between Sixth and Seventh streets, you look at your fat 68-page guide, you accept the postcards passed out by performers hustling themselves.

Fringe is unjuried, meaning the organizers don’t much vet this stuff. They respect performers and promote professionalization, but mainly they open tons of doors and create an opportunity for flow. So a biker “King Lear”? Go with it.

Alas, the show has no vroom. Of course, you can do “Lear” as Hell’s Angels infighting, but the Mixrun Productions staging in the Apothecary is more persuasive in its program notes than on the small stage. The direction merely moves traffic on and off, and though Michael Galizia sounds formidable and looks fearsome as the big-bellied graybeard leader of the pack, the acting’s just not very colorful. Ninety sluggish minutes in a hot venue — it happens.

To the big top, the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar. Cold beer, nectar of the intrepid Fringer. Time to catch “The VindleVoss Family Circus Spectacular.” Cute: They toss out popcorn and glow sticks to the crowd, which is seated on three sides of the stage. It’s a two-person act, with Carrie Brown as a mustachioed, European-accented emcee and Karim Muasher as a performing zombie. (Shades of the talented monster in “Young Frankenstein.”) They do amusingly minimalist circus acts and recall the glories of yesteryear.

Brown and Muasher have a polished deadpan style, but the increasingly nuanced material wears thin and the shtick peters out. Show’s over in 45 minutes.

Hmm, could’ve caught “A Day at the Museum” at the Warehouse — silent comedy, original music, nudity. A young man at the box office bars late entry; there is no late seating at Fringe, period. Excellent policy! It eliminates inane interruptions during performances and eradicates cherry-picking — 20 minutes of this, a half-hour of that. Shows a little integrity. This ain’t a circus.

Then it’s off to “Between Takeoff and Landing” at the Goethe-Institut down Seventh. It’s a solo show by Michael Walsh, who was flying home from Ireland on 9/11. He got stranded in Newfoundland, and the act — a little harried in the execution, but always genial — is his warmhearted chronicle of the people he was with and how the strangers gradually bonded.

Thirty people make a crowd in the intimate Fringe venues, and this is yet another well-attended show. Walsh is personable and easy with the Irish and New York accents; the audience rewards him with a standing ovation. The opening weekend crowds have generally been extremely appreciative.

Pushovers? It’s the wrong standard. Of course there is good and bad, and increasingly that’s the thrust of the “What have you seen?” chat in the Baldacchino bar. (A D.C. actor there after his show Sunday night was already evangelical about a performance he’d caught.) But the happy campers in the crowd seem simply delighted to be in the flow, early adepts at the Zen of picking Fringe.

Nelson Pressley

First Post byline, 1992; covering theater for the Post since 1999. His book "American Playwriting and the Anti-Political Prejudice" will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014.
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