Capital Fringe Festival Reviews: '4.48 Psychosis,' 'Slow News Day' and More

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The dim-sum arts juggernaut known as the Capital Fringe Festival is in full swing again, and if you've been haunting any of the funky festival performance spaces in the vicinity of Mount Vernon Square, you know that the fourth annual installment of low-budget theater, music and dance is as whimsical a showcase as in years past.

The good, the bad, the piquant and the pretentious are now playing at all manner of crazy hours, in venues both air-conditioned for your comfort (Fort Fringe, just off the square) and not so much (the Trading Post, next door). We've been sampling the wares and trying to divide the you-gotta-see-these from the um-maybe-next-years. Here, our first field report. For performance schedules and locations -- the festival runs through July 26 -- consult

'4.48 Psychosis'

British dramatist Sarah Kane was 28 when she killed herself in 1999, shortly after completing "4.48 Psychosis," and the drama's insight into the anger and guilt of the truly desperate will leave you deeply rattled.

Yet the brilliance of the Factory 449 production (at the Bodega, a rough upstairs space that's perfect for this show) may also leave you exhilarated, paradoxical as that sounds. Kane wrote the play as a kind of stream-of-consciousness monologue, but the London premiere, produced posthumously, divided the script into three voices; at the Fringe, director John Moletress uses 10 actors, and the emotional waves they create are often overwhelming.

The actors stand on wooden chairs throughout -- hanging is part of the grim plan -- with sad-eyed Sara Barker in the center, a bloodless figure in pale blue light. Barker is ferocious as the lead voice, but the ensemble work is what pulls the show off, the way Moletress orchestrates the piercingly acidic lines, the communal howls and the sudden sense of profound isolation. It's artful, but in an empathetic way that amplifies Kane's awful vision.

-- Nelson Pressley

A full review of "4.48 Psychosis" is available on the GOG blog.

'Titus X'

This rousingly deranged piece of entertainment answers the question: What gruesome classical play would be voted least likely to make it as a musical?

Yes, this is a punk-rock parody (by Shawn Northrip) of Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus" -- you know, the dainty tragedy in which young Lavinia has her tongue cut out and hands chopped off, and Titus serves up his adversaries for dinner.

I first saw this show in 2003 at Source theater, when it was called "Titus! the Musical." Director Shirley Serotsky's production is more deftly performed now; the jokes play better. (I still love it when Lavinia, satisfyingly portrayed by Anne Marie Dalton, croons sans tongue. It goes something like this: "Oooo, aaaaah, ooooo, aaaaaah.") The rest of the cast -- especially Jason Stiles, reprising his assured turn as Titus -- is swell.

It does go on a mite too long (or maybe my taste for punk is underdeveloped), but it does answer the question. Yes, "Titus X" makes "Sweeney Todd" seem like "The Sound of Music."

-- Peter Marks

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