A Sampling of Offerings From the Capital Fringe Festival

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By Nelson Pressley
Special to The WashingtonPost
Thursday, July 23, 2009

As the Capital Fringe Festival, the annual extravaganza of offbeat theater and dance, approaches its closing weekend, we present a sampling of a few more of its myriad offerings. For performance schedules, visit http://www.capitalfringe.org.

'BARE BREASTED WOMEN SWORD FIGHTING'

To answer the obvious questions about "Bare Breasted Women Sword Fighting," (a) indeed they are, and (b) yes, they do. Which is why no one under 18 is admitted to this bawdy vaudeville at Source.

Not that toplessness is all there is to the act; after all, a savvy group of women aren't just going to do that, are they? What the performers of Dog & Pony DC have created is both a burlesque and an anti-burlesque: They'll show some skin, but this ain't yer daddy's strip club. They're going to play with conventions and make you think about it.

That attitude leads to some of the most sophisticated comedy I've seen so far on the Fringe, especially when an emcee dressed like Marlene Dietrich (men's tux) and dripping with Mae West innuendo saucily warms up the crowd. The acts that follow are a weird, canny blend of degrading and empowering, with the first -- "The Amazing Rubber Woman," who bounces back with a chirp and a smile each time her man slugs her -- making it impossible to view anything else as a mere playful display.

There's a rasslin' match between a Warrior Princess and a Damsel in Distress, a pair of half-nude Amazons glowering and wielding swords, and a string of classic dirty jokes told by a three-headed figure embodying the stereotypical virgin-mother-whore view of womanhood. The entire evening is awfully skillful: The comic timing is polished, and the cast banters winningly with the crowd throughout the evening. The women generally keep the irony dialed pretty high, and the control is impressive as they play these overdrawn types to the hilt, egging the audience on in a peculiar high-spirited conspiracy to have women flirting, fighting and exposed.

'DIZZY MISS LIZZIE'S ROADSIDE REVUE'

A little bit of Woodstock at the Fringe: That's what you get with the party-ready "Dizzy Miss Lizzie's Roadside Revue -- The Saints."

This is storytelling via rock-and-roll. The band of musicians who had a hit last summer with an electrified "Oresteia" are now reviving it at the Church Street Theater, and their amped-up, laid-back carnival routine in "The Saints" at the Baldacchino tent still makes them as cool as anything at the festival.

Again, the original songs are by guitarist Steve McWilliams (who also serves as emcee) and keyboardist Debra Buonaccorsi (who also works the accordion, guitar and mandolin). Their blues-based tunes tell the tales of various biblical saints, from Augustine (played in cowboy gear by bassist Jason Wilson) to Francis of Assisi (a very hippy-dippy Jordan Klein).

This being rock-and-roll, it's all done with equal parts devotion, subversion and wit. The Virgin Martyrs get a honky-tonk number, St. George sings a country ballad and the range of styles surprise and amuse. The band also rocks, which means the audience spontaneously claps along. As before, Dizzy Miss Lizzie looks so fine: The muscular, high-spirited music and appealingly casual atmosphere have no trouble creating new converts.


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