“It all started at breakfast,” begins the aptly titled “Feisty Old Jew,” a wry bit of storytelling from San Francisco-based solo performer Charlie Varon about an elderly man named Bernie. He’s a fight-picker, and before long he’s schlepping from a retirement home to the other side of town and making a bet with a young punk that he can surf.
Varon has visited Washington before with his “The People’s Violin” at Theater J and the blissfully antic “Rush Limbaugh in Night School” at Woolly Mammoth. “Feisty Old Jew” — a Capital Fringe Festival entry in the cozy art gallery Caos on F — is shorter, more compact and intensely writerly. As Varon tells it, Bernie’s eye for detail is as sharp as his wrath as he treks across San Francisco.
“And he hated whoever had brought fancy coffee drinks to the United States in the first place,” Varon says gravely, capping off an amusing and vivid list of the cranky octogenarian’s discontents.
The monologue, which Varon developed with David Ford, his longtime collaborator and director, is peppered with observations about generational frictions in a rapidly changing society — changes that are particularly abundant in the tech mecca of San Francisco. It’s also inventive and consistently droll: The flinty Bernie is magnetic but unpredictable, and the golden-voiced Varon is plainly entranced by the old man’s undimmed vibrancy.
There is more to come: Varon says this is part of a new short story cycle that he is putting on stage in a very straightforward fashion. (A brief sample from another chapter is part of this 60-minute show.) There are no theatrical embellishments here, just Varon, in black trousers and a red shirt, detailing Bernie’s shaggy crosstown saga with authority and wit.
At 12:30 p.m. Saturday, 6 p.m. Tuesday, 9:15 p.m. Wednesday and 7:45 p.m. Friday at Caos on F, 923 F St. NW. Call 866-811-4111 or visit capitalfringe.org. $17 plus the one-time purchase of a $7 button. About 60 minutes.