Celia Wren, Roger Catlin and Cassandra Miller review the latest acts from the ongoing Capital Fringe Festival in Southwest Washington, from blissful high art to the down and dirty business of dating.
Isadora Duncan: Landscapes of the Soul
Dance history meets contemporary headlines in Word Dance Theater’s intriguing entry to the 2018 Fringe Festival. “Isadora Duncan: Landscapes of the Soul” embeds snippets of recent stories — some of them seemingly connected to high-profile news — into reaching, spinning choreography by Duncan, the legendary dance pioneer, who died in 1927.
As masterful pianist Carlos César Rodríguez plays 24 Frédéric Chopin preludes, three dancers, dressed in white or pink flowing robes, take turns eddying around a stark stage area at Christ United Methodist Church. The movements are roomy, natural and often yearning: Arms float out in wondering, hankering gestures; bodies gently spin or skip, or express the flow of a breath.
Periodically, the dance halts and a performer briefly speaks, either describing a reported-on crisis — one account seems to quote a fleeing refugee; another alludes to a murder — or channeling an inspirational epiphany. Adapted by Cynthia Word, the troupe’s founding artistic director, from Washington Post stories and Oprah Winfrey’s “The Wisdom of Sundays,” the spoken moments are so brief as to be enigmatic, but they have been cannily aligned with the choreography and the shifting moods of Chopin’s score. Following a spoken reference to gun violence, for instance, the dancer wafts backward, seemingly shrinking from the horror, to the accompaniment of minor-key chords. (Judith Hansen designed the costumes, which recall Duncan’s preferred stage garb; Brandi Martin designed the lighting. Jordan Gehley, Jenifer Golden and Word danced at the reviewed performance.)
Word Dance Theater has performed the Chopin/Duncan Preludes before: In 2010, the company was the first to perform them all together. (Duncan herself typically danced just a few at a time.) But this version, with these textual embeddings, is a new experiment, and a reasonably successful one. Duncan’s choreography may be historic, but it converses fluently with the here and now.
75 minutes. Through July 26 at Christ United Methodist Church, 900 Fourth St. SW.
— Celia Wren
The Lives Left Behind
Amid the fast-casual fare at Fringe, it’s bracing to face four operatic scenes brimming with ideas and challenging scores in the Silver Finch Arts Collective’s “The Lives Left Behind.”
As its title indicates, each work represents loss, accompanied by an exquisite four-piece orchestra performing scores that are all quite similar in their modernist intent. The first, Joseph Kaz’s “The Female Stranger,” adapted from local Alexandria lore about an 1816 tombstone with that name, features Annie Gill as a sickly Brit whose spouse (Katherine Fili) is having an affair with a figure named Andrew (Kelly Curtin). Baritone Spencer Adamson as a local pastor makes a welcome entrance to complement the three soaring sopranos.
“What Gets Kept,” by Frances Pollock with libretto by Vanessa Moody, is a powerful scene about a woman (Elizabeth Mondragon) on the verge of assisted suicide, as her husband (Nigel Rowe) and unaccepting daughter (Curtin) cope.
In a quick turnaround, Mondragon also plays a psychologist looking into the nocturnal problems of a young man (Rowe) in “Dreamless,” by William Kenlon with libretto by Katie Vagnino.
The 90 minutes end with Michael Oberhauser’s “The Name on the Door,” which adapts an Old Testament tale into a modern story of pop stardom, with Gill as a Madonna-like Jezebel of a certain age, reacting to a loutish producer (Adamson) who has turned his professional and romantic attention to a younger Ariana Grande-type (Curtin).
Corinne Hayes, who directs all four works, uses the white walls of the main chapel of Westminster Presbyterian Church to good effect; white sheets are used to cast shadows upon or to wrap bodies.
Would that more Fringe productions imbued their works with this much ambition and sheer talent.
Through July 26 at Westminster Presbyterian Church, 400 I St. SW.
— Roger Catlin
David Rodwin was gazing at his long-term girlfriend, thinking of how lucky he was to have her in his life, when suddenly she dumped him. At 43, David found himself single for the first time in years, and so begins “F- Tinder,” his hopeful — and explicit — one-man show about his experiences on dating apps being performed, probably inappropriately, in a church at Capital Fringe.
Rodwin, a seemingly “nice Jewish boy” in his mid-40s, fearlessly shares details about his illicit drug use and sex life with dozens of women he has met on Tinder, OkCupid and other dating apps. Even with his vivid descriptions of, for example, having sex with pot entrepreneur Meadow while on a “love drug” or navigating partnering scenarios at a group sex party with his dream girl, Julia, Rodwin still comes off as a hopeless romantic who takes in each new experience with the wonder of a child still unscathed by heartbreak. Even when he’s being held up at gunpoint after being dumped, he still savors the smell of jasmine in the L.A. air. His optimism is inspiring.
Because of his bright-eyed approach to everything from tripping on LSD to embracing his Cyrano de Bergerac Uber driver’s texting instructions, Rodwin makes dating in the age of apps not quite so soulless. He approaches each encounter with hope — either to embrace hookup culture or a potential love of his life — and we’re happy when he finally matches with someone who is receptive to his eager and selfless willingness to love.
60 minutes. Through July 28 at Christ United Methodist Church at 900 Fourth St. SW.
— Cassandra Miller
All tickets $17, plus a one-time $7 purchase of a Fringe Festival button. 866-811-4111 or capitalfringe.org.