Elan Zafir’s autobiographical solo “The Unaccompanied Minor” is a high point in the ongoing Capital Fringe Festival in Southwest D.C., says Roger Catlin, who also checks out the Parkland-based school-shooting drama “14,” while Celia Wren reviews DanceArtTheater’s “Through the Wall.”
The Unaccompanied Minor
“The Unaccompanied Minor” sounds like the Fringe show that will address border separations.
Rather, it is Elan Zafir’s explosive depiction of his own personal heartbreak — seeing his son just four times a year by going through the maddening airport process of transferring unaccompanied youth between divorced couples as if they were prisoner exchanges. Even with the bureaucratic hoops of airport pickup complete, it’s only the beginning of the struggle, as father and son relearn how to relate to each other every time.
Zafir’s impassioned portrayal, intensified within the intimate confines of the walls of a paneled Christ United Methodist Church meeting room, takes him through his own childhood of broken connections, disappointments and a jolting move from Canada to Florida, embodying a dozen characters along the way in whip-smart, breakneck fashion.
The athletic Zafir, who appeared most recently in Mosaic Theater’s “The Vagrant Trilogy,” has devised a show with layers of theatricality that crackle from its use of quick flashbacks, rising tension and even the appearance of Rambo. It culminates in the brilliant juxtaposition of a custody hearing with a high school gang fight.
More than a great Fringe offering,”The Unaccompanied Minor” is a cathartic attempt to vault the myriad walls that can divide father and child.
55 minutes. July 21, 27 and 28. Christ United Methodist Church, 900 Fourth St. SW.
— Roger Catlin
Through the Wall
A white door frame does a terpsichorean turn alongside human dancers in “Through the Wall,” an attractive, poignant new dance-theater piece. Collaboratively created by writer Chelsea Thaler, choreographer-director Meredith Barnes and composer Mark Platenberg and presented by DanceArtTheater, the 50-minute work muses on the idea of change. The doorway, which the gray- and black-clad dancers pass through, pose in and generally manhandle, is a visible metaphor for the motif.
The theme is clearly enunciated in a monologue written and performed by Thaler. Delivered in an unguarded tone, the monologue recounts a woman’s memories of experiences that have forced her to acknowledge the ephemerality of life: an encounter with a dying deer, for instance. The character has come to terms with impermanence: “I will fly through the wall of change,” she exclaims, in the line that explains the title. The door is evidently the egress through that wall. (Elliot Lanes gets credit for the show’s lights and sound.)
In the production’s other sequences, the nine dancers move on and offstage to Platenberg’s wistful-sounding music, which often features incantatory repetitive patterns and which at one point has the composer onstage playing a steel tongue drum. (Most of the music is recorded.) The choreography is quietly insistent, sometimes gently oscillating — a pensive current streaming through the stark basement space. At other moments, a dancer drops to the floor, or catches another dancer briefly by the arm or ankle, as if in tribute to the fugitive nature of human relationships.
“Through the Wall” originated as one of the Source Festival’s Artistic Blind Dates — collaborations among artists of different disciplines — in 2017. Life is change, but when artistic soul mates get together, their ideas can have a little staying power.
50 minutes. Through July 25 at Christ United Methodist Church, 900 Fourth St. SW.
— Celia Wren
A strong young cast leads “14,” a Fringe play in the St. Augustine’s Church break room inspired by the shooting deaths of 14 students (and three staff members) in Parkland, Fla., in February, written by 18-year-old Emma Choi of Vienna, Va., in her second play for Fringe.
Her snappy dialogue sounds perfectly natural in the voice of Josie (Mila Fox-Parola), the teen slam poet devastated by the death of her boyfriend Milo (Jun Ito) in the play’s fictional school shooting. Their early interaction is the highlight of the piece.
The number 14 floats amid the busy projections or to enumerate stanzas of a eulogy Josie reads. The people aren’t age 14, however; Milo has his own Mini Cooper, which his mother (Carla Ito, the actor’s real-life mom as well) can’t bring herself to pick up after the tragedy.
Tanaka Muvavarirwa is good as the friend who tries to get Josie out of her room and out to a rally she’s organizing. And Jerry Kramer has the thankless job of playing the bearded loner turned assailant.
Wracked with survivor’s guilt, Josie wonders whether she should have reached out more to the troubled classmate but thinks going to a rally would make her a prop. Unlike the actual Florida student survivors, those in the ultimately unsatisfying “14” don’t take the extra step to empowerment and political action, suggesting they may still think it’s premature to consider the role of guns in all of this.
50 minutes. July 22, 24, 26, 28. St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, 555 Water St. SW.
— Roger Catlin
All tickets $17, plus a one-time $7 purchase of a Fringe Festival button. 866-811-4111 or capitalfringe.org
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