The Capital Fringe Festival enters the home stretch grinning as the multivenue performing arts carnival in Southwest D.C. hits its final week. Catching acts at Blind Whino, the flamboyantly painted former church turned arts club, Savannah Stephens enjoys the global mayhem of “The Truth*” (a West Coast import) and Celia Wren admires the writing in “Heartbreak Hitman.”
“The Truth*,” a vaudeville comedy created by Oregon’s A Muse Zoo, puts on an incredibly low-stakes “Game of Thrones” that draws you in, even without dragons. The audience becomes a college classroom where we learn about four dictators of different countries: Flowerton, Gorgonzolia, Moleville and Benmark are all on a quest to claim an heretofore unknown fifth land of Kudnanibonbar, for very different reasons.
Petunia (Alice Glass), queen of Flowerton, wants to grow flowers for drugs. Jean Pierre (Michael Dias), the Prince of Gorgonzolia, overthrew the parliament and is now on a quest to get more land for his goats and his cheese. He’s also a bit murderous. Molbius (Sarah Brizek), the head mole of Moleville, wants clean dirt for his people. Sure, he’s the reason the dirt is radioactive and it killed his son, but he wants to fix that. And, finally, we have Jeff (Kenzie Bizon in a hilarious turn as a perpetual man-child), the very inbred prince of Benmark with more than one allusion to Hamlet. A departure: Jeff wants to build water parks.
Once these players all get to Kudnanibonbar they naturally fight, and the players here are all adept in physical comedy. Soon they realize they can coexist, and they almost settle on a plan when a bomb gets dropped. A Muse Zoo takes the idea of history being written by victors (always in the eye of the beholder, like the truth) and turns it into a wacky and fun tale. For an impressively dense story that could have become tedious, the ensemble did a phenomenal job of captivating the audience. This isn’t a Fringe story to miss, and that’s the truth.
70 minutes. July 24 and 29 at Blind Whino, 700 Delaware Ave. SW.
— Savannah Stephens
Has “Sleepless in Seattle” met D.C.’s gig economy? Tried and true rom-com tropes certainly abound, like roses on Valentine’s Day, in “Heartbreak Hitman,” an amusing and clever strum-the-heartstrings yarn written and directed by Leigh Giangreco. Displaying a more mainstream approach than typical Fringe fare, this decently acted show (which suffers from a production hiccup or two) imagines the kooky complications that snag the budding attraction between two Washingtonians.
After Jon (Walter Riddle) is sacked from his federal office job, he reinvents his career, hiring himself out as a go-between for people who want to break up with significant others but can’t bear to do it themselves. Meanwhile, after a meet-cute introduction, he befriends Jo (Jasmine Jones), a star reporter for a newspaper that sounds a lot like The Washington Post. Afraid Jo would condemn his métier, Jon conceals it from her, even after she’s assigned to do an article on the freelance-breakup-artist trade. Complicating the situation further is that Jo’s egoistic, bow-tie-wearing boyfriend (Will MacLeod) wants out of their relationship and has hired Jon to deliver the bad news.
The characterizations are sturdy, but some stiffness in actor body language indicates that the production might have benefited from a few more rehearsals. A more significant problem is that, in Blind Whino’s cavernous “Turquoise” space, the play’s dialogue is sometimes hard to hear. That’s a real shame, because the banter — delivered at rapid-fire pace, a la “His Girl Friday” — is witty and filled with droll local references (to Capitol Hill Books, “This Town” author Mark Leibovich, etc.).
90 minutes. Through July 29 at Blind Whino, 700 Delaware Ave. SW.
— Celia Wren
All tickets $17, plus a one-time $7 purchase of a Fringe Festival button. 866-811-4111 or capitalfringe.org
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