The Capital Fringe Festival, in all its sprawling, unjuried creative chaos, is about life and death, and love and sex, and sorrow. It’s Shakespeare and fairy tales, burlesque and belly dancing, and “cosplay kitten comedy.” It’s about witches and wombat drool. It’s buying a ticket to invite an actor into your home to wash your dishes and perform a monologue of your choosing. It’s a ballet performed by construction cranes and a puppet play for adults only. Boring, it’s not.
Now in its 10th year, the nearly month-long stage festival is settling nicely into its new digs on Florida Avenue NE, a move that has shifted the entire endeavor eastward: The 22 venues, hosting nearly 125 productions, revolve around Brookland, Trinidad and H Street, with a shuttle bus connecting them.
We couldn’t help but notice some connections among this year’s shows, too, amid the wild creativity. Plays about social justice and mental illness are having a moment, and creative retellings of Shakespeare are always on the docket. But beyond that, it’s a year for . . . vegetables? We’ve highlighted some promising plays with that theme and others.
"Mine/Field" It's hard to keep secrets on the Internet. Glade Dance Collective uses movement to explore the concept of privacy and security online, and to dance on that blurred line between public and private.
"Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom" The horror-masters of Molotov Theatre Group aren't afraid to produce plays with a high body count or a dousing of fake blood. They return to Fringe with playwright Jennifer Haley's show about a zombie video game so realistic that the teens playing it lose their grip on reality.
"#sexts" You can learn everything you need to know about this play from these emoji:
"Tammy Faye's Final Audition" Don't cry any mascara-clumped tears for this disgraced televangelist's wife. Brick Monkey Theater Ensemble brings back Tammy Faye Bakker and her former husbands for a triumphant redemption -- a fever-dream of a new show called
"Tammy Faye Wins at Life." Or is it all in her head?
"Priest/Penitent" When a lapsed Catholic shows up at a Saturday night confession to unburden himself of a whopper of a sin, a priest is forced to confront his own doubts about the church. Bob Lohrman plays both the priest and the penitent.
"St. Jimmy Celebrates 'The Food at Our Feet' " After praying to Buddha and Jesus, "spiritual voyager" Jimmy Grzelak invites Fringe audiences and Food Network stars (all played by Grzelak) to join him for communion. Think less heavenly host and more pineapple and Paula Deen.
"Ambien Date Night" Erin Bylander has covered the single life before - in her charming 2013 Fringe debut, "OK Stupid's Secret Math Lab." This time around, her story revolves around a government worker whose sleeping-pill habit has led to an active dating life - at
least in her dreams.
"BoomeRaging:From LSD to OMG" Have you ever wondered whether you were experiencing an acid flashback or showing signs of dementia? Then political satirist Will Durst's one-man show is for you. Durst is known for his funny observations, and here he focuses his keen eye on what
it means to be a baby boomer in 2015.
"Dr. Freeman's Motivational Inspirational Pill of a Million Secrets" This show is free, and you know what that means: It's part of the plan to get you hooked. The 30-minute performance features David Klinger playing a pill-shilling doctor (or, more likely, a "doctor") who promises a quick fix.
FRACTURED FAIRY TALES
"Belle and the Beasties" We know what happens in the real world when a relationship doesn't work out. But in fairy-tale land, what if happily ever after doesn't happen? That's the basis of Doug Wilder's play, which takes place after a beauty kisses her beast only to find that he's still the same hairy, temperamental guy.
"Witches" Red Knight Productions has a habit of blending comedy and action in its fantastical adventures with shows such as "Medieval Storyland." "Witches" exists in the same universe, following a Sleeping Beauty type whose alarm clock isn't a handsome prince's kiss, but a coven of potion-makers.
"Straight on Til MoUrning" Last year the group relEASE won the annual Director's Award - selected by festival founder Julianne Brienza - for "Self," a movement-based performance about self-acceptance. This year the troupe is tackling another big theme through the lens of "Peter Pan." In this case, Captain Hook is a police officer and the Lost Ones are orphans and runaways who have banded together into their own ragtag family unit.
FRUITS AND VEGGIES
"The Giant Turnip" A Ukrainian folk tale comes to life with the help of rod and shadow puppets. This all-ages show follows a farmer and his wife who grow a root vegetable so massive they can't possibly harvest it. Whatever will they do? Enlist a friendly gnome, of course.
"Tomato Beard" There are curses and then there are curses. Poor Tom Beard is afflicted with the latter when he ends up with a beard filled with smelly, slimy decomposing tomatoes and a farm where nothing grows. Naturally, a quest ensues to undo the spell. Unnaturally, this isn't a family-friendly show.
"War and Peas" If you thought "Alien vs. Predator" was a good matchup, wait till you witness this battle: Fruits vs. Vegetables. This kid-friendly show is wordless (obviously -- food can't talk!), using puppets and movement to stage an epic battle between a good eggplant, an evil pineapple and others.
IF YOU GO
Capital Fringe Festival
Performance times and locations vary; visit www.capitalfringe.org to view schedules and purchase tickets. Tickets also can be bought by calling 866-811-4111 or at the Fringe box office, 1300 H St. NE.
Dates: Through Aug. 2.
Prices: Tickets to individual shows are $17, but there are several multiple-ticket packages that reduce the cost. All Fringe-goers age 13 and older also must make a one-time purchase of a Fringe button for $7.