The Capital Fringe Festival gets to make noise in the Martin Luther King Jr. Library downtown: Rebecca Ritzel sorts through the fakers in "Perfect Liars Club," while "Yes, and . . ." agrees with Roger Catlin.
"Perfect Liars Club"
“Perfect Liars Club” is the Fringe Festival extension of a storytellers' group that performs once a month at the Bier Baron Tavern in Dupont Circle. Although there’s no alcohol for sale in the basement of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, the format is the same: Four people tell stories. Three are true and one is fiction. Before attempting to vote out the liar, audience members have a chance to publicly interrogate the performers.
At Saturday’s matinee, the Q&A session was actually funnier than the stories. Off-script questions also revealed that two of the four storytellers were better actors, which is to say they could better answer questions on the fly. Perhaps that’s a strawman flaw in the Liars Club concept, but not a detractor from the fun. (There’s a prize for the best question that’s not a “zinger.”)
Saturday’s boisterous-by-midday-standards audience heard from Jenny Splitter, who divulged an alleged lesbian affair in her Del Ray mom’s group; Graham Campbell, who claimed to have lost his bus while working as a New York tour guide; Laura Feiveson, who tried convincing the crowd she accidentally went on a French bike trip for Dutch singles; and Derek Hills, who insisted that after he and his roommates kicked a squatter out of their group house, the mooch won national teacher of the year.
All four tales were amusing and engaging, but Feiveson failed to hold up under questioning. She blushed and giggled when asked about liaisons with the Dutch bikers, and the crowd nearly booed her response to the pointed question: How did you get peanut butter [for PB&J sandwiches] in Europe?
“I don’t know!” she said. “It was in some sort of tube?”
Feiveson ended up getting the most “Liar” votes, prompting host Cara Foran to chide, “What’s the matter? You don’t believe in bike trips? You don’t believe in Dutch people?”
Four fresh storytellers are on deck for Wednesday’s final Fringe performance, and although there’s no guarantee of greased-up men from the Netherlands in Spandex, the Liars Club should continue to provide genuine amusement.
80 minutes. July 20. MLK Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW.
"Yes, and . . ."
He may never have become the household name of his many students, but Del Close’s legacy in comedy and improvisation has spread widely.
This summer in D.C. alone, improv shows from Second City and the Upright Citizens Brigade are playing for weeks at the Kennedy Center and Woolly Mammoth. UCB performers, fresh from the annual Del Close Marathon, sell Close's book “Truth in Comedy” in the Woolly Mammoth lobby.
Miami-based Zack Myers, who grew up in these parts, pays tribute to the brash and inventive teacher who died in 1999 in the vibrant one-man play he wrote, “Yes, and…” at Capital Fringe, directed by Jeff Quintana.
Like Close, Myers is a big, undeniable force, who storms onto the stage in the MLK Library basement determined to commit suicide. Bearded and bug-eyed, he yells about his condition and his history at Second City and The Committee. Above all he repeats the bywords of the “art by committee” that is long-form improvisational theater, repeating his three rules: Don’t deny the reality, take the active voice, and justify what you do.
His speech is directed at one Mr. Skull, which at times represents his father and at other times Yorick as he lapses convincingly into lines from “Hamlet.” (Close famously donated his skull to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre for such use.)
With the fiery power and commitment of a John Belushi (a Close student), Meyers also pauses at one point to speak to the audience, not to collect cues for improv as much as to extend the lesson. It is helpful in a summer of improv to learn about the largely unsung mad genius at the heart of it in this strong Fringe offering.
50 minutes. July 20, 21 and 24. MLK Jr. Memorial Library, A:3, 901 G St NW.
IF YOU GO:
Fringe tickets $17, plus one-time purchase of a $7 Fringe button. Available online at www.capitalfringe.org, 866-811-4111 and at Fringe venues.