Seven Shows in Shadyside: Adventures in Fringe

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I’m not really sure how to format this. A small group of us saw as many shows as we could within our circumstances. Here you go.

The Accordion Monologues– Stephen Pellegrino began his show explaining his passion for the accordion as well as the ins and outs of the instrument. A very talented and interesting man, he tells of his pastimes with the accordion as well as his family history, weaving performances in and between his tales.

This Betrayal Will Be Our End: The Monologue– I watched Joe Medina perform this monologue on Friday night while he was on Vicodin, having just had kidney stones removed. As a result, he read from a script and had just a touch of trouble setting his musical cues on the first try, but the well-worded, well-organized story of a codependent relationship was one that was ultimately relatable and satisfying. Often heartbreaking, Joe carried us through the timeline of their relationship with a few short intermissions featuring tracks from his record, This Betrayal Will Be Our End, which he describes as his own perfect breakup album. This likable storyteller created something great out of a terrible situation, making an inspiring and uplifting atmosphere for the audience. We even got a happy ending.

Ferdinand produced by Tasty Monster Productions-I started my Saturday morning off with Ferdinand, thinking I was going to watch a show based on the children’s book I had enjoyed as a child, but this was actually about a single father balancing parenthood and work, using the book Ferdinand’s themes as a format for raising his child. Spending much of its time tackling gender binaries while carrying the book’s theme (“be big and kind but strong and gentle”), I found this play to be effective for adults as well as children.  Jake Tudball gave a very good performance as Ferdinand’s father, but I liked the story so much that I would like to see it extended beyond a one-man show. As a bonus perk, the pre-show house music was alt-pop covers of popular children’s songs.

I Am Woman produced by the Murphy/Smith Dance Collective-This was an awesome contemporary feminist dance piece, featuring songs like “The Pill”, “Dream a Little Dream,” and “You Don’t Own Me,” as well as audio tracks from 1950’s housewife guides and a certain ladies-in-pants protestor (“If a woman is wearing pants and a sweatshirt and a man is wearing pants and a sweatshirt, how do you tell them apart?”). I found their choices hilarious and delightful. The dancers were charismatic and personable, and the choreography was lovely. They really drove home the message from beginning to end. Right on.

Truth Dare Double Dare Kiss Torture Murder produced by Panglossian Productions-Having been not much younger than these girls were in the 1998-2002 time frame of the play, I found this painfully accurate. There were funny references to dated products like Fruitopia, Spice Girls, and AIM while all of the characters were multi-dimensional, flawed and unique. All of the actresses were well-cast and had great chemistry and the reading was done well within the space given (a library in a children’s school). The mystery of the tragedy at the center of the plot had a slow but effective reveal and I even shed a tear, because I’m human. We selected this show as Best Ensemble.

Up to Chance: a dance of dragons and dungeons produced by Geeksdanz-I really liked learning about Pathfinder because I don’t know much about table-top RP games in general. That was interesting to me. My problem was that this wasn’t scripted, which may have seemed like a cool experiment during its creation. It was all over the place and unpredictable, as a game typically is. The catalyst was that four dancers were each assigned to a player and were dancing out the emotions and some of the players’ actions within the scene. See? Writing that sentence was difficult. I like the idea but it needs a lot of work and structure. There was one male dancer who was particularly fantastic. He’s a machine.

The Darling Core produced by The Vintage Theatre-This show was so sweet and so, so funny, and original, and the venue was horrid. In the gymnasium of the Boys and Girls Club in Shadyside, it was often difficult to understand the duo due to echoing, but they did their best and put on a good show with a minimal set and a packed script with nice comedic timing. This show included our Best Actor winner, Conor O’Brien.

Looking forward to next year, guys!