It’s that time of year again kids! The Pittsburgh Fringe Festival kicked off its second annual festival May 8th and we’re in for even more fun than last year!
First on my list of things to see was The Village Hotel written by local playwright, and member of the Pittsburgh Stage team, Tyler Plosia and directed by David Minniefield. Our story opens with “Her” (Natalie Spanner) recounting a memory of her first abortion alone onstage. This quickly shifts into a Clerk (Chuck Timbers) at the Village Hotel getting robbed at gun point by “Him” (Michael Perrotta) who is Her boyfriend. The Clerk ends up talking Him down, convincing Him to be “Security” at the hotel and paying Him accordingly. The three spend a lot of time chatting at this reception desk; discussing topics I wouldn’t find myself spouting to just anyone. Now, I won’t spoil the entire ending but I was surprised when Him admitted that he didn’t want to rob the Clerk initially, he wanted to kill him for a gang initiation. That definitely wasn’t a twist I was expecting. And that’s what I really like about most Fringe festival shows: they don’t spoon feed you.
The ensemble cast did a wonderful job of working together and playing off of each other. Spanner really hit the nail on the head as the light-hearted, naïve yet troubled girl who went from indifferent to scared to hopeful over the course of the show. Perrotta played a somewhat stereotypical, gritty Jersey dude who decides killing a man is his best option. At first, his voice and stage presence were almost too big for the cozy Maker Theater but then I realized you probably have to be a bit of an over-the-top person to want to rob a hotel, right? And Chuck Timbers as the Clerk was just a treat. He’s just a man trying to get by, minding his own business, and in comes this tornado of a situation. We find out a lot about his unfortunate past in his soliloquy which makes the ending that much more heart wrenching.
After The Village Hotel, I headed out to Max’s Allegheny Tavern for StorySwap next. I saw “Shades of Shel”, a more grown up collection of poems written by the popular children’s book writer, Shel Silverstein, performed by Sean Miller. Not really knowing what I was getting myself into, I was pleasantly surprised by the informative yet highly entertaining performance Miller gave us. He started off with “Hamlet as Told on the Streets”, which if you couldn’t tell by its title, was the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet as told in layman’s terms set to the iconic rhyme and style Shel Silverstein was known for. That was followed up by “The Perfect Wave”, “The Perfect High”, and “The Greatest Smokeoff”.
Sean Miller is an astounding story-teller (and balloon artist and fire eater). His demeanor while standing in front of his audience was that of an old friend you’re catching up with or your cool uncle telling you of his latest adventures when you were a kid. Despite a few minor word jumbles, Miller smoothly recited all of Silverstein’s poetry with ease. For a while I thought that maybe I misunderstood and that Miller might have written these himself he was such a natural. It was almost as if he were just talking about things off the top of his head. The only thing wrong with the “Shades of Shel” StorySwap is that was only performed one time, to an audience of 8 but I was lucky enough to see it.
And that’s all I’ve got for now! Stay tuned for more reviews and articles about the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival all weekend! Keep track of what we’re doing by following the #TPSdoesFringe tag on Twitter!