Tantalizing Tastes from a Boffo Buffet: A Report on the 2017 Capital Fringe Festival Preview Night

Fifteen of the 80-plus shows in the 12th Annual Captial Fringe Festival presented five-minute teaser scenes to a packed house Thursday night at Logan Fringe Arts Space. Act after act, the house was alive with laughs, cheers, and applause. The evening left no doubt that a hot midsummer of alt-entertainment lies ahead.

Interspersed throughout the program of live performance were a some fantastic film shorts, created especially for the evening. The first was a powerfully evocative into to this year’s Fringe theme of resistance in times that are Not Normal (“Welcome to the post-truth world”).

The Capital Fringe 2017 image. Drawing by Bill Warrell. Words in the image are from production blurbs for shows in the 2017 Capital Fringe Festival.

Herewith are promotion photos from the shows featured on the program along with appetizer annotations. These are fleeting impressions, not reviews, and should be taken with a grain of salt. Because with any Fringe show, you never really know what you’re gonna get till you get your butt in a seat. (Click on show names for performance dates and ticket details.)

HOWL: In the Time of Trump (Drama • Solo Performance). Beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s classic screed-scream dramatically declaimed by Robert Michael Oliver for infuriating times such as these.

Help Me, Wanda! (Musical Theatre & Opera • Solo Performance). In a one-woman cabaret, Toni Rae Salmi belts the music of rock legend Wanda Jackson, “the only woman who could sing an Elvis song.”

Release: A Rock Opera (Musical Theatre & Opera). Three wounded men—a veteran with PTSD, an autistic teenager, and a drug addict—find their way to freedom while belting an impressive power-rock score.

LIFE: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts (Dance & Physical Theatre). A mother, father, a brother, and his kid sister sing and dance their way through family dramas to an upbeat musical score. In the scene shown, sibling rivalry became a kick line.

Nasty Women of the Ecstatic Rainbow Mystical Retreat (Comedy). In an intentional living community in the mountains, a group of liberated ladies in loony togas and pink pussy hats take back The Bacchae with rap.

The Kind of Thing That Would Happen (Dance & Physical Theatre). Choreography and monologues, performed to an original score, explore truth and untruth. The scene previewed featured two dancers from the cast of five and they were excellent.

Abortion Road Trip (Comedy). What do two sisters talk about while they’re sitting in the backseat of a taxi on a long ride across state lines to obtain an abortion? At least from the snippet, this play promises to be darkly comic.

Clara Bow: Becoming ‘It’ (Drama • Devised). A vampy, campy, glammy romp, based on the life of Hollywood’s “It Girl” in that pivotal period when silents became talkies and movie stars became our royals.

Numesthesia (Comedy • Solo Performance). Numesthenia is a real diagnosis. AKA Ordinal Linguistic Personification, it’s when someone perceives numbers as human. Now some inventive minds have turned this quirk into a comedy. Go figure.

Trey Parker’s Cannibal! The Musical (Musical Theatre & Opera • Puppetry). Before South Park, before Book of Mormon, Trey Parker made a musical gore fest out of a true-life expedition that ended gruesomely. Likely to mortify vegetarians.

The Blind (Drama). Maurice Maeterlinck’s famous symbolist play about eight sightless individuals abandoned in a strange, suspensful wilderness. In the scene previewed, the characters, all wearing black clothing and white masks, seemed unnervingly haunted.

I’m Margaret Thatcher, I Is! (Comedy). An over-the-top silly send-up of the British Prime Minister, apparently in the trashy tradition of Benny Hill, and featuring three zanies in Margaret Thatcher drag.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear (Comedy). Lauren Gunderson’s play about a woman with an abusive husband who gets her revenge. In the scene shown, he was duct-taped to a chair and tormented. In the script, he’s made bear bait. Expect comedy as catharsis.

The Regulars (Comedy • Romance). Race, romance, urban professionals, and the DC drinking-and-dating scene come in for lighthearted laughs in this relatable play about mixups in modern relationships.

8 Bit Circus S*it (Dance & Physical Theatre • Variety). Some fierce fight choreography ensued in the sample scene, the combatants armed with odd-looking weapons. Turns out those were torches that will be set afire in the real show.


Also on the program was also a hilarious video of Yoda singing to young Mark Hammill’s Luke Skywalker. If you get a kick out of this, there’s a good chance you’ll dig Fringe.

2017 Capital Fringe Festival Preview Night played June 22, 2017, at at the Logan Fringe Arts Space’s Trinidad Theatre – 1358 Florida Avenue, NE, in Washington, DC.

2017 Capital Fringe Festival runs July 6 to 23 at seven different venues, located in the H Street NE and Trinidad neighborhoods. Information about tickets, ticket packages, and Fringe buttons (one of which everyone must wear to be admitted to any show) is available online.


DC Theatre Scene and DCMetroTheaterArts Announce Agreement to Share Review Coverage of Capital Fringe Festival 2017

Magic Time!: 5 Reasons Capital Fringe is a DC Treasure by John Stoltenberg



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John Stoltenberg
John Stoltenberg is executive editor of DC Theater Arts. He writes both reviews and his Magic Time! column, which he named after that magical moment between life and art just before a show begins. In it, he explores how art makes sense of life—and vice versa—as he reflects on meanings that matter in the theater he sees. Decades ago, in college, John began writing, producing, directing, and acting in plays. He continued through grad school—earning an M.F.A. in theater arts from Columbia University School of the Arts—then lucked into a job as writer-in-residence and administrative director with the influential experimental theater company The Open Theatre, whose legendary artistic director was Joseph Chaikin. Meanwhile, his own plays were produced off-off-Broadway, and he won a New York State Arts Council grant to write plays. Then John’s life changed course: He turned to writing nonfiction essays, articles, and books and had a distinguished career as a magazine editor. But he kept going to the theater, the art form that for him has always been the most transcendent and transporting and best illuminates the acts and ethics that connect us. He tweets at @JohnStoltenberg. Member, American Theatre Critics Association.


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