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Monday, 15 July 2013 20:02

Performing arts review: 'Connect the Dots,' 'Total Nonsense,' 'Beyond the Fringe With Lulu,' 'Made of Diamonds' and 'Traveling Down the Highway' at St. Lou Fringe Festival 2013

The Goddessey Project at St. Lou Fringe Festival 2013 The Goddessey Project at St. Lou Fringe Festival 2013 Stephanie James
Written by Robert Strasser
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"Connect the Dots"
Core Project of Chicago

I enjoyed this modern dance troupe. Blue Dots, four in all, slid along the black box floor amidst a web of blue painters tape.

Four women who are wearing white tutus over shorts and green tank-tops dance and follow after the sliding dots. Their music of choice is eclectic. At one point they dance to an old-timey static straight out of the Dust Bowl. "Connect" spotlights each of Core Projects members, often in the same number. There was a connection between music, dots, dancers, floor and the very air.

"Total Nonsense"
Grand High

There was a brick wall made out of flats taking up a third of the upstage. The narrator was a droopy-eyed gent in a suit. The rest was nonsense. A Greek chorus morphed into the questions who, what, where, when and why (how), as its five members sport white t-shirts with question marks on the front. The main character was a plethora of ticks. He argued with himself, babbled incomprehensibly, and wore the ugliest vest I've ever seen. Logic was useless, but it was obvious logic was the canvas this nonsense was painted on.

"Beyond the Fringe With Lulu"
First Time Puppet Theater

This performance was an adaptation of "The First Lulu" by Frank Wedekind. The puppets were beautifully handcrafted. Even the monstrous ones had an elegance to them. They used the most elaborate set I saw at the St. Lou Fringe Festival. The plot revolves around Lulu and a possession of men in the 1920s, until she finds freedom in the arms of another woman. With only one man in the cast and a myriad of male characters, Bonnie Taylor definitely cast the right man to imbue all those characters with distinctive voices. All the puppeteers worked their puppets well, though the blocking did not call for a large amount of action.

"Made of Diamonds"
The Goddessey Project of St. Louis

Diamonds wins the coveted "Most Fringy at Fringe" designation. The piece told the rock-opera-superhero-origin story of one woman's transformation into a defender of justice. Screaming guitar licks and hip-hop dancers helped the lead vocalist tell the tale along with a completely digital drum-kit. The vocals were hard to hear at times over the music. Nothing else was like it at this year's festival. A woman's genetic research is stolen, and her father, a famous scientist in his own right, is missing. Our hero must partake of her own research in order to survive a unplanned trip into space. Rock on.

"Traveling Down the Highway"
Don Bailey

Hallelujah. What a joyous celebration of gospel. These people could harmonize. The plot, inspired by a St. Louis family, was simple and touching: a couple tour of the country in a bus singing at churches and festivals and having a family along the way. The family of five settle down in south St. Louis and open a thrift store, though they still record a weekly radio broadcast. The staging was also simple, a few microphones on stools and a keyboard. The sparseness of the set let the acting and singing shine. And the singing shown. The canon of old-time gospel was mined for its standards, and they were performed with reverence, joy and skill. My favorite of the festival.

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