This past Saturday (June 27th, 2015) was the last day of the St. Lou Fringe Festival and, by sheer coincidence, also the best one as far as the shows I saw went. Better yet, three of the four I saw were by local groups.
Thursday, June 25th, turned out to be my best Fringe experience yet, with two fine one-person shows and a powerful Shakespeare-inspired cabaret act.
With apologies to Rev. Dodgson: The time has come, the critic said, to talk of many things / Of Wonderland and mustache wax, and kids who act and sing.
The classical music and theatre scenes in St. Louis are both lively, yet the art form that combines both—opera—still struggles. Opera Theatre produces generally fine work and gets international attention, but it’s only up and running for a little over a month. Add in the short seasons by our two smaller companies, Union Avenue Opera and Winter Opera, and local fans get to see, at most, a dozen productions per year.
One of the great things about the Fringe Festival is the outlet it offers for performances that don’t easily fit into neat categories. Take, for example, “Hey Minnie the Moocher: A Musical Tribute to the Cotton Club Swing Jazz Legends.”
You’d think the St. Lou Fringe Festival would be fertile ground for a cabaret act. The venues are small, the shows are required to be under an hour, and you need to be able to pack up and move your act quickly. It all seems ideally suited to the cabaret format, and yet to the best of my knowledge the closest thing to a cabaret performance this weekend is Christy Strickland’s entertaining “Live at Satori” show.
Glen Berger’s 2001 one-man play “Underneath the Lintel” is the story of an obsessive Librarian (we never do learn his name) in a small Dutch town whose neatly ordered (if not terribly fulfilling) life is turned upside-down when a copy of a Baedeker travel guide turns up in his “returns” box one day. It’s 123 years overdue, filled with notes in a variety of different languages (yet all, apparently by the same hand), and the borrower is identified in the records only as “A.”
Official description: “An electronic musical adventure featuring a guided bipolar meditation, Robot Therapists, lascivious puppets, and a destitute magician. Caila Lipovsky has run the gamut as a performance artist and physical theater in Chicago, NYC, and San Francisco. She was lead singer of the avant-cabaret punk band “apartment” for 5 years and has performed her own work in the NYC Fringe Festival, in nightclubs, galleries, on the subway, and in public bathrooms.”
Official description: “Punk pixies. Sassy elves. Tinkerbell in combat boots. Our first international Fringe act ever grabs audiences by the hair and drags them laughing into Fairyland. Forget the little storybook fairies you think you know… Heather Dale and S.J. Tucker are beautiful badass myth-makers, who sing Celtic folk-rock songs about mischief and magic.”