As could be expected for a late Thursday afternoon, the 2017 San Diego International Fringe Festival didn’t start with a large attendance. Several shows had less than five audience members, which is something that I’ve rarely experienced at any theatrical event.
Regardless of the turnout, the quality of entertainment was high. I started the day watching a pleasant down-to-earth comedy and ended the evening by seeing an intense examination of an uncomfortable subject.
We’ve Seen Enough!, presented by BOP Productions, is Rob Elk’s one-man show where the artist(known to San Diegans for his acting in Triple Espresso) shares amusing short tales about his triumphs and struggles.
When it comes to happier moments, Elk discusses his positive interactions with entertainers like Penn & Teller, and Lewis Black. Gloomier experiences aren’t ignored either, as he talks about both professional and personal issues.
Elk packs in as much as he can in 60 minutes at The Geoffrey Off Broadway. There are songs, anecdotes and even an original epilogue to “Of Mice and Men.” He also will use shadow puppets if there is a big enough crowd.
An hour isn’t enough time to fully appreciate Elk’s talents. His tunes are often shortened and Elk seemed to be figuring out how much he could fit in 60 minutes. Still, it was oddly appealing to see Elk verbally interacting with the stage manager about cues and making sure he wasn’t going over the time allotted to him.
The biggest takeaway from Elk’s play is that he manages to retain a positive outlook on the world, even as he faces numerous obstacles. That upbeat spirit can be motivational for those in the need for a pick-me-up.
Intimate stories weren’t the only ones featured on the first day of Fringe. Pump Pictures premiere of the comedy/drama, Fulcrum., revolves around students affected by the aftermath of Donald Trump becoming president.
Shortly before the results of the election, a lockdown occurs at a high school in Carmel Valley. No one is found guilty of threatening students and faculty, but tension still exists on campus after the incident.
Once Trump becomes president, high-schoolers such as Toby(Zachary Sundstedt), Annie (Eevie Perez) and Andrew (Geoffrey Ulysses Geissinger) deal with conflicts ranging from politics, low self-esteem and potential violence.
18-year old Phillip Magin’s writing and directing at the Lyceum Space is nothing short of ambitious. Magin never is one-sided when it comes to depicting people’s beliefs. His tensest, and sometimes funniest, scenes are when characters get into arguments about both political parties.
He understands the different ways young people and adults talk. They are depicted with plenty of likable and flawed qualities.
Cast members who leave an impression are Sundstedt, Perez, Adam Sussman (playing Toby’s perverted plastic surgeon father, Dr. Elmer Goldstein) and Magenta Brown as the dedicated teacher, Mrs. Davidson.
Issues with Magin’s writing involve several subplots that aren’t necessarily needed. A long sequence with the harsh drama teacher, Mr. Kowalski (Safi Jafri), uses wacky humor that doesn’t mesh with the rest of the script. Another minor part of the play focusing on a senior, Margaret (Camryn Cox) and her hatred of Davidson never really ends up adding to the narrative.
Fulclrum. might cover too much ground, but it’s refreshing and timely to see such a smart tale so soon after the election.
This wasn’t the only show on Wednesday evening that was meant to inspire long discussions. At the Spreckels Theatre, Jim Sea stars in a solo piece, Unredeemable, about a sex offender.
He portrays Dan, the jailed offender, and the play features two people with contrasting beliefs about how he should be treated.
A psychologist, Mary, wants others to view him as a human being, while a bureaucrat, Sawyer, believes that he is an evil monstrous criminal. When talking with Dan, Mary learns about his traumatizing past and what led to his indefensible crime.
The actor’s script, adapted from his unproduced screenplay, is an evenhanded treatment about a problem not often discussed in public. Mary and Sawyer’s opinions about Dan are very strong and, through Sea’s prose, they express their views persuasively.
Every person in Unredeemable is intriguing, although Dan gets the most attention. Sea is sadly fragile and disturbing when he graphically recounts the abuse Dan suffered as a child.
Unredeemable isn’t meant to change people’s views, yet Sea and Christine McHugh’s spare direction gives everyone who sees the play a great deal to think about.
Right out of the gate, the Fringe is already giving San Diegans several unique and unpredictable selections. All three stagings deserve to attract a lot more theatregoers as the eleven days of excitement continue.