Sometimes at theatre and film festivals, an hour is more than enough time to tell a cohesive narrative. Then there are other instances where the 60-minute experience is so enjoyable that audiences wish the tale was given more time to expand. That is the case with two extremely different productions, playing downtown at the San Diego Fringe Festival.
Interludes: A New (Orleans) Play is written and performed by former professional dancer, Claire Christine Sargenti. (The star gets to briefly display her impressive tap dancing skills.) Featuring mood enhancing live strains from music director, Darrell Smith, Sargenti portrays twelve characters living in post-Katrina New Orleans. The roles she plays range from a stripper to a jazz pianist.
Some narratives are independent monologues, while others connect in grimly devastating ways.
Death hangs over the show from the very beginning, and Sargenti does not shy away from examining how losing a loved one can disturbingly impact one’s existence.
Yet, Sargenti spends just as much time showcasing the beauty of life. In a sequence that will have many fighting back tears, she humanely depicts a real person, Dominique Liboiron, a Canadian who canoed from Saskatchewan to New Orleans so he could honor his late Uncle Mitch. Sargenti gives Dominique bittersweet dignity in the serene way that she interprets him. Moments like this makes her work a touchingly soulful experience.
After Interludes closes at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center, Sargenti will be producing the play at Zinc Bar in New York City and wants to evolve her script for an off-Broadway rendition. Given the impassioned performance at the Fringe Festival, she has the potential to make her goal a reality.
On a much lighter note, the Lyceum Theatre is home to the musical spoof from Turning Tydes Theatre Company, Les Midge: An Unexpected Journey of Hobbit Proportions. Set to music from Les Miserables, Eric Phillips and Robbie X. Pierce’s script humorously condenses the events from J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel, “The Hobbit.” The writers also draw inspiration from Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy inspired by the books.
Phillips and Pierce’s lyrics to musical numbers including “Three Foot Four” and “Tiny Chairs at Tiny Tables” have a Forbidden Broadway vibe. Their new tunes simultaneously parody and honor the source material that influenced the zany evening.
Eleven players make up the large ensemble for the Fringe Festival. Shane Ruddick Allen’s aggravated Bilbo Baggins and Jordan Hall’s exaggeratingly lovesick take on the elf, Tauriel, are only two of the hilarious artists featured in the comedy. The funny Middle-earth inhabitants do not let the jokes get in the way of their Les Mis singing, which stays true to the vocally demanding Broadway hit.
Les Midge has so many cleverly written tunes and gags, that the adventure will be tough to beat for pure fun at the Fringe. Next year, Turning Tydes is going to stage The Phantom of the Empire, which combines “Star Wars” with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera. Sounds like the makings of another hysterical night.