Two companies that have put on shows at the San Diego International Fringe Festival in the past have returned this year, both with short productions that offer satisfying experiences.
One of these is Get Free, the hip-hop dance production from bkSOUL that recently played at Centro Cultural de la Raza. The show uses music, dance and the spoken word to advocate freedom.
Some of its sequences, such as “Wanna Be Free” and “Free Too,” use memorable melodies, live singing and choreography to share the show’s message. The production features emotional singing from musician/singer Jesse Mills and Kendrick Dial coupled with expressive dancing from performers such as Artistic Director grace shinhae jun, Ian Isles and Jaime Nixon.
In addition, Dial, Ant Black and Miesha Rice-Wilson bring passionate conviction to scenes where they speak. I was emotionally affected by the work of every company member.
Moving on from the serious to the absurd is Lonesome Whistle Productions staging of Space Force! at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater. Audiences in 2103 watch a live episode of a fictitious TV show, “Space Force!” The plot revolves around two bumbling detectives, Maytag (Jeff Hillman) and Diggs (Michael Shantz), taking place in 2073, a time where Donald J. Trump has become planet president.
From the title, a reference to the 6th independent military service branch announced by President Trump, and the subject matter, one would think the show would primarily be an attack on the current administration.
At its core, however, the plot is really an enjoyable spoof of both good and cheesy detective shows from the 1980’s including “Miami Vice” and “Magnum, P.I”. In contrast to those detectives, however, Maytag and Diggs constantly make decisions that are reckless, stupid and narcissistic. The references to the current administration form part of the buddy crime-drama parody script.
Shantz and Lonesome Whistle Founder Tom Steward’s script features irreverent jokes, and enough clever lines to keep the comedic moments from being completely mindless. Steward does funny voiceover work for the show, and Shantz and Tim Gallagher’s audio complements the storyline. As the director of the piece, Shantz impresses the most with his comical action scenes, including an absurdly humorous motor lunar bike chase and a comedic foot chase.
Shantz and Hillman are hilarious in their expression of stereotypical “bro culture” behavior, while co-stars Julia Giolzetti and Omar Ramos are equally hilarious in portraying a couple of different characters that appear in the narrative.
Poking fun at well-known television clichés of the classic retro mystery series, Space Force! is enjoyably lowbrow, and the tongue-in-cheek tone of the piece is hard to resist.