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Open the program book, close your eyes, and point. Go nuts and circle a bunch of shows. Take a chance.

Without trying, you’re bound to discover exciting theater, dance, circus or strange burlesque at the 2016 San Diego International Fringe Festival.

SILO. Choreography by Gina Bolles Sorensen and Kyle Sorensen of sombodies dance theater. Image: Jim Carmody

SILO. Choreography by Gina Bolles Sorensen and Kyle Sorensen of sombodies dance theater. Image: Jim Carmody

In its fourth year, Fringe is bigger and quirkier than ever. The neon colored program boasts “11 Days of Eyeball Busting Shows.” Break that down and you get about 500 performances at 17 venues around town.  To help streamline your fringe binging, here’s a recap of one night and a list of more good bets based on press previews, years past, and friendly tips.

We took the easiest approach Friday night (June 24) and parked directly under the Spreckels Theatre downtown (for $10) before binging on three shows in succession. Two out of three are excellent shows to watch for:

Heads snap and bodies undulate in the athletic and memorable SILO, presented by somebodies dance theater (all lower case). The troupe led by Kyle Sorensen and Gina Bolles Sorensen won the outstanding choreography award at the Fringe last year, and they have a good shot this year. The cast (Angel Acuna, Sulijah Learnmont Nicole Oga, Sandra Ruiz, and April Tra) springs with cat-like precision. The Sorensen with a goatee and April Tra give stellar performances.

SILO is innovative dance theater at a concert level, and the audience sits inches away on the Spreckels stage.  Dancers flinch and scatter in unison to a pulsing score, and they slide over the stage without fear of scrapes or wood burns. Gestures and poses foreshadow new life. Ingenious costumes made of fluffy plastic bags suggest heavenly beings and clouds. White puffy skirts hide their skittering feet, and they appear to float with no effort.

Remember, Fringe is uncensored, unjuried, and 100 percent of ticket sales go to the artists.  The audience decides a show’s success.

Much of the Fringe Festival has been made possible by the late Geoff Shlaes, former executive director of the Spreckels Theatre.  His family has renamed the RAW Space The Geoffrey: Off-Broadway.

2016 San Diego International Fringe Festival Press Preview A Little Bit Off's Bella Culpa ©2016 Sue Brenner Photography — with The Amica Hunter, Amica Hunter, David Cantor

Amica Hunter and David Cantor are the duo of A Little Bit Off.  Performing “Bella Culpa” at the 2016 San Diego International Fringe Festival ©2016 Sue Brenner Photography.

Discover physical comedy at its best inside the Lyceum Theatre, under the Horton Plaza Mall.

A Little Bit Off (with the acrobatic duo Amica Hunter and David Cantor) presents Bella Culpa, a slapstick comedy following two servants in an Edwardian manor. The program aptly describes the off-beat comedy like Downton Abbey meets The Three Stooges.

They make fun of themselves and wave to latecomers as the show begins. The man’s curly hair style is drenched in sweat by the end, and his lady partner keeps reapplying lipstick without a mirror. Without spilling the beans, be prepared for pretend rats, dancing sponges, and dangerous dusting.

A good Fringe strategy is skimming the program and checking a troupe’s track record. This couple based in Portland, Oregon, brought us Beau & Aero and won the Outstanding Physical-Theater Award in SDFringe14.

Couples and families will appreciate their charm and timing, and don’t worry if you have a clown phobia. While there is plenty of clowning around, Bella Culpa is off-beat with a new twist. Hunter and Cantor were hilarious hookers at the public and press previews where they showed off their gift for improvisation.  They know how to think on their feet. Get off your sofa and go see them.

 

Here’s a preliminary list of more good bets:

Cocooned in Kazan – Royal Kung Foolery

The Phantom of the Empire – Turning Tydes

Josephine

Mythos – Opening Pandora’s Box

Eurydice

Bedrooms and Boyfriends

The 23rd Nations of San Diego International Dance Festival is also part of the Fringe.

San Diego International Fringe Festival runs through July 3. Sdfringe.org.

Fringe Central remains downtown, but there are two new gathering spots:

Club Fringe, 2nd floor of the Spreckels Building

Club Fringe, lobby of Diversionary Theatre in uptown

Tickets:  $10 for most shows. One-time purchase of $5 Fringe Tag. $27-$72 for multi-show passes.

 

Kris Eitland

Kris Eitland

Kris Eitland covers dance and theater for Sandiegostory.com and freelances for other publications, including the Union Tribune and Dance Teacher Magazine. She grew up performing many dance styles and continued intensive modern dance and choreography at the Univ. of Minnesota, Duluth, and San Diego State Univ. She also holds a journalism degree from SDSU. Her career includes stints in commercial and public radio news production. Eitland has won numerous Excellence in Journalism awards for criticism and reporting from the San Diego Press Club. She has served on the Press Club board since 2011 and is a past president. She is a co-founder of Sandiegostory.com. She has a passion for the arts, throwing parties with dancing and singing, and cruising the Pacific in her family's vintage trawler. She trains dogs, skis, and loves seasonal trips to her home state of Minnesota.

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