Sunday, July 27, 2008

South Asian American Dance

By Bob Morrison

This won't be a regular posting because I have to rush to get to another show. But before their last performance today, I wanted you to see a few images from the beautiful and accessible showing of a unique dance form. It was born in Pakistan and has been growing here in the U.S. for years. It combines elements of classical Asian Bharatanatyam dance, complex rhythms of north Indian music and contemporary themes. If this sounds daunting, it shouldn't. The dances presented here are colorful and very accessible. They are easy not only to understand but also to enjoy, even if you don't know anything about any dance form. The last performance of the Tehreema Mitha Dance Company takes place today at 5 p.m. in The Forum at the Shakespeare Theatre across from the Verizon Center at 610 F Street N.W.

Now a few images:

For more images, click here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Born Normal

By Paul Gillis

"Born Normal", at the Source Theatre, is the story of a very unconventional family. But they're unconventional by birth, not by choice. In many ways, they're dysfunctional, but it's largely because in so many ways they're hyper-functional.

The story really centers on the mother, who is born with white-feathered wings, the only such person in history. (The production does not actually equip her with strap-on wings. They are only suggested.) Her parents immediately capitalize on her unique endowment, turning her into a media sensation. Of course she grows up spoiled, and more self-centered than anyone would think possible.

Her more conventional female endowments also prove to be spectacular, and she eventually moves from the pages of the National Enquirer to those of Playboy. She falls in love with the Playboy photographer & they marry, eventually having three children.

The whole story is narrated by the younger of her two daughters. She suffers from middle-child syndrome in the worst way. Both of her siblings have extraordinary powers, while she is completely normal. Her sister can raise small animals from the dead. And her baby brother is born talking, not merely in complete sentences, but expressing the most carefully-reasoned opinions with the vocabulary of an Oxford don. (But he still poops in his pants.)

As the brother grows, his amazing articulateness fades away. But eventually it is replaced by a gift of more dubious value. He is able to remember, in his own thoughts, things that the people around him have forgotten.

Eventually, a fourth child is born, who literally glows with a warm light. But he dies in infancy. His sister's powers of revival prove useless on the baby, which casts her into a long depression.

Eventually, the mother loses her wings. She is utterly bereft, having tied up her whole identity in her unique gift. Her two children continue to use their own gifts, restoring dead pets to life and retrieving the memories of the senile. But these gifts seem to be slowly fading as well.

There are still two performances of "Born Normal" at the Source, Saturday the 26th at 5 and Sunday the 27th at 6:30.

For more pictures, go to my photo website.

Friday, July 25, 2008

7 1/2 Habits

By Paul Gillis

On Thursday night at the Warehouse Mainstage, I caught the first CapFringe performance of "7 1/2 Habits of Highly Effective Mistresses". As you might guess, it's pretty funny. It's a two-woman show in the form of a self-improvement seminar with songs and musical accompaniment.

The show was created by its star, Lisa Faith Phillips, who plays Dr. Faith. The music was composed by Ellen Mandel, who, as Mistress Ethel, accompanies Dr. Faith on piano & backing vocals.

The show gets in quite a few good jokes, and the cabaret-style music is great. Dr. Faith encourages lots of audience participation--and if you don't join in, you may suffer the wrath of Mistress Ethel's riding crop. They did manage to get the whole audience to sing "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend." (See habit #2.)

Dr. Faith keeps promising that the best audience member will be named "America's Top Mistress", and sure enough she picked a woman from the audience at the end of the show, bringing her on stage to recieve a prize. Everyone seemed to enjoy the show.

There are more performances scheduled at the Warehouse for Saturday the 26th and Sunday the 27th, both at 2:30 p.m.

To see more photos of this show, click here.

Power House

By Paul Gillis

I'd never seen a show before like "Power House: the Disco Energy Dance-Along Show", at the Source Theatre. It's basically a play, put on by Charlie Fink and Bouncing Ball Productions. But the staging puts the audience in the middle of the action--in fact, they're encouraged to participate.

A surprising number of people ventured out in the driving rain Wednesday evening for this show. When I arrived, the lobby was packed with patrons, including most of the audience from the previous show, waiting for some break before they dashed home. When we came into the house, it was lit like a disco, and cast members were already dancing. They got many audience members to join in. I was hoping the whole audience would get into the disco spirit, but unfortunately most people reverted to just watching.

The premise, introduced in a video at the beginning, is that new technology is developed to harness the energy released by a disco full of dancers. The video explains how mechanical, thermal & sweat energy are captured for conversion into clean, "green" electricity. The dancers in this powerhouse bounce and spin atop turbines, under the watchful eye of a menacing scientist/engineer type. They are fed drugs by a very sexy nurse to keep them dancing. But it's not clear how they were recruited for this work.

Trouble starts when the overseer decides to test the limits of the plant's power output. He wants to set a record for kilowatt-hours, but one of the dancers decides he has had enough. He tries to take a rest, and even encourages the others to stop. The overseer has other ideas, and brings the recalcitrant dancer into his office for "reprogramming"

This does not end well. The dancer will not cooperate, even when a hot woman comes in, seduces him, and encourages him to continue his work. So he has to be eliminated--and is immediately replaced by a dancer picked out of the audience.

There is one more show of "Power House", Friday the 25th at 10:00 p.m.

To see more pictures of this production, click here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Omega - A Free Concert From The Capital Fringe Festival

By Bob Morrison

For centuries Omega, as the last letter in the Greek alphabet, has stood for the end, the termination, the last and final whatever. Well, I'm sure the Omega concert I heard last night in the Baldacchino at Fort Fringe isn’t their last, though it may be the last time you can hear Omega for free. Here are a few photographs taken during last night’s show, which they performed for an audience almost slightly larger than the band. (I hear it may have reached 15 after I left.)

For more photographs of Omega, click here.

The Disappearance of Jonah

By Bob Morrison

From a small town in the Midwest, a young man sets off to find his missing brother in New York City.

We learn more about him and his brother and meet an assortment of New Yorkers as the play, by Darragh Martin, moves through fast-paced flashbacks and flashforwards.

On the night I attended Will Snyder (below at right) substituted on extremely short notice for an actor suddenly unable to perform, and did so very ably.

Though not listed in the program credits, a major player in this drama is New York City itself, present in projected photos and videos. There were no technical glitches, which should be mentioned to the credit of the crew as it doesn’t happen that way in every Fringe show.

The young cast, either in college or not far beyond it, was believable. You might have a bit of trouble following the story as it quickly shifts through time and space, though; at least I did.

There are four more performances at the Shop in Fort Fringe: tonight at 6; Friday the 25th at 8:30; Saturday the 26th at 5; and Sunday the 27th at 12:30 p.m. For more photos, click here.

Diamond Dead

By Paul Gillis

Late last Friday I went to experience "Diamond Dead" at the Warehouse Mainstage. It's quite a show. Landless Theatre Co. does a great job with it, and obviously has lots of fun. The musical numbers had the audience on their feet, rocking along with the beat.

The story, such as it is, is a very silly horror sendup, penned by the composer of "The Rocky Horror Show". It's sort of like "Spinal Tap" meets "Shaun of the Dead." Diamond Dead are a rock band, killed in a (not-quite) accident. But they return to life as flesh-eating zombies. Despite their antisocial habits, they become a huge hit.

Much of the action is precipitated by a southern revivalist preacher, who launches a crusade to rid the world of these satanic creatures. His style & self-assurance are magnificent. But his Achilles heel is his habit of patronizing a very sexy dominatrix, Mistress Aria. It just happens that she is the (still-living) singer for Diamond Dead. Their scenes are great--and since the band has come to Washington, we learn about another one of Aria's high-profile clients.

As you might expect, the play ends with a monumental bloodbath (luckily, not recreated with the realistic effects used in modern zombie movies.) But finally evil triumphs, and the victims are all resurrected with a little help from Satan. It winds up with a great song about going to hell for the rock and roll.

I've read that George Romero has long been planning a movie of this story. If it's half as much fun as Landless Theatre's show, it will be worth watching. (Though as I mentioned, I'm no fan of Romero's extremely graphic gore.)

There are three more shows of "Diamond Dead" at the Warehouse: Thursday the 24th at 6:00, Friday the 25th at 10:00, and Saturday the 26th at noon.

To see more pictures of this show, click here.