The Best and the rest of Fringe

First of all, congratulations to the Best of Fringe winners-  Tyrone "Shortleg" Johnson and Some White BoysJurassic Ark, Stalking Christopher Walken, You Killed Hamlet, or Guilty Creatures Sitting at a Play - all of which will have repeat performances the weekend of September 28 & 29. Check the Coming Up page for dates and times or go to the Fringe website. I read that Legacy of the Tiger Mother also won an award, but perhaps scheduling prevents a repeat performance. I feel pretty good about what I ended up seeing, in that I saw four of these five winners and solidly agree with three of them being voted among the best.

The last night I attended I did see two more performances- the first was The Collector, an "experimental adult puppetry" show staged by Animal Cracker Conspiracy (Bridget Rountree and Iain Gunn). This wordless, eerily mesmerizing hour featured Rountree and Gunn putting their macabre puppets through a series of meetings and encounters, trials and other-things-hard-to-describe, and even more difficult to turn away from, on three small stages, which are simultaneously projected above the center stage. It's a creepy effect, because what's taking place on the stage is quite distorted by the projections, even though it allows the viewer to see details they wouldn't otherwise. There's a narrative that's hard to follow, at least on first viewing, which made more sense when I overheard Rountree explaining it to someone else after the show ended. The gist is that "The Collector"- a foot-tall, dapperly-dressed zombie so painstakingly crafted that even his shoes had heels and soles on them, it is at the mercy of his boss, a sinister monkey that reminded me of the one from "Monkey Shines." The Boss Monkey is a sadist, and the Collector, trapped in an Orwellian dystopia perhaps of his own creation, follows orders, tries to collect on the debts of others, and his efforts don't work out very well for him. How he becomes an oddly sympathetic presence is only an additional testament to the thoughtfulness of what's unfolding on the three stages, abetted by director Lisa Berger and sound designer Margaret Noble. This stayed with me, and as Animal Cracker takes this to other performance spaces, I would strongly recommend seeing it. I look forward to the San Diego duo's return to the Bay Area.

I also took in EmergenciPhone!, a production written by Anna Budd, an associate professor of theater arts at Cañada College and staged by the Elsewhere Theatre troupe, which I suspect is made up primarily of students from the college. Though it had some genuinely funny jokes, as it stretched on the jokes grew thinner and the plot grew tiresome. At fifteen minutes it could have been great fun. At an hour, it turned into a slog. Even the cleavage grew tiresome. Well, okay, not really, but almost.