Austin Chronicle ‘best of week’ review

February 7th, 2009

A review of the Short Fringe Best of Week show. Read the online review here.


Arts Review


Maggie Gallant’s excerpt of ‘Our Angle in Heaven’

FronteraFest Short Fringe, Week Three

Hyde Park Theatre

Jan. 31

Absent the boisterous improv or spoken word often associated with the Short Fringe, the Best of Week Three was a quiet, reflective evening of experiments and explorations and excerpts.

There were moments of honest laughter and provoked thoughts, but in general you left the theatre wanting a bit more.

The night began with the most complete work, “Lascivious Lunches and Decadent Dinners,” by Priscilla Sample. We moved backward and forward in time as we learned that a man had suffocated to death and his baker wife may have leveraged her knowledge of his whey allergy to commit murder. Paula E. Brooks was a compelling heroine. The story, though not exactly gripping, was enough to keep you interested in whodunit.

Next, Maggie Gallant presented an excerpt from her Long Fringe solo show, Our Angle in Heaven. She treated the audience to three Brits offering various responses to Princess Di’s untimely demise: Jane, a Diana impersonator who felt very close to the woman she pretends to be; Catherine, a young girl who longs to be a boy and doesn’t give a shit about the death of some fluffy princess; and – best of the three – Barry, a conspiracy theorist who believes the royal family is a race of reptilian humanoids. Gallant has a charismatic quirkiness and lovingly inhabits her characters.

“Folding House,” a work in progress written and performed by Sheila Gordon, held the most theatrical promise of the evening. Gordon is doing interesting work with transitions and settings and character. Her voice is a great gift and was spot-on whether she was evoking a planetarium, running an auction, or playing an old man who has suffered a stroke and is relearning speech. In a particularly moving scene, her old man sorts through a box of medicine, trying to remember which he has taken and which need taking. A really exciting start to a piece I look forward to seeing in full.

In “TBA,” an experiment by Stephen Pruitt, each audience member received a radio and headphones. A lullaby began. We sat in the dark and listened via radio to Pruitt stream consciousness on the meaning of the words “to be announced.” He reflected on how life is full of things that are TBA, but often they never are announced; they just happen. He talked about how the deejay’s personality used to matter, but now the only freedom to be found on the radio comes during the programs aired around 4am. Radio waves became a metaphor for human existence. When the lights came back on, we were almost reluctant to relinquish our radios, so pleasant was the experience.

The night ended with another short play, the raucous and almost awesome “Nine Hundred Pound Goose,” written and directed by Walter Miranda. This piece had a lot going for it – a funny cast, push-up bras, wacky humor – but in the end, this exploration of guardian angels and guardian demons couldn’t quite figure out how to seal the deal.

So whether we were made to think back on a sad event from 1997 or the freedom of radio deejays of old, to ponder conspiracy theories and deadly allergies and fate, or to wonder what a play might look like once it’s fully realized, the atmosphere at Hyde Park Theatre was thoughtful. Best of Week Three provided a passably enjoyable night and a quiet car ride home.

Keep your enemies closer

February 3rd, 2009

Show’s over, nothing more to see. No more reviews, by me or anyone else. It’s back to blogging for no reason, (which is surely the point of blogging anyway).

I was planning to write about Sunday’s show yesterday but was unfortunately interrupted by a serious bout of hangover which involved much sickyness and groaning and staying in my pyjamas until 4pm. Erik and I stayed up late Sunday night talking, drinking and eating chocolate while sitting on the kitchen floor with Storm. It was as unhygenic as it sounds. And tremendous fun. Our conversations recently have been of the ‘can you do this for me too’ kind and very one-sided. It took a bottle of wine, a needy dog and the remnants of my Super Bowl of chocolate to remind us of what’s important and why we still absolutely adore each other.

There isn’t really that much to say about the final show. It went well, we had a good sized audience, I felt strong and very in tune with my characters. Barry had his best show ever after the previous night’s weirdness and Erik thought it was my strongest performance overall. Now that it’s over, I wish it had been a longer run. But I’m not switching off from it completely and if opportunities come up to perform it again, I’ll gladly take them. And there’s still the video to watch and the new photos to print up.

Best part of the day was the conclusion to the nemesis story. I didn’t actually meet GW until Wednesday evening when my show followed one of hers. I saw her standing in the lobby talking to a group of people so I thought I could just sidle by without being seen. Which would have worked had Sami, my props manager, not crashed the chair she was carrying into the trash can, sending it flying across the floor. I made some comment about Sami’s coolness which further attracted GW’s attention. Our big confrontation went something like this:

‘oh hi, you must be the other Brit’

‘yes, hi, I’m Maggie’

‘nice to meet you, have a good show’

‘thanks, you too’

Powerful stuff. And that’s how it began, her plot to disarm me, which resulted in us trading emails about how she might increase her rather poor audience turnout and in me ultimately paying $12 to see her show on Thursday night. It was a good show, well performed and very different to mine. Maybe everyone was right, maybe GW wasn’t so bad after all.

Sunday afternoon and GW has the show before mine. I place my Super Bowl of candy on the box office ledge with a big sign saying ‘Gallant’s Super Bowl’. Coming back from the car I notice her show has let out and everyone seems to be eating chocolate. My chocolate. ‘Thanks for the M&M’s’ says GW’s fellow performer to the woman next to him who points out the bowl. I immediately call out, ‘you can thank me actually’ in a slightly menacing tone, thus positioning myself as a bit of a twat who gets obsessive over a bag of M&Ms.

I childishly tell the box office staff to hide the bowl and grumble backstage to anyone who would listen.

After the show, we have to strike our set so I can’t spend any time with my friends who were waiting for me in the lobby. So I miss GW apparently accosting my audience members, trying to get them to come to her final 8pm show. I discover all this from my friends when we go out for a drink later. Her lure? That hers is a British show too and that she performs 20 characters to my mere 8, including a bird, a cat and a hamster. As one of my friends later told me, ‘it all seemed a bit desperate’. If only she’d brought some chocolate with her.

So did she come to my show, or did she come back an hour later to try and rustle up some business? Who knows, but as I write this story, I’m smiling. Vindicated.

Keep your friends close.