Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Shakespeare and Rock Concerts at The Fringe Festival

One of the nice things about the Fringe Festival listings is that it includes run times. I think I speak for many when I say I'm more willing to take a chance on a show if it's not too long. I think I chose well for my first day of Fringe shows with two short, entertaining shows: Double Heart (The Courtship of Beatrice and Benedick) with a run time of one hour and Lollapacoacharoozastock Music Festival with a run time of 45 minutes.

I was drawn to Double Heart because it's a prequel to Much Ado About Nothing about Beatrice and Benedick as teenagers. If there are two things I love it's Shakespeare and teen romance. The play by David Hansen was originally commissioned by Great Lakes Theater in Cleveland as a free touring production that would support the main stage production of Much Ado. In this plausible backstory, Benedick (James Rankin) and Beatrice (Emily Pucell), skilled at verbal sparring even then, become fast friends, but their attraction is too strong to ignore. They sleep together and she ends up getting pregnant. I won't give away the rest, but it's not a happy ending, thought if you know Much Ado, you can comfort yourself with thoughts of what's in store for them.

Props to Hansen for writing the play, which includes conversations about one-night stands and abortions, in verse. Not that anyone today can write quite like Shakespeare, but Hansen does a commendable job of capturing the spirit of these characters. Hansen and Annie Hickey play the other roles, which are sometimes unnecessary and drag down the story. It would almost work as a two-hander. Rankin and Pucell both have a natural presence and convincing chemistry. One of the highlights is a simple, wordless scene in which the two dance and you can see them fall in love.

Remaining performances for Double Heart are Wednesday August 14 at 8:30, Thursday August 15 at 7:00, and Saturday August 17 at noon.

While Double Heart takes its inspiration from Shakespeare, Lollapacoacharoozastock Music Festival takes its from the music charts. As the name implies, the show takes place at a mock music festival. There are four acts: teen pop stars Eli Porter and Destyn Reign, country group The Meadow Muffins, '90s alternative rock band Simon Never Said, and '80s hair band Plymyth Voyager. Adam Blotner wrote the book, music, and lyrics and fronts all four acts with his wife Jenny Pinzari Blotner. Musical director Matt Tobin on keyboard, Joe Headrick on drums, Daniel Namm on electric guitar, and Danny Weller on bass subtly change their dress between sets and are just as fun to watch, but, and this is more of a complaint about sound than the band, they sometimes drown out the lyrics, which is too bad because the ones I heard perfectly captured the genres they were spoofing. Take Simon Never Said's "Interesting Girl": "The girl is so ironic. It's like she does is opposite from the way that a normal person would do things. Isn't that interesting?" And I wouldn't be surprised to hear "Party in the Basement," sung by the Justin Bieber-like Eli Porter, on the top 40. The show ends with a parody of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" which would probably make Weird Al proud.

Remaining performances for Lollapacoacharoozastock Music Festival are Wednesday August 14 at 7:30, Saturday August 17 at 11:15, Friday August 23 at 2, and Saturday August 24 at 9.

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