On the Fringe: 7 servings of dance, 3 of theater

Posted: September 11, 2007

Fresh Juice. Each of the six offerings at Mascher Space Cooperative delivered flavorful moments. Those with staying power bit off more substantial material and chewed it well.

Christina Zani's abun/dance, a solo mix of text with a cyclical movement sequence, suggests a cross between Lucille Ball and Sartre. As Zani enumerates a catalog of what we might find on earth, "there's a large variety of snakes . . . dozens of styles of chamberpots . . . as many problems as anyone could want," she waves, smiles with effusive gregariousness, then slides into less certainty, more torment. Her ending is a gleeful knife-twister.

John Phillips' video of dancers vanishing on revolving planes within infinite architectural spaces is skillfully integrated with live performance in gasp by Emily Sweeney/Perpetual MvmtSnd. The six dancers huddle and float; magenta pinprick lights descend; grainy close-ups catch their action.

In slip Meg Foley disrupts easy viewing with a large fabric cylinder in the middle of the dance space; we are invited to shift places. Four women dance individually or together in super slo-mo and at hyperspeed. Foley's movement - jackknifes, spooning, "walking" supine with thrusting hips - is robust and quirky.

Zornitsa Stoyanova's piece features a mock-lecturer with PowerPoint linking her actions to principles of physics and philosophy.

Makoto Hirono and David O'Donnell's riff on cultural do's and don't's has buzzers signaling the virtuous and not-so-virtuous as they engage with objects like cigarettes, money and corn syrup.

Megan Sinnwell gives a breezy account of a summer sojourn in Mexico in Erin Foreman-Murray's work, and the two deliver pleasing dance phrases. - Lisa Kraus


$10. 7 p.m. today, 9 p.m. Friday. At Mascher Space, 155 Cecil B. Moore Ave.

Sports Trilogy: Men of the Green. Two shows for the price of one: the two-actor collective Rutherford Chang not only offers the last of its Sports Trilogy: Men of the Green (golf), but also follows it with one of the two preceding thirds of the trilogy (the audience votes). Last year's Fringe show was We Referee (basketball); the year before, RC offered Man or McEnroe (tennis). They're all funny and charming, and the two actors can convincingly handle sports equipment and make it all work in an unforgiving space.

Actors/playwrights Michael Bodel and Chris Kaminstein first appear as Jim and Jim, sports announcers wearing ties (no shirts) jackets (no pants), sports socks (no shoes), and bright green jockeys (matching the bright green AstroTurf). Once onstage, they whisk their clothes on and become Bobby the golfer and Brad the caddy.

There's some unimportant narrative about Brad's brother Frank who died in a sandtrap, but the real action involves Bobby's ineptitude as they play through several days of a tournament.

We Referee had more character development and more plot, but Man or McEnroe was the choice of the day, and it's funny too - the guys switch up and back, each getting a chance to be the belligerent, it-was-his-fault McEnroe.

And, as somebody who knows (and cares) nothing about sports, I'm surprised to discover I'm sorry the trilogy is over. - Toby Zinman


$10. 7:30 tonight, Thursday-Saturday, 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday. At the Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square.

Claire.This piece, from Melanie Stewart Dance Theatre, worked because it's Fringe. Mysterious location: check. Intimate audience: check. Blurring lines between dance and theater: check. Nudity: check.

If it weren't Fringe, it might be a little too offbeat.

The story is a bit obvious: A telephone psychic tries to help others but really needs to help herself. With every call she takes, a little more sanity gets sucked out of her.

But the performances were excellent, especially pianist/vocalist/composer Dan Martin, who provided the accompaniment and spooky sound effects.

Janet Pilla also did an admirable job as Claire, who starts out as a diva in the style of Carol Burnett as Norma Desmond and winds up stalking a man she dated once or twice.

The performance took place in a storefront art gallery and studio, and half the fun was seeing people's reactions as they looked in the window while walking by. Pilla fearlessly leaped, jogged, pranced, sang, climbed a stool, hugged the wall - and undressed in front of the audience and whoever might be peering in from the sidewalk.

At 45 minutes, it was the perfect Fringe snippet - as quirky as one might expect, but also high-quality entertainment.- Ellen Dunkel


$15. 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Biello Martin Studio, 148 N. Third St.

Identity of Magenta. Muronji C. Inman and Benjamin Kanes are easy on the eyes, which is good because Theatre of the Stars' Identity of Magenta is a bit rough on the ears.

Written and directed by Peter Bruckner, the script is one man's manifesto on the importance of color. The play follows an interracial couple, Lydia, a painter, and Lawrence, an architect, as they argue this theme.

Perhaps a third actor might have given the piece some dramatic tension, but with dialogue that is essentially a series of monologues interrupted by occasional prompts, a second actor is almost extraneous. In fact, at times, the actors even launch into soliloquies. Lydia, alone onstage and facing a blank canvas (clad in the cleanest, whitest shirt any painter ever used as a smock), declares, "So many have lost their way in your pathless fields of white, stricken with snow blindness." I don't know about you, but when I talk to myself, it's more like, "Where the heck are my keys?" Other imagery is all wrong, such as Lydia's fear that "there's a giant pair of scissors out there in the world, chopping everything in two."

It's not that this play is so terrible - some slash-and-burn editing might uncover a decent one-act - but that there is no connection between the characters. Watching them bicker is about as enlightening as watching any couple bicker, and you certainly don't need to pay good money for that. - Wendy Rosenfield


$15. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday. African American Museum, 701 Arch St.

Snowflake Falls. This tale of a brother and sister and the two people they date, set in a cafe, is the sort of grass-roots production that makes the Fringe Festival fringy. Kristoff Stone, who wrote it and plays one of the characters, spins a good yarn, although it has a number of snags. ("Do you remember our first date?" intones a character with soap-opera seriousness - a month after the first date.) Get past the sometimes stilted dialogue, and you'll see that the plot, despite its too-neatly tied ending, works.

-Howard Shapiro


$10. 9 tonight and Thursday at Higher Grounds Cafe, 631 N. Third St.; 3 p.m. Saturday at Big Blue Marble Book Store, 551 Carpenter Lane.

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