Take your chances at the Fringe Fest 

It’s a crap shoot, of course — the San Francisco Fringe Festival is not juried, so you take your chances.

This year, almost all the offerings, which run through Sunday, are staged in the Exit Theatre’s multiplex — four small spaces, plus a new green room open to the public, and the café, where some performances also take place.

I chose four plays based largely on schedule (two per night) and descriptions in the Fringe brochure.

“Levitate,” a solo performance by Toronto-based Tony Molesworth, advertises itself as “an uplifting comedy that’ll elevate your spirit.”

Word play, get it? Long-haired, benignly beaming Molesworth, sitting motionless in the lotus position throughout, in saffron robes, delivers a rushed and unmodulated monologue about the virtues of meditation.

But it offers no fresh insights and is so loaded with striving-to-be-clever puns and wordplay that it quickly grows tiresome. However, the affable Molesworth does include some nifty sleight-of-hand. (No
levitation, though!)

Another solo performance, by New Yorker Julia Steele Allen, seemed promising. Writer-performer Allen didn’t find out until she was an adult that her family had been hiding their Jewish roots.

In creating “Little Tainted Blood,” a multidisciplinary, multimedia
autobiographical drama, Allen strives to link her family’s shame about their heritage to her poet-father’s covert homosexuality.

But Allen, who presents herself as a punked-out persona in goggles, lacks the musical, dramaturgical and actorly skills to make her story comprehensible and compelling; rather, the piece is awkward, unstructured, erratically paced and ultimately
self-indulgent.

Local playwright Joe Besecker clearly had fun writing the goofy, suspenseful, multilayered dark comedy “Zinnia Rosenblatt,” in which two corpses turn up in a vacation cabin and a dysfunctional family tries to figure out who they are.

It’s full of oddball characters and endless faux revelations about tangled relationships, but it’s so poorly directed and unevenly acted that it pretty much falls flat. There are some nice characterizations by Alison Lustbader and Dene Larson, though.

Thankfully, a sketch comedy trio from Los Angeles has a winner with “Vitch Slapped,” a high-energy pastiche of Saturday Night Live-style scenes, some delightfully raunchy.

They aren’t all equally funny — the three women would do well to trim the weaker ones — but most are hilarious, including some entr’acte video blogs. I especially liked the pajama party in which Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg get down and dirty, dissing their male counterparts on the Supreme Court.

The performers — Starr Ahrens, Nancy Kissam and Diana Yanez— excel at accents, characterization, singing and wit. Sadly, there are no more performances on this year’s Fringe schedule.

 

THEATER REVIEW

San Francisco Fringe Festival

Where: Many performances at Exit Theatre, 566 Eddy St., San Francisco

When: “Levitate” at 8:30 p.m. today, 10:30 p.m. Thursday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday; “Little Tainted Blood” at 10 p.m. today and 2:30 p.m. Saturday; “Zinnia Rosenblatt” at 7 p.m. Wednesday and 4 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $10

Contact: (415) 673-3847, www.sffringe.orgTHEATER

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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