My mother, Bev Wolfe, saw some Fringe shows this week. Here are her reviews on the plays that she saw:
Ivory Tower Burning by Jay Gabler
This play is essentially a debate between sociologists Talcott Parsons and C. Write Mills who shared an academic rivalry regarding the sociological factors that direct societies. Parsons took exception to Mills’ rather simply theory that there are those with the power and, then, there is the rest of society. Although it appears that history in the long run supports portions of Mill’s theory, the play itself is a very engaging discussion on these issues between the two characters, played by brothers Jay Gabler and Joe Gabler. At times I felt I had walked into a sociology lecture and I actually had some recall of these competing theories from my own college days. The end result reminded me of the film My Dinner with Andre and, despite the talky nature of the performances, I found myself enjoying the intellectual interplay between these two academics. Solid acting performances by both performers and, unless you are someone who has to have action in a performance, this show is definitely one worth checking out.
Ashland by Transtlantic Love Affair
Although Transtlantic Love Affair has done previous Fringe shows, this is the first year that I have caught one of their shows. The standout aspect of this production is the way the ensemble uses cast members to create the props and scenery with their bodies and actions. The group is extremely inventive in creating animals, rocking chairs, dust storms, etc. I have to admit there were a few times when I could not quite figure out what props the ensemble was trying to represent. There is fine acting by the ensemble and notable performances by Isabel Nelson, and Adelin Phelps and Derek Lee Miller. The story line is a bit old — a family dealing with drought, foreclosure and death during the depression dust bowl. But I have always had a soft spot for depression tales having heard my mother’s many stories of growing up during the dust bowl. The acting and inventiveness of the production techniques alone makes this a production worth attending despite the long lines to get in.
The Billy Willy Show by Billy Willy
Part of my Fringe philosophy is to just attend a show at random. The Billy Willy Show is one of those I picked when a show I wanted to attend was sold out. The premise of the show is that Billy Willy is a country music star, who was washed up at age 12. He had shot to fame in his home town of Friendly, West Virginia, when at the age of six years, he won the “Appalachia Idol” competition which resulted in his parents getting free car washes for years. Billy spends the show talking about his failed career, his multiple marriages and his first true love, an Amish gay man who had worked on his parent’s house. Instead of a guitar, Billy uses an iPad to provide the musical background to his story. There are several good political and GLBT jokes in the production. It is not a show I would make a special effort to go to, but it was an entertaining program to just drop in on.