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July 14, 2011

Gallantry: A Code Blue Capital Fringe Emergency

The Dresser has something hot to recommend to anyone who has been thinking about seeing his or her first opera. Run, don't saunter, only a few performance left, to the Capital Fringe Festival's offering Gallantry: A Soap Opera by composer Douglas Moore with libretto by Arnold Sungaard.

Lola.jpgThis 30-minute production from Opera Alterna and Limelight Theatre has substantial singer-actors, including a standout performance by baritone James Rogers as Dr. Gregg. Soprano Emily Casey as nurse Lola does a fine job as an outrageous sexpot who stays loyal to her fiancé Donald (tenor Tad Czyzewski). Lola has to beat back Dr. Gregg who is smitten with her and Lola fears that when Donald lands on the jealous doctor's operating table for appendicitis that Dr. Gregg might let the scalpel slip.


Indeed this is a soap opera with pauses for the vampy Announcer (mezzo-soprano Rebecca Stugart) to promote something called Lachinvar Soap and Billy Boy Wax. She has the help of three charming dancers (Rachel Burkhardt, Anna Lathrop, and Alison Talvacchio) who are eager to steal some of the Announcer's show time. Alison Talvacchio's choreography captivates as well as entertains.

So often Fringe productions are just thrown together. Not so for this production. A good deal of praise goes to the stage director A. M. C. Clapp. The costumes and props are eye-catching - the Announcer wears a strapless, sparkling green dress with red shoes and tucks a silver flask into her bosom. Lola wears lacy pink panties with garters that hold up her nurse's white stockings and a little white sheath that covers almost nothing. In the operation scene, Lola and Dr. Gregg wear rose pink andhot pink rubber gloves. The production gives us singers who not only deliver vocally but dramatically. Their gestures, camped up for Moore's soap spoof, are on target. The audience gets the big eyes, the looks down Lola's décolleté, the glimpse of Donald's bare bottom from the crack in his hospital gown. All of this to say, Ms. Clapp deserves the applause her name implies. And kudos to the accompanist Jason Solounias for his vigorous run on the ivories.PianstSolounias.jpg

The Dresser walked out of the black box theater, which was accessed off a trash strewn street and parking lot, thinking how she would love to see Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe (there are musical similarities between Gallantry and Baby Doe) or any of Moore's seven other operas.

In Ian Williams' poem "Code Blue: Medical Emergency (Adult)," the reader, like the audience for Gallantry, gets a glimpse of a possible murder. What the Dresser particularly likes about this poem is the poet's emphasis on pop culture, which tracks with Gallantry's commercials for Lachinvar Soap and Billy Boy Wax.


...........Folks like us, we
don't get assassinated, we
get shot.

He dreams of it / many times / being shot
in balck and white like a classy gansta film.

I'm in the dream too, jumbo-sized,
bawling after the gurney, bawling down
the hospital corridor like a Doppler siren.

The rest of the plot is what you'd see on TV:
IVs trhead him whole again
.................................................to exact revenge
with a slow-motion frown and a semicircle
of fire sparking from his gun.

.................................................That's what he wants--
that and his name like an ice cube in everyone's cheek:
Did you see? Did you see how he iced that punk? how he--

Respect, he call this smiling. Nuff respect.

Ian Williams
You Know Who You Are

Copyright © 2010 Ian Williams

Photos: Karren L. Alenier

July 24, 2011

F-ing Up: The Junk Versus The Good Stuff

F-Poster.jpgWhat is it about featuring a much overused swear word that attracts a crowd, especially a youthful one? On July 22, 2011, the Dresser saw F#@king Up Everything, an indie rock musical presented by Charlie Fink as a Jeremy Handelman production in the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival. And yes, the swear word is spelled that way in all the publicity.

The Dresser is well aware that the Fringe Fest seeks over-the-top productions, but, in truth, use of the F-word does not an out-there production make. What F#@king Up Everything with music & lyrics by David Eric Davis, book by Sam Forman & David Eric Davis, has going for it is two young people who both majored in gender studies though neither of them belong to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered (LGBT) community. If Forman and Davis had better developed this theme, then F-ing Up would stand out from the mosh pit of Fringe productions.

So while the show opened with a skinny-jeaned rocker named Jake (John Fritz) putting his junk into the faces of those foolish enough to sit in the front row as he crooned the song from which the show draws its title, the stars of the show are a dorky but loveable puppeteer named Christian Mohammed Schwartzelberg (Lee August Praley) and a ukulele-playing blond-knockout babe named Juliana (Crystal Mosser). As with most musical comedies, a series of miscommunications occur. Juliana's good friend Ivy (Dani Stoller), while involved with the affable stoner and electric base player Tony (Jason Wilson), is in love with Jake. Jake, to put it into the facile rhyming schema of F-ing Up, is always on the make and though he considers Ivy his best friend, Juliana becomes his next hit.TrashBar.jpg

Of course, things backfire and Jake lures the disappointed-in-love Christian, who is his childhood friend, into the too-hot-to-handle arms of a booking agent named Arielle (Crystal Arnette). Like Juliana, Arielle recognizes the genuineness of Christian, but only after she makes Jake and Christian part of her "fuck-it list." She's up to the letter M and that means ménage à trois. There is a hilarious song for this sexpot sung by Jake and Christian with the repeated phrase "Arielle's areolas."

Puppet.jpgThe best part of this musical is when Christian pulls out his hand puppets and talks to them to work out how he is feeling. Lee August Praley as Christian does a great job with his role both as singer and actor. He knows how be the dork without overdoing the character. Among Christian's intellectual puppets is the linguist Noam Chomsky. If the Dresser heard correctly, there is also a puppet named Michel Foucault (the Twentieth century French philosopher). There isn't much time to develop the characters of these puppets so the names aren't much more than other names that are casually dropped into the script (e.g. Burning Man Festival). However, the intellectual puppets are countered with the likes of the one-armed puppet Rick Allen (drummer Allen is an amputee who continued to play with Def Leppard after losing one of his arms) and the punk rock guitarist-songwriter Robert Smith.Christian.jpg

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