Let The Games Begin
This year’s Frontera Fest is shaping up nicely. We’re heading into Week 2, and I’ve already seen more good shows this year then I did during the entirety of last year’s Best of the Fest. Let’s re-cap what I’ve managed to check out so far.
Friday, January 13th
From lights up it was obvious that this was not a group of professional performers. As such, I quickly went into “isn’t that sweet” mode, preparing to be mind-numbingly bored. Then, in the show's final moments, the performers revealed that their stories about prostitution, rape and drug addiction were autobiographical. Wow. I’m a pretty cynical guy, but it almost brought me to tears. It wasn’t a great show, but some damn courageous people were performing it.
Long form improv comedy. I immediately recoiled, envisioning crap rip-offs of that crappy show called Saturday Night Crappy Live. But wait, these guys are really funny. Talented writers + talented actors = good comedy, and these guys have talent coming outta their ears. They move effortlessly from scenario to scenario, creating distinct likable characters with surprising emotional depth, all the while maintaining a variety of growing storylines throughout their 25min performance. As lights come down on Tight, I am delighted to discover a great new Austin comedy troupe.
Another clever piece from the kids at Bedlam Faction. After losing out on funding in 2005, they decided it would be funny to stage the actual transcript from the Arts Council meeting at which their funding was denied. It was well performed and well directed, but it was so self-referential that if I didn’t know the work and mission of Bedlam Faction, I would’ve been seriously lost. However, the sheer audacity it took to depict the funding powers that be in Austin as a bunch of monkeys made me laugh like a banshee.
“I.Don’t.Care: A Poignant Investigation of the Customer Service Industry, You Jackass”
I directed this piece, so I think it’d be a little tacky of me to comment on it here. If you’re really all that interested, read the Austinist review, or go look at our blog.
The Foolish Mortals Present “NINJA”
I felt bad for these kids. At times, I laughed very hard. At times, I was bored. Performing in the same night with an older, more experienced improv troupe (Tight), didn’t do them any favors. Instead of letting the humor evolve from some kind of truth, (as in, characters the audience could empathize with) Foolish Mortals spent a lot of time trying too hard, and relying on superficial stereotypes. This is a company to watch for in the future, but not at the moment.
Saturday, January 14th (Best of the Week)
"Power is Yours: Take It or Leave It"
Spoken word, modern dance, Capoeira and stage combat collide in this piece from UpRise Productions. At times it was awesome. The opening poet commanded language and rhythm, and performed with a voracity that was nothing short of inspiring. Even cooler was the show’s ultra-intense, high-energy stage combat finale with wooden swords and flying swordsmen. But at other times, it was simplistic, self-important and amateurish. In the show’s lamest moment, a woman makes random shapes on the upstage wall with “Keep Your Laws Off My Body” hand-drawn across her chest in magic marker. What could’ve been an interesting show was thus (and in many other ways) reduced to a bumper sticker.
I try to be forgiving of bad modern (or post-modern, or whatever) dance because I really, really like dance, and really, really would like to see more of it in Austin. I unfortunately cannot, however, turn a blind eye to work that’s uninspired and poorly executed. I’d be willing to admit that the concept of Frontier Dance was equal parts cute and interesting, but the choreography was incredibly bland. And, while “Skip Whitecap” and “Winston Clementine” (the performers actual names weren’t listed in the programs) perked my interest with the concept of their 10min MAX show, and “Nefes Skye” demonstrated his talent as a mover at last year’s September Flurries, all three looked noticeably unsure of themselves in this outing.
Also on stage January 14th were Content Love Knowles, Tight and the Yellow Tape Construction Co. See January 13th for a review of Tight Comedy and my reasons for neglecting to review Yellow Tape shows. Unfortunately, I was not able to stay for Ms Knowles’ performance, but the Austinist seemed to like it, so I’d go read their review if you’re interested.