Death by Powerpoint
Through June 29
There are no actual deaths in this sly and clever satire by playwright-director James F. Robinson, but one character experiences near-death.
Four motivational speakers are finalists in the National Global Influencers contest. Lucy (Scarlet Bermingham) begins by telling us they’re here to destroy all our most cherished beliefs. She tells us the secret of success is to ignore depressing facts and to practice self-delusion: Just tell yourself, “You are freakin’ Awesome.” Mark (Eric Pierce) assures us that the way to achieve the Inevitability of Cosmic Bliss is to concentrate on the pushed-in face of an endearing pug-dog. Joan (Emilly Thomas) is so distracted by her chocolate addiction that she loses track of her message, crying out, “My free will was roofied and raped by a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.” Matthew insists that we are less concerned with the crimes of Stalin and Hitler than with getting laid, and direct action is futile, since all real change occurs sideways. He then goes on to perform a bit of grand-standing, to impress the contest judges, that nearly does him in. The script is scatter-shot but funny, and the actors are sharp and stylish.—Neal Weaver
ZapPictures at Actors Company, 916 N. Formosa Ave., https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/1624
Into the Fog
Through June 27
This enigmatic, abstract movement piece, directed by Sam Szabo and Samantha Shay, was, we’re told, inspired by the Soviet animated short Hedgehog in the Fog, but for those who don’t know the film, that’s hardly enlightening. We can only judge it by what happens on the stage: seven barefoot, unidentified actors (two males and five females) appear from the semi-darkness wearing coats. To a dense musical accompaniment, they move downstage in slow motion, shed their coats and drop them off the stage. They seem to have ambiguous feelings about books, first seeming to cherish them. Then it seems the books are moaning and crying out in pain. Later one of the women becomes destructive, ripping out pages from a book, and flinging them aside till the stage is engulfed by a paper storm.
There are many striking images, as the performers toss powder in the air, brandish illuminated branches and are enveloped by an enormous parachute as one of the men attempts to restrain the destroying woman. There is much anger, with stamping feet and beating on the walls, as the intense and dedicated cast performs its actions.
The friendly and highly vociferous audience thundered its approval.—Neal Weaver
Source Materials in Association with Schkapf, 6567 Santa Monica Blvd., https://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/1880
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