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After seeing dozens of shows each week of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Ashley Steed shares her top picks in a series called “Fringe Raw”.

by Ashley Steed

Name This Magic Show

Name This Magic Show is a competition between close-up magicians. The audience votes for their favorite act, and the winner gets to keep the money from that show.

Before the show begins, the four magicians draw straws. The performer who draws the shortest one must act as the MC for the night, and therefore doesn’t compete. Jon Armstrong was our bitter host for the evening and the three acts were performed by Nick Paul, Joe Skilton (replacing Australian magician Simon Coronel), and Handsome Jack (who was the reigning champ).

Silent magician Nick Paul began his 12-minute set with a classic red scarf into an egg routine. His sleight of hand is dexterous, but he struggled to “wow” the audience in the short amount of time. Next up was Joe Skilton, whose rope routine was some of the best sleight of hand I’ve seen up close. Skilton’s patter with the audience was naturally charming as he explained his tricks (while simultaneously manipulating us). The third and final act was Handsome Jack, whose pervy lady-chaser persona became a bit grating over time. He explained that the magicians pull a straw to see who has to do a “classic” routine for the evening. Thus, he performed the chinese rings. It’s clear this wasn’t exciting for him, though he performed the routine well enough. His final gag, however, fell flat. Our winner for the show was Joe Skilton.

If you’re new to magic, this is a great opportunity to see a variety of styles and acts in a fun and interactive event. That being said, I personally prefer more cohesive shows which allow the magician(s) to take their time and build a rapport with the audience and offer more nuanced illusions.

Main Space at Asylum @ McCadden Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Place. There are no more performances, visit http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4583

 

Jon Armstrong: Comic Amazement

Award-winning magician Jon Armstrong is best known for his close-up magic and card tricks. Having taken the past year to study and develop new illusions, he performs a number of classic routines with a twist, such as using a tie in lieu of rope in a rope trick, or using rubber bands for a smaller version of the Chinese rings. Though some of his routines are stronger than others, here he proves why he’s considered by some to be one of the best close-up magicians today. His strongest routine blends his amazing ability of card manipulation and use of mathematics (which I won’t give away). With his wry sense of humour, he commands the audience in this thoroughly magical performance.

Asylum @ McCadden Theatre, 1157 N. McCadden Place. Running time 50 minutes. Playing through July 25 http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4349

 

The Motherfucker With The Hat

Recently released from prison, Jackie (Jorge-Luis Pallo) comes home to his longtime girlfriend, Veronica (Fayna Sanchez), with some gifts to celebrate a new job. Things are going to be different for them. But then, when he spots an unfamiliar hat on the table, he goes into a rage — just who is the motherfucker with the hat?

Playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis’s richly profane (and profound) 2011 Tony-nominated play is given an excellent run with a sharp ensemble. Pallo brings both the machismo and desperation as Jackie. Sanchez is fierce as Jackie’s addict girlfriend Veronica. Nelson Delrosario as Ralph D — Jackie’s AA sponsor and best friend — depicts a man narrowly focused on his own worldview, and who is eager to help Jackie (though not necessarily for the right reasons). Libby Ewing oozes “desperate housewife” as Victoria, Ralph’s wife. Felipe Figueroa steals every scene he’s in as Jackie’s cousin Julio, who puts familial loyalty above Jackie’s mistreatment of him.

The script is biting and relentless as it examines trust, loyalty, and love through the lives of current and former addicts. Although the core of the play utilizes larger than life characters whose dysfunctions serve for comedic fodder, there’s also a powerful emotional punch.

Unfortunately there are no more performances. Here’s hoping they extend.  

Visit http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4626

 

Secret Honor – The Last Testament of Richard M. Nixon

When Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May, there were immediate comparisons to Nixon and the Sunday Night Massacre. So it’s fitting that UK based company Bootcamp Productions have revived Donald Freed and Arnold M. Stone’s 1983 play. We meet Nixon (Steve Scott) in his study, already drunk on scotch and dictating his memoir into a recorder (the irony of which does not go unnoticed). Acting as his own lawyer, Nixon defends himself to us, The American Jury. The play spirals into the mind of a madman who is a victim of his own desire for power. This is a complex and almost schizophrenic portrayal of a troubled (and guilty) man. The script is peppered with blips of his devotion to his mother, his severe Quaker upbringing, and his recruitment into the Committee of One Hundred Men — which leads to his rise, and ultimately his downfall.

As the character defends himself from his inexcusable actions, Scott renders a bumbling and desperate Nixon, making him both sympathetic and pathetic. For those who may not be familiar with historic details of the Watergate scandal, this may be somewhat hard to follow as the play jumps around. However, the play gives an intriguing insight to one of our most controversial political figures (even by contemporary standards).

Asylum’s (Inter)national House, 6500 Santa Monica Blvd. Running time 60 minutes. Final performance June 24. Visit http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/4354

 

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