Something to See at the SF Fringe

My life has been a bit of a blur between returning from working for the music division at the Library of Congress in Washington DC and preparing for the Public Radio Program Directors Conference in Las Vegas, where I head tomorrow morning.

Consequently, I haven’t been able to absorb as many San Francisco Fringe Festival shows as I’d have liked to. But here at least is one production I can recommend — Cantata #40 and Other Short Works:

Local playwright and actor Linda Ayres-Frederick’s trio of short plays about chance encounters of various kinds is both thoughtful and fun.

“The Avignon Affair,” the first drama, is the strongest of the three playlets and the mostly tightly performed by Heidi Wolf and Dennis McIntyre. It focuses on a chance encounter between a youngish Jewish American woman and an elderly French screenplay writer on a train heading to Avignon in France. The fluctuations of chemistry and coyness that pass between the two characters make for a compelling twenty minutes of theatre and by the end we want to know if the pair will meet again. The middle play, which takes

The middle play is “Cantata #40,” which follows the fortunes of a high school student’s choir trip to Germany where the ensemble performs J S Bach’s music with great aplomb. This solo piece is performed by the strong-featured Wolff, who inhabits the role of a teenage girl in Berlin Wall-era Germany deeply and is a wonderful storyteller. But at the same time the actress manages to give a rather self-conscious performance. The narrative is an intriguing one, though could perhaps do with some editing on the playwright’s part: Despite all the rules, the protagonist ends up going off alone with a couple of bossy German boys and at times we wonder if she’s going to make it through Checkpoint Charlie and back to the rest of her school party in one piece.

The third and final play in the triptych, “Bunny Beware,” left me rather baffled. Wolff does a great job of personifying a hard-bitten, pea-shucking, Southern farm gal. McIntyre is rather less convincing as an oversized Easter Bunny. I’m not sure what the relationship between the two characters is supposed to be, besides adversorial, but it struck me that maybe there were some line memorizing or blocking issues the afternoon I saw the show which prevented the play from making a whole lot of sense. Still, taken as a whole, and assuming the cast and director have ironed out the problems since the opening (which is when I experienced it), this fanciful trio of plays is definitely worth catching at the Fringe.

Additional performances are happening at Exit Stage Left on September 15 at 7.30 and September 16 at 4.30. Tickets cost $10. Go here for more information.

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