FronteraFest Short Fringe Best of the Week, Week 4

The Best of the Week for week four of the 2006 FronteraFest Short Fringe lived up to the high expectations for 'the fringe theatre event of the Southwest'

FronteraFest Short Fringe Best of the Week, Week 4

Hyde Park Theatre, Feb. 4

FronteraFest hails itself as "the fringe theatre event of the Southwest," so if you're attending a FronteraFest Short Fringe "Best of the Week," your expectations should be high. If you had attended this past Saturday night, those expectations would have been met.

The evening began with "Aucun Espoir Pour L'Homme" (loosely translated, "No Hope for the Man"), a French clown melodrama in which Antoine, a big round clown, attempted to court a pretty blond clown and learned a lesson in manhood from the nattily dressed Henri. Director Rocky Hopson staged the play briskly and got polished, entertaining performances from his entire cast. Most impressive was Rob Houle's slimy misogynist Henri. With a pencil-thin mustache and bowler hat, Houle looked like he stepped out of the Threepenny Opera onto the Hyde Park Theatre stage.

Next up was Isabella Russell-Ides' "In a God Box," in which three men and two women waxed metaphysical while attempting to figure out where they were and how they got there. (Sounds a bit like life, doesn't it?) On occasion, a baby cried, and their hands covered their hearts. On other occasions, a bell rang, and everyone looked confused and started repeating themselves. Most of the time, though, they talked about God, and while it didn't all make sense, it was entertaining in a distracting kind of way.

The highlight of the evening was Rhonda F. Kulhanek's "More Mommy Confessions." Kulhanek wrote, directed, and starred in the three sketches, the first of which focused on a trailer mom eating EZ-Cheese and talking to her unborn, illegitimate son. Following fast on its heels was a sketch about an unhappily married, martini-drinking mom telling her teenage daughter about the vicissitudes of sex, and, finally, a grandmother talking to God about raising her grandchildren, one in particular who can't keep his hand out of his pants. Kulhanek managed to present three very distinct characters, all belly-laugh funny. One can only hope to see her confess for a full evening sometime soon.

The next-to-last piece, Allan Baker's "Five Minutes," consisted of three scenes occurring on a devastated floor of the World Trade Center. Director Theresa Leckbee got effective work from her actors, and while Baker's script, with its semisimultaneous action and self-referential connections, was interesting in a gimmicky way, the presentation ultimately struck me as somewhat clichéd. All of the characters were virtuous and noble in the extreme, and while it's certainly possible a group of such people ended up on the same WTC floor and all jumped, the story strained the bounds of its own conventions.

Capping the evening was Steve Barney's "Puppet Government," an appropriate title for a show in which President Bush was a can opener and his cronies were represented by other common kitchen appliances. The show didn't always work, but the idea always did. Barney and his cohorts actually had the audacity to imply that the war in Iraq was an election-year ploy and that the president consistently made things up and passed them along as truth. What fantasy!

And how fantastic, for if these were the best of the fourth Fest week, you can expect big things at the upcoming Best of the Fest.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

FronteraFest Short Fringe, Aucun Espoir Pour L'Homme, Rocky Hopson, Rob Houle, Isabella Russell-Ides, In a God Box, Rhonda F. Kulhanek, More Mommy Confessions, Allan Baker, Five Minutes, Theresa Leckbee, Steve Barney, Puppet Government

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