The Austin Chronicle

Arts Review

Reviewed by Avimaan Syam, February 1, 2008, Arts

FronteraFest Short Fringe, Week Two

Hyde Park Theatre, Jan. 23

While attending a Short Fringe Best of the Week show ensures at least some measure of previous audience approval, showing up on any given weeknight is a bit like fishing with untested bait: You might catch a few big ones, or, well, you might catch nothing. Ahh, the magic of FronteraFest! Luckily, Wednesday's show from the second week was a nice catch, chock-full of good laughs and provocative moments.

"Amusing Karl Marx" tries to explain how to woo the intelligent man. This is no simple matter. Though the intelligent man – in this case, the blustery Marx – clearly falls into the traditional romantic pitfalls like strewn rose petals and lacy garments, he is so self-involved that he can't leave his work long enough for some loving. Writer Francisco Rodriguez is hilarious as the meek and unaware Marx, though apparently girls are looking for more Joseph Stalin in their lovers.

After making the first week's Best of the Week showcase with "The Weiner Chronicles," Alex Garza returned with a new set of monologues titled "The Bumblebee Saga." The storytellers in these pieces are everyday people struggling with the fragility of life and the choices they've made. High on sentimentality but lacking in defining details, Garza's tales wonder at what portents the future holds.

Loaded Gun Theory's "The Nymph" puts the mythological in a commonplace context. A modern-day mother and daughter, feuding about MP3 players and a divorce, get stuck in high water, where they happen upon a river nymph clad in a fedora and khaki shorts with one fierce black beard. Part hobo and part bacchanal, this nymph is inclined to play the kinds of dastardly tricks his ilk is known for.

The highlight of Wednesday's show was Aimee Gonzalez's outstanding and hilarious "Larius Likler." Excerpted from a longer Austin Script Works piece, "Likler" focuses on neurotic germophobe Larius and his offbeat family. His elder sister is knocked up, his precocious younger sister has chosen to rename herself Condom, their mother is missing, and their father is taking it in stride as best he can. Full of quirky characters and witty one-liners, this excerpt had the audience wishing to see the whole play.

The comedy styling of improv duo Suspicious Package capped off Wednesday's show. The improvisers each took a cue from the audience – the lyric "Let It Be" and the nickname Weenie – and incorporated them into their scenes as best they could. Suspicious Package seemed particularly fearless of failing onstage, and a few miscues were easily outweighed by their sidesplitting successes.

On any given night, FronteraFest delivers surprises, and so far it seems that most of the ones this year have been quite pleasant. If you want to test your audience luck with a night of Short Fringe, remember to book your tickets in advance; these shows have been selling out almost every night.

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