The Best of the 2013 Philly Fringe Festival

2013 Fringe Festival PhiladelphiaPhindie‘s recent Critics’ Awards proved very popular. These awards used input from theater reviewers across town to compile a list of the best performers of the 2012/13 season. We considered putting together a similar compilation for the Fringe, but decided there was no sensible way to do that, because each reviewer sees different stuff and a public vote would just be a popularity contest. So we asked Phindie writers and friends to send their favorite moments and tongue-in-cheek award nominations for the 2013 Philly Fringe Festival. Like Philadelphia Magazine‘s Best of Philly awards, but less focused on the suburbs and plastic surgery.


Best dramatic use of a rock, as in an actual giant hunk of rock: THIS IS NOT FOR YOU (elbow room performance) [JBF]

Funniest re-enactment of scenes from Planet of the Apes: HAPPY BIRTHDAY KIM HUNTER (Zacherle) [CPM]

Most disgustingly erotic and uncomfortable to watch in the best possible ways: BASEMENT (Gunnar Montana) [LH]

“This is the only place where baby doll dismembering, Santa Claus chopping, guts wearing, head smashing, dub-step listening, and wrapping a woman in plastic are okay.” review

Best portrayal of a Philadelphia Parking Authority attendant: Kyle Yackoski in ANTIHERO (Tribe of Fools) [JJ]

Best Use of a Hula Hoop: “lost&Found”, HATCH (Birds on a Wire)  [DM]

Best potato salad, and most delightful potato salad chef: Aleksandra Berczynski in HOW TO MAKE POTATO SALAD [CPM]

“The dish, served in bowls with a glass of wine after the twenty-minute performance: a fitting coda to a quietly pleasing Fringe show.” review

Best evocation of an old sepia-toned photograph: THE BALLAD OF JOE HILL (Swim Pony) [DM]

Best supporting dildo: GAYZE (MJ/JT) [JBF]

Best chest art: THE TALKBACK (Berserker Residents) [DM]
Best Q&A: (That one’s easy:) THE TALKBACK  [CPM]
Play most likely to make you fantasize about becoming an actor: THE TALKBACK [NF]

“THE TALKBACK is front-to-back hilarious, yes, but it’s also an honest and penetrating look into how theater is created.” review + review

Best impression of a balloon deflating: Magda San Millan in BASTARD PIECE (No Face) [JF]

Best play for a friend who is not into plays but has been tricked into attending and who has such a good time that now they think they are into plays too and SCORE! You now have a new play buddy: BYE BYE LIVER (Pub) [NF]
Best buzz (literally): BYE BYE LIVER [JBF]

Most transportive venue (literally and metaphorically): Tall Ship Gazela for THE SEA PLAYS (Philadelphia Artists’ Collective) [JJ, DM]
Best majestical roof fretted with golden fire: the starry sky along the Delaware during the preshow of THE SEA PLAYS [CPM]

“The cramped, overheated confines of Tall Ship Gazela are an ideal setting for the claustrophobic scenes aboard the fictional S.S. Glencairn.” review + review

Best corpses: OPERA MACABRE (Philadelphia Opera Collective) [DM]

Best reading experience at the Free Library: THE QUIET VOLUME (Ant Hampton and Tim Etchells) [JJ]

Most likely to leave you breaking out in spontaneous bursts of riverdancing after the show: OUT OF TIME (Colin Dunne) [LH]

“The show is not a pretentious display of skills but a step back in time into the history of traditional Irish dance.” review

Best monologue/rant by a playwright/actor: Chris Davis in HOLLY’S DEAD SOLDIERS (Bruce Walsh, Douglas Williams, Chris Davis) [JJ]
Funniest confusion about whether there’s a “clock” or a “glock” in the basement:  HOLLY’S DEAD SOLDIERS [KO]
Best horse chase: HOLLY’S DEAD SOLDIERS [CPM]

Most fabulous make-up and wigs: Erik Ransom (and others) in ETERNAL GLAMNATION (Brat) [DM]

Most Warholian elevation of the ordinary to the status of high art: LIFE AND TIMES (Nature Theater of Oklahoma) [DM]
Best celebrity sex book:  LIFE AND TIMES, episodes 4.5 & 5  [JF]
Best transportation to your youth moment:  LIFE AND TIMES, episode 2 [JC]

“I was laughing and crying at once and felt like I was twelve years old again. I was THERE. Super jarring to be ripped out of my childhood and back into my thirty-year-old body when the lights came up. Amazing, groundbreaking theater.” JC

Best recreation of cyber-bullying:  GLOW (Kaleid) [DM]

Most profound feeling of confusion: PAY UP (Pig Iron) [NF]
Funniest name swap: PAY UP [JF]

Best barbershop quartet as storytellers: ENLIGHTENMENT ON E FLOOR NORTH [JJ]
Best animal sounds in a climactic moment: ENLIGHTENMENT ON E FLOOR NORTH (Strange Attractor) [NF]
Best silence and absurdity to communicate the vapid boredom that a mindless job can engender: ENLIGHTENMENT ON E FLOOR NORTH [CPM]

“Someone once said that war is months of utter boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror. Working as a security guard at a museum is like that, only without the terror.” review

Best Ethel Merman impression: Shannon Agnew in IF I WERE A DRAG QUEEN (Shannon Agnew) [JBF]

Most likely to make you clutch your friend in an attempt to control yourself: THE PLAYDATERS (Matchbox) [NF]
Best Troll: Dana Kreitz in THE PLAYDATERS [DMCPM]

Most absurd costumes: Erica Hoelscher (especially for Michael Dura and Tomas Dura) in THE CASTLE (IRC) [DM]

“Erica Hoelscher’s ever-impressive costumes enhance the illogic of the script and the characterizations of its preposterous players.” review

Best ninja fight of any Fringe, past and future: THE SOCIETY (Jo Strømgren Kompani) [JJ]
Most bizzarre comic choreography executed with strangely meticulous abandon: THE SOCIETY [KO]

Best transport to a different realm: THIS IS THE TWILIGHT KINGDOM (Found) [DM]

Best way to disorient all of your senses, best fresh-brewed beer on stage, and most innovative light show: WHERE (WE) LIVE (So Percussion) [LH]

“Confusion, a perfectly choreographed light show, then more music: WHERE (WE) LIVE is a trance-like experience.” review

Best poster for a fictional teen vampire movie: LUCINDA’S BED (Brainspunk Theater) [CPM]
Most sexual plot points: LUCINDA’S BED [NF]

Most likely to leave you wanting friends over the age of 60: ALL THE SEX I’VE EVER HAD (Mammalian Diving Reflex) [LH]

Most “cutting-edge” performance on ice skates: Geoff Sobelle in THE OBJECT LESSON (Geoff Sobelle) [JJKOCPMJF, and probably everyone else who saw the show]

“Sobelle at turns reminisces, dances, jokes, and mourns, all through the medium of the objects within reach. He also chops up a salad with ice skates, which is certainly among the best moments of this year’s Fringe.” review + review

Best performance in a supporting role by a rubber duckie: BATHTUB MOBY-DICK (Renegade) [DM]
Best solo portrayal of all-out-war, male: Ed Swidey in BATHTUB MOBY-DICK [JJ]

Best solo portrayal of all-out-war, female: Mary Tuomanen in SAINT JOAN, BETRAYED (Aaron Cromie and Mary Tuomanen) [JJ]
Best suitcase art: SAINT JOAN, BETRAYED  [DM]
Best “how’d she do that?” super crisp precision and comedic execution of two characters in conversation: Mary Tuomanen in SAINT JOAN, BETRAYED [JC]
Wittiest moments in an astonishingly well-conceived and performed work: Mary Tuomanen in SAINT JOAN, BETRAYED [KO]

“It’s a wonderful script, intelligent and shot through with humor. Saint Joan speaks French and the smart-mouth Dauphin puppet (which Mary masterfully manipulates) speaks English. He says Joan is ‘a total morale boost… I dig it Joan.’ ” review

Best gravity-defying illusions: LEO (Y2D Productions) [DM]

Best gravity-defying real moves by fearless dancers: HUSH NOW SWEET HIGH HEELS AND OAK (Brian Sanders’ JUNK) [DM]

Show that requires most imbibing before in order to get through if you aren’t into traditional theater: THIS IS NOT A THEATER (Navin Rawanchaikul) [LH]

“If the performance had been a free affair, and was specifically intended to be seen by a board of trustees or some potential donors, that would be fine—perhaps even ideal. But there is no justification for such a public display of self-righteousness as THIS IS NOT A THEATER.” review + review

And some favorite moments of the Festival:

After-hours drinking with actors and theatergoers at Quigs. Right? Right?! [NF]

The audience’s reaction to Terry Brennan’s entrance in THE TALKBACK by the Berserker Residents. In the midst of a massive dance number to “Age of Aquarius” and among dancers clad in shimmery, silly costumes, Terry enters wearing only a thong and a reindeer head. Every night, the audience’s reaction was a mixture of dumbfounding glee and delightful shock.  [JJ]

Taking some of the PAY UP UArts students to the secret employees-only breakroom of Underground Arts, complete with a DJ spinning vinyl, a community bottle of Jack and someone dancing around dressed in a life-sized slinky costume. Thanks, Underground Arts for making me look badass in front of the next generation! [JC]

A selfish one: seeing at the end of the Fest that Phindie had covered and reviewed more shows than any other publication in Philadelphia. Thanks to everyone for reading. [CPM]

Contributors: Christopher Munden (CPM), Justin Jain (JJ), Nicole Forrester (NF), Julius Ferraro (JF), Kathryn Osenlund (KO), JB Farley (JBF), Deb Miller (DM), Jess Conda (JC), L. Haber (LH)


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About the author

Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.