Fringe Preview 9: Center City Fringe

2013 Fringe Festival PhiladelphiaThere’s still a cachet and a natural audience draw when a work is staged in the center of town, and that’s still where most of the theaters in town are located. Phindie’s series of Fringe previews concludes (just in time) with a look at the largest neighborhood fringe, Center City. With forty-five productions in fifteen locations and another dozen FringeArts-sponsored shows, there’s plenty of to see in the heart of the city. (The previous divide between sponsored “Philadelphia Live Arts” pieces and anyone-can-enter-if-they-pay “Philly Fringe” shows is mirrored this year in the “Presented Fringe” and “Neighborhood Fringe”. This preview considers both within the geographic confines.)

Center City (includes Broad Street and Rittenhouse)

It always seems a waste to see shows by established theater companies during the Fringe when there are so many new artists to discover, but a few shows by season-producing troupes look very promising. Masters of the absurd The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium takes on that most Kafkaesque of writers, Franz Kafka, with a version of his The Castle invoking Monty Python, Dashiell Hammett, and Lemony Snicket. Azuka Theatre follows up a stellar 2012/13 season with Dutch Masters (let’s be blunt: we’re not talking Vermeer and Hals here), set in the aftermath of the 1992 L.A. riots. EgoPo Classic Theater reassembles Ibsen’s A Doll’s House into a one-woman teenage breakdown: “Nora like you’ve never seen her before.”

Beyond the usual players, the Fringe throws up such unlikely company names as Liam’s Sofa Cushion Fortress. Spearheaded by local director Liam Castellan, the Fortress is behind a show getting brickloads of pre-Fest buzz, Traveling Light by Lindsay Harris Friel, about a meeting between two icons of swinging London, Beatles manager Brian Epstein and playwright Joe Orton.

The Berserker Residents in THE TALKBACK. Philly Fringe 2013.

The Berserker Residents in THE TALKBACK

Plays & Players Theatre is full of Fringe this fest, with three Presented Fringe shows and four neighborhood fringe shows. The sponsored pieces are three works which would be at home in an art gallery: mural/comic This is Not a Theater and co-presented shows All The Sex I’ve Ever Had (senior citizens talk about sexuality over the years) and The Living Newspaper (a New York artist conducts real-time news focus groups). In the neighborhood section, Unstuck Theater tells stories of transgender armageddon in XY Scheherazade; top Philly actor Griffin Stanton-Ameisen and his crew in Matchbox Theatre Project break down romcom in The Playdaters; Sonya Aronowitz focuses on the “social position of the fair sex” with a look at Karl Marx’s family life in Heart of the Revolution; and proven Fringe talents The Beserker Residents lampoon rightly maligned post-show discussions in The Talkback.

The offerings seem especially rich this year for the Presented Fringe productions. The almost-over before it began AJAX, the madness, a reconsideration of the Sophocles play, is a sure bet. Perennial Fringe winners Pig Iron Theatre Company entertain and challenge with Pay Up, which explores how we spend our money, time, and limited choices. Swim Pony Performing Arts redevises The Ballad of Joe Hill, its 2006 Fringe hit about a complex hero.

Happy Fringing!

The 2013 Fringe Festival runs September 5-22. See fringearts.ticketleap.com for tickets and info. Check out Phindie previews of other Fringe neighborhoods and more great festival coverage on our 2013 Fringe Festival page.

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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.