Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Punch's Progress

Another night of Fringe Fest brought another excellent show. This one was called Punch's Progress: A Pulcinella Story and concerned the infamous Pulcinella himself. Having lived in Naples for several years, I had a faint memory of the Pulcinella imagery but felt that I needed a real Neopolitan with me to truly appreciate it. Thus I invited my friend Veronica that I went to high school with while living there but who now lives just a few miles away in Alexandria.

The venue was a far cry from my previous Fringe Fest experience and from the very first scene I knew the show was going to be 180° different. For starters, it was a one man show created and performed by Aaron Cromie, a big-hitter from the Philadelphia theater scene. He came out dressed in the typical Pulcinella fare and spoke completely in Italian, at least for the first scene. He introduced his imaginary family while cursing quite prolifically, most of which I could still understand despite having not spoken the language for quite some time. Eventually he came to see that the audience didn't speak Italian and switched to American English and spoke as such for the rest of the show.

He then gauged the "moral barometer" of the audience through a series of dirty limericks, the filthiest of which went as follows:

I'm told of a Bishop of Birmingham,
Who buggered young boys while confirming them,

To roars of applause,

He tore down their drawers,

And pumped the Episcopal sperm in 'em.

At this point, there was no mistaking that the show was about the one and only Pulcinella, the true representative of the working man's humor. What followed was a series of acts that highlighted Pulcinella's contribution to comedy, including a show about Punch and Judy and ending with the classic standup comedian. It was during this part of the show that the audience was invited to tell jokes of their own which made it even more enjoyable.

This show explored not only the character of Pulcinella, but also the origin of the 'dirty joke' and why this type of humor has survived to this day despite the enormous pressures to be politically correct. In a sense, Pulcinella represents the facet of ourselves that will laugh at anything no matter how inappropriate it is.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Escapists

Just a little over a week ago while surfing the Internet late at night thanks to jet lag-induced insomnia, I stumbled upon the Washington Post's 2006 Fringe Festival site. I couldn't believe it! While living in Florida I'd heard about this week-long venue of experimental theater but never made an effort to go see it in Orlando. Now though with it being only a 15-minute Metro ride away there was no excuse.

My first Fringe Fest experience was watching a performance of The Escapists, an improv group based in Portland, Maine. I went with my friend Reshma who was also new to the whole Fringe scene. This particular show was at the Warehouse Next Door in Chinatown. The venue was small but fitting for a 4-person troupe.

It started off with an a capella-like song followed by quick introductions. The first bit was a classic improv game whereby one of the members waits in a soundproof area off-stage while the remaining members gather responses from the audience. Upon their return, the now ignorant player must figure out what those responses are solely through charades. Typically a running monologue accompanies the bit and in this case it was an entertaining Baptist sermon.

They performed several other classic improv games but there was a lot of sketch comedy in between the bits, more than I expected. My previous experience with improv, The Blue Show in Arlington, Virginia and Not Quite Right in Melbourne, Florida, were solely games-based so the sketch comedy, while fairly funny, took some getting used to.

All in all though it was a great show and the audience was constantly laughing, especially during those acts were they used all of their input. They even came out to do an encore performance which got them several more rounds of applause. If the rest of the shows are as good as this one then I will have thoroughly enjoyed the first annual DC Fringe Fest.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Pedro on the Metro!

On July 8th my buddy Pedro that I've known since college was in town and I met up with him and his folks in DC. Thinking that I would have to meet them at the Jefferson Memorial, I took the yellow line in and popped up at L'Enfant Plaza. Being as it was my first time at that particular stop I was a bit bewildered at first but eventually got oriented and started off. As luck would have it though, Pedro and family were still up at the mall. So I jumped back onto the Metro, the orange line this time, and met them just outside the Smithsonian station.

The last time I had seen Pedro was several years earlier when he visited me in Melbourne and we saw Return of the King together. He looked just about as I remember him and I also had the pleasure of meeting his father and step-mother. Naturally our talk soon turned to programming. It sounds like his doctoral studies are going well at University of Florida and he was impressed by my recent conversion to Ruby. Purdue of course also came up and what our mutual friends from college were up to.

We talked a lot while walking over to have lunch at Les Halles located on Pennsylvania Avenue. It was an awesome meal and to boot Pedro and I shared a 750ml bottle of Chimay, one of my favorite beers. Afterwards we walked to the Federal Triangle Metro station since Pedro and family were going to spend the rest of the day in Springfield and I figured we might as well all take the blue line. I got off at my stop wishing I could have spent more time with them but time constraints being as they were prevented that. Still, I was glad to see an old friend again.