Fringe of Marin Festival of Original One-Act Plays, Dominican University of California San Rafael
Reviewed by Suzanne and Greg Angeo
Current “Fringe” Offers the Ridiculous and the Sublime
The Fringe of Marin Festival is celebrating its 31st season, the first without its spirited founder and artistic director Annette Lust, who passed away in February at age 88. She often referred to the Fringe – with great affection – as her “peanut stand”. It was, and is, so much more than that.
The Fringe was founded by Dr Lust nearly 20 years ago to give local writers, actors and directors the chance to try out their original work in an informal setting. Produced by the Dominican University Community Players and performed by actors of all ages, races and ethnicities, nothing is off-limits: comedy, drama, slapstick, cerebral musings, political rants. The one-act plays are presented in a converted lecture hall with a rudimentary stage and very simple props. Many plays are clearly works in progress, only partly successful, but you can see the germination of something truly wonderful in many of the offerings. In 2004, the Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle gave the Dominican Players a special award for excellence in staging the Fringe of Marin during the ten years of Festivals it had presented by that time.
Although Dr Lust was small in size, she left some very big shoes to fill. Her formidable legacy has been handed down to two very courageous colleagues who are determined to carry the baton – to Mount Olympus, if necessary. Dominican University alumnus Gina Pandiani is the dynamic new Managing Director. She is passionate about the Fringe’s mission of presenting diverse and cutting-edge work. Pamela Rand, a talented graduate of Ecole Jacques Lecoq, the acclaimed school of theatre movement and mime in Paris, is the new Production Manager. She shares her gift of physical comedy in one of this season’s productions.
The Spring 2013 Festival features 14 one-act plays evenly divided between two 90-minute programs. All manner of subjects are explored: from the demise of the U.S. Postal Service to the siege of Leningrad during WWII; from a madcap send-up of Sid Caesar’s 1950s TV show to an adaptation of a Chekhov classic. There’s song and dance, dumpster diving and a magic act, too – something to please just about everyone. This season’s efforts may not be quite as edgy or daring as those of earlier days, but there are the usual standouts. “Not Death, But Love”, written by Roberta Palumbo, is a solo piece delivered by Molly McCarthy as Elizabeth Barrett Browning. McCarthy displays amazing imagination through her vivid yet controlled expressions. “The Wreck”, another solo, is a cleverly creative adaptation of the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and is performed by Deanna Anderson, who is also the writer. Anderson weaves memories of her own childhood into her performance, making for a unique and moving piece. “Here’s Your Life” is a cavalcade of craziness. This homage to Sid Caesar has eight performers displaying perfectly-honed comic timing, led by Pamela Rand as the hapless but agile lead character, Susannah P. Metcalf. Rand is also the play’s co-writer, with Stacy Lapin. Some alarming acrobatics will have you on the edge of your seat.
The primary appeal of the Fringe is that you never quite know what to expect. The programs present a mixed bag of quality ranging from the groan-inducing to polished professionalism. The Fringe of Marin was and remains a worthy undertaking, but it faces an uncertain future. Its current home at Meadowlands Hall, which was built in 1888 as the DeYoung family’s summer estate, must be closed soon so it may finally receive a much-needed renovation. The Fringe will relocate to the much larger space at Angelico Concert Hall, and it remains to be seen if it can find the necessary storage space for important props and equipment. The Fringe of Marin has a storied history in Bay Area theatre, and deserves to carry on with the tradition of giving budding theatre professionals a laboratory in which to conduct their novel, and entertaining, experiments.
When: Now through May 5, 2013
7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
2 p.m. Sundays
Tickets: $5 to $15
Location: Meadowlands Assembly Hall, Dominican University
50 Acacia Avenue, San Rafael CA