You’ve porbably heard all about the first ever Pittsburgh Fringe Festival that took place last weekend. Unfortunately, due to some work scheduling conflicts, I wasn’t able to see as many shows as I would have liked. I did have one evening free last Saturday so I was fortunate enough to attend two of the twenty-something productions: SINGLEMARRIEDGIRL and Fork Full of Noodles. They were very different shows but they had one thing in common: they both got their start on the internet.
The first show I saw was SINGLEMARRIEDGIRL, a one-woman piece put on by Tasty Monster Productions. The script was adapted from the blog SINGLEMARRIEDGIRL where a blogger named Laurel lets her readers into her life as she deals with a range of experiences. Sure, lots of people have blogs, but it’s clear that Laurel is an excellent writer and that puts a lot of spirit into her stories. While the posts do talk a lot about her failed relationships and her decision to “start dating myself”, it doesn’t talk about it so much that it feels like a slightly cliched feminist empowerment piece. Instead, Laurel (as played by Heather Bagnall) is a fully developed person and while her problems aren’t totally original, her reactions to them and her healthy attitude makes her a likeable person to listen to.
I’ve had some qualms about one-person shows in the past. I’ve seen two that were biographical, about historical figures I wasn’t passionate about. I saw one that was a regaling of The Iliad and I didn’t finish it and didn’t really care. I was convinced that one-man shows were just not a medium I liked. SINGLEMARRIEDGIRL did manage to put a check mark in their favor, however. It was a short piece, which is fine. And even though it wasn’t the actual Laurel telling her stories, the words were hers and that made all the difference in the world. The funny parts were cute and she would playfully climb around on the small playground-esque set, but the highlights are when the darker material is brought to the surface. She has mother issues that she’s fine with now but definintely troubled her deeply. There was even a part where she talked about her suicial thoughts and how every day she would force herself to think of five good reasons to live and if she didn’t, she wouldn’t wake up the next morning. It’s both a poignant and comical tale, so kudos for Tasty Monster for sharing this story at the festival.
My other show was Fork Full of Noodles, the live version. Comedian Krish Mohan has his own webseries where he delivers weekly episodes with hilarious takes on current events. I know Krish (alright, I talked to him once) and I’ve seen him at storytelling events we’ve both attended. He is always funny and is very good at crafting a good story. Much of the cast of the stage version featured comedians I was familiar with so I was very excited to see this show.
The premise was as such: Krish and the writers for Noodles had their Internet lisence revoked and had to think of ways to get it back. On the left side of the stage the group would ponder ideas while on the right side a projection screen was set up. At certain points during the show some pre-recorded clips would play and they would feature recurring characters from the webseries. Other than the recordings, the rest of the show depended on improvisation.
Now let me say this: I know all the comedians on that stage are funny people. I know this as a first-hand fact. But improv has always been a terrifying genre for me, both in terms of doing it myself and watchinig it. There’s always a huge risk of awkward pauces overpowering any punchlines and unfortunately, on the night I saw it, that was the case. The cast was perhaps a bit too large and constantly talking over each other, and when a joke was made it was never great enough to make it worth the buildup. There were a few good jokes and the prerecorded bits were quite hilarious. I really don’t wanna sound like an asshole or make any enemies in the comedy world, but maybe it would’ve been better to write out a script. But then perhaps the other nights all the right jokes landed. Such is the nature of Improv. It’s a tricky bitch.
Well, on that expletive, I give you my input on a small fraction of Fringe. Hopefully there’ll be a second festival and next time I will see as much as I can.