I was more than honored, as I’m sure all of the PGH Stage writers were, to be asked to review several shows at this year’s second annual Pittsburgh Fringe Festival. My initial imagination of what the festival might be like consisted of a colorful outdoor tent, the inside of which contained room after room of eccentric performances with local distributors shelling out everything from locally grown food to locally crafted beer. The actual layout of the festival, though, was so much better as it entwined several Pittsburgh businesses all within miles of each other into the story telling and overall festival experience.
My first stop of the night was at the Maker Theater in east end. I was excited to return to this quaint space after seeing “Lovecraft’s Monsters” there back in March. There is something about the space that gives it a very warm, welcoming feeling. Perhaps it’s the beautiful colors lining the outdoor walls as you walk in, the more than friendly event staff to greet you as you enter, the quiet comfortable stage area that you find on the inside, or a combination of all three. Today I was here to see “The Village Hotel,” which was written by Tyler Plosia, a fellow PGH Stage writer. I knew I was in for a treat when Natalie Spanner, who is simply referred to as “her” in the performance’s program, began her opening dialogue.
Spanner’s performance was impeccable throughout the show. Her charismatic ability to jump from discussing a painful abortion, being a support system for her neurotic boyfriend (Michael Perrotta), and platonically befriending a worn out hotel clerk (Chuck Timbers) was the stuff of any emerging actress’s dream. She was even able to keep her cool during the final scene when an unfortunate phone mishap in the sound booth began blaring an Amazon commercial right before she was about to deliver her final line. Only three words come to mind for her: get it girl. The other performers and storyline were equally as riveting, with only a few minor mishaps in the dialogue and a touch of over-dramatization at the end. All in all, though, the performance kept me fully entertained throughout and only ignited my excitement for more Fringe.
As my guest and I walked into Max’s Allegheny Tavern we were a bit confused. We hesitantly walked up to the hostess asking, “Um, is there a show here?” “Yes,” she said with excitement, “they can help you out right down there!” Sure enough we were in the perfect historic location for the performance we were about to see entitled “Michael McGovern: Stand-up Horror,” which was appropriately held in the basement of the tavern. I grabbed my whiskey sour goblet (which I highly recommend if you are ever visiting this North Side location) and headed downstairs to see what was in store.
A lovely older gentlemen greeted us, who we later found out was Michael McGovern himself. I appreciated the willingness of the playwright and actor to be so hands-on and friendly at his own performance. It didn’t take long for McGovern to continue to cheer the audience up with countless the jokes and puns that filled his stand-up horror stories that were extremely creative and equally as entertaining. He made countless humorous references, some of which I understood and some of which I did not…damn millennials, right? My personal favorites, though, were the exaggerated teenage girls who faced everything from vicious werewolf men in their dorms to blood sucking sorority sisters. Even more impressive, McGovern wrote almost all 26 skits that kept the audience more than attentive throughout the evening.
Keep your eyes peeled for more from the rest of us here at The Pittsburgh Stage! #TPSdoesFringe
While the humorous skits were great, I would be remiss not to mention the impressiveness of McGovern’s second to last skit entitled “The Testimony of Charles Manson” in which he portrayed what may have happened on that witness stand in 1970. McGovern said he almost didn’t do this sketch as it wasn’t meant to be humorous, but boy am I glad he did. Not only was the dialogue compelling, but I dare say I was actually sympathetic to McGovern’s interpretation of this deranged killer. It truly showcased his range and solidified the perfect end to my wonderful Fringe experience.