The evening began with the ridiculous but thoroughly entertaining one man show Laundry Night by Captain Ambivalent. Captain Ambivalent sings with the accompaniment of a gold accordion, telling the story of an ordinary super hero. The one man show reflects on the struggles of being a regular guy in Chicago, through lyrics reminiscent of They Might Be Giants or King Missile. Sharing experiences of heartbreak, boredom and public transit as well as his rise to local fame, and a brief stint on America’s Got Talent. His costumes and props, including a 15’ purple inflatable dinosaur(not Barney) compliment the silliness of his lyrics. The show is amusing and certainly a production all ages will enjoy. Of course in Pittsburgh, everyone loves the the accordion. All music performed is original, except for the famed 1989 hit by Technotronic, Pump Up the Jam, which is beyond hilarious played on an accordion.
Next up, is Melissa Cole’s Mo-to-the-Oncle. The story begins when Detroit Price loses his vision insurance, just at the time his teenage son, Detroit Price Jr. is in need of new glasses. When Price reveals to the eyewear associate he has no vision coverage for his son, Detroit Jr is provided with a monocle in place of eyeglasses. The teen is horrified at the abuse he anticipates upon returning to school with a monocle. He goes to school only to have his greatest fear come true. Another student threatens to jump Detroit Jr, so he elicits the help if his uncle, a pimp.
Through detailed costume changes, voice reflection and finely tuned body language Cole expertly presents each character; father, optical sale associate, teenager, pimp and doctor. The program lists Mo-to-the-Oncle as a comedy. Detroit Jr’s rhyme is clever, the colorful characters depicted by writer/ performer Cole are well developed, the dialogue is sharp but in today’s political climate, to clarify this is a dark comedy.
Proxemics, a wearable art performance by local Pittsburgh fabric sculpturer Hannah Thompson is performed on the 3rd floor at AIR, in the gallery exhibiting Visual Fringe 2017 artists. By definition, Proxemics is the study of humans use of space and the effects of population on behavior, communication and the ways in which humans interact with one another. I was intrigued by the synopsis in the program, I enjoy how performance art challenges my perceptions. Unfortunately, this performance was tarnished for me before it even began. The artist arrived late, experienced technical difficulties with her music and as she prepared her props, she casually engaged other audience members in conversation about her political positions. When launched, the performance consisted of Thompson climbing into several elaborate cocoon-like stretchy ‘Snuggie’s’. Then she rolled around on the floor, extending her arms and legs or stood and stretched inside the long tubes of fabric. Maybe she was practicing yoga or some form of free movement dance. No one else in the audience seemed bothered. Others mingled around after the 20-minute show engaging the artist in conversation and asking questions. Performance art? Definitely, but definitely not my thing.
The Pink Hulk: One Woman’s Journey to Find the Superhero Within is written and performed by Valerie David, 2 time cancer survivor and improv artist. Part anecdotal comedy and 100% personal narrative, solo artist David shares her terror, frustration, depression and anger after learning she is diagnosed with breast cancer just weeks after celebrating her fifteenth anniversary of being cancer free from Lymphoma. David bares her soul and owns the stage as she reveals the darkest time of her life; a direct attack on her womanhood; breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. She holds back nothing, is brutally honest and frank. This is uncomfortable and frightening but David’s skill for storytelling puts me on the edge of my seat, almost immediately feeling an alliance with her. She uses minimal props and I am tempted to say, they could actually be eliminated altogether as her narrative and stage presence are engaging enough.
The Portable Dorothy Parker written by Annie Lux is a flashback in time. The year is 1944, New York. Writer Dorothy Parker is visited by a young editor for Viking Press, tasked to help edit the soon to be released The Portable Dorothy Parker. Parker reflects on her time working for Vanity Fair, her friends and enemies, and the places she visited and shares these experiences and stories. Actor Margot Avery portrays Parker over the course of the eighty minute solo performance. Avery delivers Parkers witticisms and a straightforward rendition of her life and career with brilliant ease. Avery reincarnates Parker on stage, and Lux channels her intellectual poise and intelligent cynicism through the script. The show, directed by Lee Costello is smart and moves fast despite being nearly an hour and a half of monologue.
Avery’s ability to capture and exhibit Parker through delivery of dialogue, body language and slight movement are further captured through the use of period dress. If you are a Dorothy Parker connoisseur, do not skip this performance.