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The Prague Fringe Festival: Day 1 (May 22)


Posted: May 25, 2009

By Steffen Silvis - Staff Writer | Comments (19) | Post comment

The Prague Fringe Festival: Day 1 (May 22)

Courtesy Photo: Federica Anchieri

Katatonika

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Katatonika If this is the worst the festival has to offer, then I'm glad I got it out of the way first. Director Melanie Rada has ably proved in two Prague Playhouse Playwright Competitions that she is incapable of directing a play. With Katatonika, we must now also question her competence with the technical side of stagecraft. Where to begin with this pulseless piece of amateurism? Katatonika attempts to be a piece of physical theater, which is a bit of a task considering most of its cast doesn't even have a nodding acquaintance with the skills or discipline required for that genre. Subsequently, there is no style to be found in this interminable hour. Rather, there's a grab-bag of clown signing, third-hand Delsarte gesturing, and, when these fail, mugging. Though dumbshow, some characters are arbitrarily gifted with speech, though this takes the form of squawking gibberish. The whole is wrapped in a fitful noisescape consisting of pre-recorded synth racket (when Ms. Rada and her sound person can noisily make their cues), live, if desultory, guitar strummings, and the occasional banging of a piano - this from an actor that attacks the instrument like an over-confident, but untrained, typist. The extent of the creative poverty on offer here is best highlighted with Katatonika's story, where Ms. Rada and her cohort Jeff Fritz treat us to their version of the obvious: money corrupts. A catatonic state, according to Webster's, involves stupor, rigidity, purposeless excitement and bizarre posturing. The last two qualities are vividly evident onstage. The first two are exhibited by the audience. Divadlo na prádle  

Hansel and Gretel: The End of the Fairy Tale It's a shame that the French-Israeli actress Florence Fisch-Hacham only performed her one-woman piece for three nights, as I think it would have found a large appreciative audience had it continued on. The conceit of her Hansel and Gretel is that we are all present at a children's matinee of a fairy-tale puppet show, and Ms. Fisch-Hacham hits the stage with all the exaggerated energy and joy of a kids' entertainer. Yet, as she performs the piece, her own biography and family history begin to intrude, and what was meant for children becomes a dark, brooding tragedy that tacitly encompasses the Holocaust. A desolate fable becomes one's own, and the piece is something like a theatrical cousin to Angela Carter's reworking of folklore and Anne Sexton's great revisiting of the Brothers Grimm in Transformations. There was no distinct border between the exuberant telling of a children's story and the painful memories of her own childhood. In fact, there were some powerfully jarring moments when Ms. Fisch-Hacham would suddenly relive a brutal moment from her past (particularly an early incident of anti-Semitism), as if it had been written as a comedy sketch for kids. If there was one criticism, it was in Ms. Fisch-Hacham's over-reliance on music to organize her audience's mood. This was unnecessary, as she's an actor more than capable of achieving the same result strictly through her great talent. Her story ends grimly, leaving us to ponder what the lives of Hansel and Gretel might have been like after the original story's end. Were they fully able to cope with the trauma of what happened to them in the woods? Metaphorically, like Hansel, Ms. Fisch-Hacham's family survived the ovens. But, in escaping that fate, there was often little left but guilt, confusion and a deep sadness. Divadlo na prádle  

Kubrilesque: Or a Burlesque Tribute to Stanley Kubrick Cherry Kiss Burlesque is a troupe of ecdysiasts out of Tinseltown who bump and grind for fun and profit. Their salute to the films of Stanley Kubrick may lend their show, Kubrilesque, a patina of respectability, but it's still a classic gams-and-jugs revue, though most certainly a very inventive one. While festive indecency is always welcome, it must be said that Kubrilesque was hit-and-miss. But, when the show did work, it was good, engaging theater. Covering all of Kubrick's films rather than just concentrating on a handful was part of the show's problem. Yet, oddly enough, it was often the most unlikely films that produced the most inspired G-stringed riffs. Founder Polly Peabody's hilarious rendition of "When You Got It, Flaunt It," from Mel Brooks' musical version of The Producers, did, bizarrely, work for her salute to Paths of Glory. The other highlights were Biloxi Brown's Lolita segment, complete with Baby Doll teddy and oversized pink lolly, and, one of the most inspired scenes (all introduced Vaudeville-style with hand-cards, delivered to the stage by porcelain-white drones from the Clockwork Orange milk bar, wearing wigs and underpelts in Trix pastels), was a mirror sketch for the ladies' take on The Shining. But other sketches faltered. The bombshells could come up with nothing for Dr. Strangelove, except for a strangely solemn Amazon stripping in a wheelchair. The Spartacus bit was also rather flat. Still, Cherry Kiss has got it, and they certainly do flaunt it. Divadlo na prádle


Steffen Silvis can be reached at
ssilvis@praguepost.com


Tags: fringe, theater, steffen silvis.


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