HOLLYWOOD FRINGE FESTIVAL 2019 Theatre Review
The annual Hollywood Fringe Festival took place in from June 13-30. According to the Fringe’s 200 page program: “The Hollywood Fringe Festival is an annual, open-access, community-derived event celebrating freedom of expression and collaboration in the performing arts community… Participation in the Hollywood Fringe is completely open and uncensored. This free-for-all approach underlines the festival’s mission to be a platform for artists without the barrier of a curative body. By opening the gates to anyone with a vision, the festival is able to exhibit the most diverse and cutting-edge points-of-view the world has to offer.”
Staged in around 30 theaters in the Hollywood area, the HFF is Los Angeles’ counterpart to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. In 2017, 2,000 performances and 375 shows were mounted during HFF. Theater artists travel from near and far in order to participate in this unfiltered fest. For example, the Polish-Australian troupe Drama Theatre Fantazja flew all the way from Sydney to present The Trial of Dali, an 80-minute play about the infamous surrealist painter, at The Complex Hollywood’s Ruby Theatre.
This play’s entire action is set in a workplace powder room, a euphemism for the ladies room, thus all of the characters and the eight thesps are females.
Also playing on The Complex Hollywood’s boards right across the hall from the Ruby in The Dorie Theatre was Tales From the Powder Room by Robyn Migel, which won First Place for the Better Lemons Audience Choice Awards and has been extended. This play’s entire action is set in a workplace powder room, a euphemism for the ladies room, thus all of the characters and the eight thesps are females. In this woman-oriented hour-or-so play, the dramatis personae go to the bathroom in a series of six insightful vignettes.
In the first scene Lori (Sarah Siadat, who has appeared on HBO’s Veep and Pretty Little Liars) confronts herself in the mirror, where her inner voice is spoken out loud, expressing her self-doubts, consternation and affirmations. As Krystal, Megan Olivia is alternately hilarious and screechy as she gives herself a pregnancy test in one of the bathroom’s stalls, then calls her boyfriend to inform him of the outcome.
With much aplomb, in a couple of skits Sandi Milne plays Miranda, who epitomizes the boss you love to hate. The caustic, mean-spirited Miranda berates employees she supervises, such as demanding to know of one: “Do you have a learning disability?” However, in the course of cracking down on her underlings, Miranda’s back story is revealed, disclosing what makes people act like Blue Meanies and bullies, and turning an unlikable person into a more sympathetic character.
In the final vignette Georgia (Davida Sal) is accosted in the ladies’ room by Kendra (Lara Helena), a bible thumper who orders Georgia - or “George” - to use the men’s room. The religious zealot is unable to accept Georgia as a woman, because she is in the process of transitioning from male to female. At first, Georgia tries to keep her powder dry in the powder room as Kendra verbally assaults and belittles her. As Georgia tries to defend herself, she points out that nowhere in the entire New Testament did Jesus ever attack transgender people. The play comes full circle in this last scene as Lori - who’d opened the play - enters the bathroom and intervenes, with surprising results.
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Speaking of surprises, I almost fell out of my chair when I saw Davida - a statuesque European beauty - unexpectedly portraying a transgender character. My interview with her, under the name of Jil Love (she apparently changes monikers as often as other people change their socks), appears in the 45th Anniversary Collector’s Edition of Hustler Magazine, which is out now. She is also an internationally renowned activist who combines protest, performance art and nudity for various worthy causes.
In her debut on the legit stage, the multi-talented Davida acquits herself well, proving she’s full of talent and promise as a thespian. Casting directors, agents and auds should keep their eyes on this up and coming thesp, who has studied acting with the Groundlings, Upright Citizens Brigade, Stella Adler Academy of Acting & Theatre and coach Eric Morris.
Playwright Robyn Migel deftly directs her sextet of vignettes, which is well-written and acted. Powder won HFF’s “Encore Producers Award” and Migel informed me she “hope[s] to move [Powder] to a bigger venue for a future run outside the Hollywood Fringe, which is what I did last year with Lucinda and the Wolves, which went to an Off-Off Broadway festival in NYC.” Indeed, Powder deserves to be seen in a venue much larger than The Dorie’s 55-seat small theater space at “Way-Off-Broadway” - aka Santa Monica Blvd.
As to the message of her all-woman, feminist play Migel asserts: “While so many people are focused on ‘#metoo’ we are focused on how women can get out of their own way and support each other.” In other words, sisterhood is still Powder-ful. All Powder to the people!
Take a powder and go see the HFF extension of Tales From the Powder Room on Friday, August 9 at The Dorie Theatre in The Complex Hollywood at 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90038.
For more info about Tales From the Powder Room and other HFF extensions see: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/.
Ed Rampell is an L.A.-based film historian/reviewer and co-author of “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book”, which he’ll be signing at Hollywood’s The Egyptian Theatre on July 13 during “Tiki Night.”