SF Fringe Festival tells it like it is with random tales from the service sector and beyond
Not every show in the Fringe need conform to a surface or sub theme. Dark Porch Theatre's StormStressLenz brings its own thematic taxonomy with it, in director Martin Schwartz's uneven but intriguing, vivacious remixing of the work of Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz (1751–1792), the Baltic German author of the proto-Romantic, anti-rational Sturm und Drang school of literature.
Schwartz's Lenz remix comes across as an alternately cool and hyperactive investigation of the essence of melodrama, employing a fast-changing four-person ensemble (Nathan Tucker, Margery Fairchild, Ryan Hayes, Meg Hurtado) in a series of scenes shorn of their immediate context and aggregated under various section headings ("Love," "Tricks," "Sorrow," etc.) — subheads called out by Schwartz, seated at a table to the left of the stage calmly scrutinizing the action, asking the lighting booth for the odd musical interlude (MC5 one minute, Brahms the next), and bouncing his palm lightly on a desk bell to trigger the beginning and the end of each scene. These range widely and wildly, making for a raucous but tonally patchy hour. The broadest and subtlest range of characters comes from Tucker and Fairchild, who between them suggest some of the darker elements otherwise left out of a largely comic romp. But if the show leaves one wanting more complexity and shading, its eccentric enterprise is still worth a stab, as they say.
Finally, San Francisco dancer and performance maker Cara Rose DeFabio's admirable solo strikes its own idiosyncratic tone, or rather many of them, in another intriguing investigation, this time of the online afterlife to which we are all increasingly subject — whether willingly or not. After the Tone is a smart and provoking exploration of the intersections of grief, technology, memory, ideology, and individuality that uses DeFabio's sly narrative persona, movement, video, and audio pastiche, and interactive audience participation (via those celebrated and hated cellphones) to productively turn over a subject too close to most of us to be clearly grasped otherwise. *
SAN FRANCISCO FRINGE FESTIVAL
Through Sept. 21, $12.99 or less
156 Eddy, SF
For a longer version of this review, visit www.sfbg.com/pixel_vision.