Gay and Lesbian Fringe Festival Reviews

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Philly Queer Rock Show

Not a play or a movie my usual column forte, but very much Fringe Fest-y, the first ever Philly Queer Rock Show was pretty kick ass. At The Rotunda on Labor Day, the queers rocked from 3pm until 10pm.

The MC, Kelli Dunham is the only issue I could possibly pick on about this event. Not completely MCing between every act was sort of shitty of Dunham. Though if I were an act going on I’d ban her from stage. There was no place for this second guessing amateur comic. There are all these bands that are tough, riding up on motorcycles, people who exude confidence, and then you have this hack MC who couldn’t tell a joke if it was written on the insides of her eyelids.

Putting Dunham aside there were some acts that were highlights for me. LotSix, who also apparently was involved in having the first Philly Queer Rock Show, went on around 7pm. Though she was playing to a small crowd she owned the stage like it was Rockefeller Center. She sang songs about math nerds, “XY Plane,” which left the audience laughing and wanting more. There was a song about Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill and my favorite, a song about the outing of Sara Gilbert. Hilarious and smart, LotSix treats the crowd like they are intelligent.

Another notable performance was that of Red Skate Red. Though the vocalist, Stephie Nelson, didn’t face the audience once and you could barely understand her lyrics this was a great performance. The band was musically pretty tight. They even did a cover of a Lilliput song, which was extremely striking. The very foxy red-headed drummer Emil Normil stood up during this song and did a little dance. Normil kept the beat like a pendulum and I hope to see this band perform again soon.

Philly Queer Rock Show was not just for chicks. Chris Schutz and the Tourists were also there, with a few other male performances. Schutz sang acoustic, with a bit of guitar help on two songs. Though he was billed with a full band, the unplugged act was good. Schutz sang of past boyfriends and I probably liked his performance better than any of the female acts. (Except for the drummer of Red Skate Red!!)

Though not all the bands and performers struck my fancy, the venue and program were a delight to see. Not your usual rock show by any stretch, each act was different and poignant in many ways.

Project X/X Run Zola Run!

At the start of Project X/X Run Zola Run! presented by ESP Productions, the audience was told that Michael Nutter was in attendance the previous night. Then the play went on and Nutter is mentioned so of course he went to the play, he would’ve been a fool not to. So with name drop tainting, this play started. Scenes split apart by music, telling the story of a female candidate for mayor of Philadelphia, running against the incumbent female. Sounds far fetched enough, throw in that both are lesbians (or lesbian friendly) and we have fiction at its best.

Set in the far, very far future, heterosexuals are ousted for being breeders and all humans are focused on, not just children. This very thought is the basis of the campaign trail that is at times funny, but is acted rather obnoxiously. Carla played by Carin Upchurch stood out on the stage with passion and delivery.

Project X/X Run Zola Run! was creative and written with fervor, see it if you’d like a view of ridiculousness of politics.


Bob Hope’s Nightmare

Bob Hope’s Nightmare at The Schuylkill Gallery is a performance that makes you think. At first you start thinking about the Robert Downey Jr. looking man in a frock acting like a patriotic Sally Bowles. And then you start to think about the dishes in the sink and how America can be a joke sometimes. Then you start to think of how hot it is in the room and how glad you are that there is free wine that you are constantly drinking. And then you start wondering if anyone would see you head for the exit. (Mostly to skip out on the audience participation)

The Robert Downey Jr., Sally Bowles fellow is Rob Davidson. An accomplished dancer and director of KineticArchitecture, Davidson, has trained all over the place in dance, though I saw nothing spectacular movement-wise.

I “got” the play though it’s “point” is a little played out. Naked girls with patriotic nipple coverings and signs that say “Got Bush,” it’s just all stuff that’s been seen and done before. It was tasteless before and it’s tasteless now, so if tasteless was really the point and not debasing this country, nice job!

The good thing is the feat is kind of dirty, so if you get your jollies by watching half naked people dancing around seemingly, just because they can, go see Bob Hope’s Nightmare, it’s cheaper than a strip club.


The Food Chain

Finally a play to sink your teeth into, Nicky Silver’s The Food Chain is a three act five star meal presented by 23 Piece Productions at The Playground Theatre.

A married woman on the verge, a gay man on a binge, and at the center of it all a gluttonous man who can’t decide who to go to with his sexual appetite make up The Food Chain. Does he want his wife or a twink? He is completely apathetic doesn’t even say a complete sentence the entire play letting everyone wrestle with each other and themselves over him.

Liz Filios is Amanda Dolar, a once fat red head who is completely insecure with herself and her marriage. Add Krissy Schuck, Bea, a telephone operator dealing with Amanda’s crisis. Andrew Cox as Ford Dolar, is the excessive man that both Amanda and runway model Serge Stubin, played by Peter Danzig, crave attention and recognition from and will apparently stop at nothing to have it.

Stealing the show and making the performance delightfully funny and horribly morose, Daniel Palmieri is Otto Woodnick. He displays delivery and physical acting that were refreshing to see in the Fringe. He’s the exboyfriend that won’t go away and he was hilarious.

Go to The Food Chain. It’s my favorite performance thus far in the Fringe.



I think that Edward Bond would’ve loved to have seen The Stone Soup Theatre Arts group perform STONE. Bond’s work, written in the 70s for gay rights, has not only stood the test of time, but stands up tall with beautifully acted scenes for the 2007 Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

With song, Ben Trawick-Smith (Tramp/Policeman/Boy) and Seiko Carter (Girl/Washerwoman) drew my interest and then I fell completely under the spell of Chris Wild (Man) on his journey coming out into the world. Met by Shawn Shafner (Mason/Judge), I felt like I was watching a scene in life, not a play on stage. Each time these individuals looked out into the audience I felt like they were speaking directly to me. They commanded my attention without being overbearing.

Though the songs involved in Stone Soup Theatre’s production were far too quiet and I was leaning to hear more. That’s the only thing that held the play back at all.


The Man Without Any Will

Chad Wanzek is my hero. By far the best thing I’ve seen Fringe-wise, perhaps even performance-wise, The Man Without Any Will has me thinking still and wanting so much more.

A free event, the meeting place was City Hall at Market and Broad. Chad walked up with his Magic 8-Ball and a distant look. A small group stood waiting, few spoke to each other. I had an idea of what was about to occur. The description listed with Fringe reminded me of a book The Dice Man (Luke Rhinehart pen name for George Cockcroft), where an individual completely gives up all decisive need by relinquishing their free will.

The first thing Wanzek asked the Magic 8-Ball was if the group should go South, the reply was positive so we headed South on Broad Street.

The system works like this. The crowd proposes something for Chad to ask the Magic 8-Ball. He shakes the globe, asks the question and does whatever the ball says. When things get a little slow in the idea department he is either asked by the group to find a stranger to find a suggestion, or Wanzek will walk up to someone and ask them to conjure something to offer the Magic 8-Ball. Wanzek will then approach an individual, with a card beholding his performance artist status with contact info, as to not offend.

Previous performances Wanzek had to shave his head and ask a stranger to marry him. I got to see him play air guitar to an Arctic Monkey’s song at the entrance way to The Hard Rock Café, do ten push-ups outside of the Reading Terminal Men’s bathroom, ask for free coffee for the group at a local gayborhood coffee shop, sing McCarthur’s Park on a crowded street, make out with a statue of a pig and eat an entire lime.

Wanzek’s act started at 9 am and was to end at 5 pm. We were heading towards Chinatown from Reading Terminal and some pleated shorts-with tucked in polo and belt clown of a man, not from our group, had Wanzek ask the Magic 8-Ball if he should have will. The Magic 8-Ball gave a positive response, and that ended the performance.

The Man Without Will was a brilliant performance piece; I anticipate anything coming from Chad Wanzek.



Debbie Does Dallas

Not my most or least favorite, Debbie Does Dallas does the 2007 Philly Fringe Fest. A very unusually hetero crowd at Sister’s Nightclub sat and watched some awesome actors take on cheerleading and porn.

Rory X. Donovan, John Greenbaum, and Matthew Mastronardi played perfect stupid, sex-driven typical football player jocks who were more interested in girls as sex objects and release receptacles than anything else. However, they were a bit out of shape like male adult football fans than high school athletes.

Mara Jill Herman, Alex Keifer, Kathryn M. Lyles, Kara Senich and Caitlin Elizabeth Reilly were all perfect cheerleaders, with bodies that matched the football players. Reilly, who portrays a cheerleader with lesbian tendencies, pointed out in her bio in the playbill that she was not in fact a lesbian (not good PR Reilly).

The songs were fine, the scenes interesting enough and overall, it’s just a goofy fun play. It’s more like burlesque than other Fringe shows that billed themselves as such. You don’t go to this play to get off or learn anything. Debbie Does Dallas the Musical, is a lot like the movie, in that you watch just to say you saw it.


Pink Hanger presents took on Edgar Allan Poe and won with Poe-sers.

Writer Susan DiPronio pits Poe scenes and thoughts against each other and the victory is easy and proficient with the cast on stage.

Carly L. Bodnar is The Sleeper; Donna Earl, The Raven; Emily Cheney, The Victim (Annabel Lee); and my favorite Lauren Rooney The Girl (The Bells).

I will admit, I didn’t fully understand the dancing and singing at the end, but the voices were pleasant enough to make you pay close attention in trying to make sense of it.

This is a performance you must see to believe. The most poignant assets in this play are the work and underscoring done with lighting. If you know Poe or want to see a great play, go find Poe-sers.

Starlight Supply

Jeffery Adam Baxt (William) and Kevin Meehan (Melvin) are fabulous in Shawn O’Shea’s (Writing Man Productions) play Starlight Supply.

There’s no dancing or singing, just an on point performance that speaks to anyone’s ears.

These two characters go back and forth over an insurance issue in an articulate and meticulous way that can only be represented on stage.

Baxt is perfect as a nerdy scientist type with Meehan as an intense insurance representative. Their diction and timing match the plays wit, making for one of the better short plays I’ve seen in awhile.

Junior High Assembly Junior High Assembly act one, takes place in 1997, in a gymnasium. The principal (Alexander Jordan), tells the students to take their seats and to quiet down.

Then comes SCARE TACTIC, a group of do-gooder performers telling kids the dangers in life and how to be mindful of them. Scare Tactic is made up of Eddie Austin, Cosimo Derita, Kristin Elizabeth Miller, Jean-Louise O’Sullivan and Crystal Whybark. Their performances are intermingled with mixed media.

The first act really cracked me up complete with a Christopher Reeves joke! Another gem is how they’d segue into an instructional film like “Girls Beware,” or “The Innocent Party,” with wavy arms and sounds reminding me of Wayne’s World dream sequences. Mark A. Dahl wrote a luminous first act.

Act 2? I don’t even want to address it. It needs more work, but I’d be willing to watch it again after a rewrite and recasting. Until then I’m still trying to forget about it.

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