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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 20, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 16
Fun evenings with the Solo Performance Festival
Arts & Entertainment
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Fun evenings with the Solo Performance Festival

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Solo Performance Festival
Theater Off Jackson
Through April 28


It's time for the next edition of the annual Solo Performance Festival. This is the sixth one, curated, as always, by the indomitable Keira McDonald. You can probably guess that all the various performances are solo ones. Most often, they are written by the performer, sometimes with help on aspects like music.

This review covers just two of the six performances, plus a 'shorts night.' The full lineup of all the dates and performers is here: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/228798. While you can't purchase a festival pass anymore, the individual performances are generally quite affordable, and many of these performances are top-notch, rockin' good times.

Two of them are Miss Fanny's Fun Box, written and performed by Kate Jaeger, directed by Cindy Bradder, with original music by Erin Stewart, and Purple Heart, written and performed by Mike Mathieu. They are wildly different, and yet each is interesting, engaging, and great theater.

Miss Fanny is embodied by Kate Jaeger, a talented actress, singer, and director around town. Keira McDonald reports that Kate came to see an SPF and said she'd never done a solo show. Keira piped up that it meant she should immediately start working on one, and this is the result.

Miss Fanny's Fun Box is a local Romper Room-style television show, but today is Miss Fanny's last performance. She's being pushed off the television schedule for something called Extreme Toddler Cage Match. Miss Fanny starts out every show by asking her audience, 'What's in my Fun Box today?' There are too many double entendres to count in this play, including what button to push on her Fun Box, and playing with her Fun Bags.

She sings the expected songs about behaving properly and how to say goodbye. She has a video retrospective about the years she's been on television and her special guests (which include lots of celebrities, with almost believable graphic inclusions of Miss Fanny. Guffaw-inducing.)

Jaegar has just the right amount of rhythm to deliver the jokes and stay in character. The songs and lyrics provided by Erin Stewart are a hoot and a half and totally appropriate for this send-up.

Purple Heart is by Mike Mathieu, who is most well-known as part of a duo known as The Cody Rivers Show. He's from Bellingham, but performs here often, so you can think of him as local. The title of his intense and absorbing solo show comes out of the blue toward the end, with a musing about purple hearts in the military. It's an idiosyncratic reference which means more to the performer, it seems, than an audience, but it doesn't matter a whit to the story.

Describing this play is not likely to do it justice; it's the kind you have to see to experience. A private detective has taken a bigwig law enforcer hostage. At the end of his options, the only way he thinks he can get this guy's undivided attention is to kidnap him. He promises that he's not going to hurt the guy, and will let him go, and he's a trustworthy kind of guy! Believe him!

He then immediately tells a few lies, which is part of the comedy, even in this intense situation. Mathieu combines likability, an intense belief in his scenario, and a whip-smart script to draw you into liking and believing this crackpot pseudo-detective. The audience has to use its brain cells to figure out what's going on and whether to believe it. Those who love law-and-order TV shows will love the puzzle in this one.

Try to fit at least one of these evenings into your week. You'll be glad you did.

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