Performance on the Rocks

Westmont Fringe Festival

At Porter Theatre and surrounding locations, Westmont College, Thursday, April 20.

Reviewed by Felicia M. Tomasko

This year’s spring Fringe Festival at Westmont College presented a selection of eclectic short theater and dance work in venues including a rock, the backstage green room of the main theater, and through the theater’s side window onto the outside lawn. The festivities lasted three days, with rotating programs and shifting times, allowing for a different experience upon each showing.

Erin Brehm as Sylvia Plath stole the evening show with her composition “Sylvia’s Path.” The performance, in the green room behind the stage, was limited to an audience of 20, making it uncomfortably intimate. Her portrayal was chilling. She recited poetry and journal musings, crumpled paper, made eye contact with and touched audience members’ feet, and placed rubber stamps on their hands. She continued her monologue with water running while showering in a polka-dot dress, then spilled a bag of dirt and screamed as she hurled a gold wedding band. “Hopeless, like quicksand from the start,” were her fitting final words.

UCSB graduate student Judy Bauerlein performed a one-woman piece perched on a rock in which she spouted, stream-of-consciousness style, about the negative space surrounding objects. Bauerlein’s pontifications were alternately funny and poignant. Dancers Leah Benson, Megan Grieshaber, Megan Griffith, Maggie Iba, and Laura Quirk performed original collaborative choreography and work by faculty members Victoria Finlayson and Erlyne Whiteman. Finlayson’s “Lament” is a response to NPR interviews with soldiers, and it evoked melancholy with images of dancers balancing on a precipice. The piece ended in darkness. Grieshaber’s “Attention,” also a response to war, included a moving solo. Dancers in camouflage and loose hair grooved a little too happily to music from Hotel Rwanda.

“Happy” was the order of the day for “Dulce” by Finlayson, which featured rhythmic choreography, a Latin beat, and bright sundresses. “Shadowplaying,” viewed through the theater windows, was characterized by dancers’ striking silhouettes undulating to a beautiful original composition by Westmont music student Greg Kirchmaier. Leah Benson’s “Fix You” featured crisp lines and lyrical unison work by the dancers. Other performers also presented work throughout the weekend, in the festival setting of shifting locations. The Fringe format was a success, providing an intimate connection with the art.

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