The Zootown Fringe Festival in Missoula, Montana kicked off its fourth annual event on August 16 with an opening ceremony party at its host location, The Silk Road/Crystal Theater. Unlike other US Fringe Festivals, such as Seattle, San Diego and Hollywood, the Zootown Fringe is not built around the theater arts, but instead focuses on a myriad of artistic endeavors, more akin to the Canadian Fringe Festival circuit, which makes sense since Zootown was just accepted into the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals.
Over its five day run, Zootown featured events such as Porchfest, a concert that moves from porch to porch nine times during a seven-hour window; River Fringe, which featured a trip down the river through Alberton Gorge; Lolo Fringe, which featured events at a horse ranch; Fringe River Float Sing-a-long; Fringe Costume Bike Ride; Fringe Comedy Cabaret; and the Montana debut of the Canadian documentary On the Fringe.
Theatrical productions were limited to just the last two days of the festival, with one venue being used on Friday the 19th and two venues on Saturday the 20th. This reviewer checked out two of the five productions offered on Friday, which included physical comedy, dance, drama, comedy and a lecture, and one production on Saturday. The other two productions that we had planned to review were cancelled on Saturday.
First up was A Sorted Affair: A Bureaucratic Adventure, a hilarious piece by the Oakland, California duo Figment, which combined physical comedy, mime, magic, juggling, dance and clown antics into a delightful and whimsical romp through the red tape of government bureaucracy.
Composed of Eric Parthum and Drea Lusion, Figment bills themselves as a “theatrical clown duo,” a description which is spot on. These two performers were amazing and refreshing, as they kept the audience engaged and enthralled with their comedic shenanigans. Definitely check out their final show on August 20th at 7 p.m. at the Downtown Dance Collective.
The next show wasn’t for a couple of hours, so there was time to grab a bite to eat at one of the dining establishments on Missoula’s Hip Strip before heading to the Boone & Crockett parking lot for a performance by D. Ryan. The band played high energy rock and roll and the lead singer was constantly on the move, shifting from the stage into the audience and back. He was completely engaged with his fans and provided a wonderful interlude as he warmed up the crowd for the artisans of MASC, who once again wowed Missoula with their aerial stunts.
The second show was No Refunds, a meta-sketch performance written by local phenom Sean Kirkpatrick, who debuted his material two years ago at Zootown. The cast , which included Kirkpatrick in the lead as The Performer, also featured Curen Feliciani as The Audience Member, Dani Sather as the Female Ensemble, Adrian Adams as the Male Ensemble, Zach Krell in a video role as The Producer, Winnie Lohof as the Stage Manager and Brit Garner as The Sexy One.
The show could best be described as an episode of Saturday Night Live, hosted by Seth McFarlane and featuring guest performances by Christopher Walken and Miley Cyrus. It combined live sketches with video snippets, and provided a belly-full of laughs along the way.
The show was not for the faint of heart, nor is it intended for children. The cast did a magnificent job of not taking themselves seriously, thereby providing an almost non-stop comedic performance that highlighted each member’s abilities.
We highly recommend you catch the final performance on August 20th at 8:30 p.m. at the Crystal Theater.
The last show we reviewed was a solo show by Canadian comedienne Jo Dworschak called Oh Man! The show centered around her life up to and through the delivery of her baby boy, and the anxiety she felt bringing another man into the world.
Dworschak is a talented performer who mixes comedy and fact together in a most cohesive way. Unfortunately, it seemed her show ended prematurely, as she did not go into how her outlook changed after the birth. We would have loved to see a much longer version, although she may have had to shorten the show to fit into the Fringe’s one hour maximum time slot. At any rate, the show was definitely worth seeing, and earned the Zoonie Award for best solo show.
From a theatrical point of view, this year’s Zootown Fringe was disappointing because it only offered a handful of productions. On the other hand, at least the few that were offered were all first rate productions. Hopefully the next Festival will offer a better variety of theatre shows.