Five must-see Fringe shows to catch this closing weekend
This weekend will be your last chance to experience this year's San Diego International Fringe Festival.
Because Fringe 2023 is a scaled-down festival, I have managed to see 18 of the 19 shows. The one missing show opens tonight and is called “Teatro Oscuro.” I spoke with one of the playwrights from the show and can say that it sounds amazing. Plus, a shoutout to the company putting it on for dealing with some last-minute calamities that prompted some pivoting.
This year may be the most consistently satisfying of all the ones I have attended. It may not have the exhilarating highs of “Dr. Frankenstein’s Traveling Freak Show” or “9841/Rukeli,” but it also does not have some of the painful lows of actors forgetting Shakespeare’s most famous lines or an excruciatingly bad puppet show in a theater so small you could not sneak out (names are being withheld to protect the guilty).
But I did not see a single bad show this year. There was an emphasis on storytelling, from comedic to poignant (and sometimes within the same show), which was impressive. So it is actually very difficult to make this list of just five must-see shows for this weekend. But there is a five-show multipass for just $42, and you can easily knock out five shows between now and Sunday.
So here are my final recommendations.
1. “Censored Heart”
You must explore the only B.Y.O.V. (Bring Your Own Venue) show of the Fringe, Kata Pierce-Morgan’s “Censored Heart” at the legendary Les Girls Theater. It is the fringe of the Fringe, not just in terms of location but also in terms of how Pierce-Morgan pushes creative boundaries to create a show that mixes dance, music, poetry and wild allegorical flights of fancy to make a statement against censorship and repression, reminding us that “where this is art, there is hope.”
2. “I Got Bit By A Monkey Once”
I got to see Australian comedian and storyteller Matt Harvey perform his show “Wage Against the Machine” at New Zealand Fringe earlier this year. I loved that show, but I think “I Got Bit By A Monkey Once” is even better. This serves up what you could call four tales of making bad choices. Harvey has such a charming, self-deprecating and socially observant style of writing that I just adored the show and laughed throughout the show. Plus, he gets points for being the only show to mention zombies.
Lindsey Woods gets props for bringing the absolute highest amount of bold, delightful energy to Fringe. “Juno and the Jetpacks” is a gig show, which means the songs are organic. In this case, Woods plays a singer-songwriter creating her second album and the songs are the ones she is writing. It’s a semiautobiographical one-woman show that also explores coming to terms with bisexuality in a world that doesn’t always understand what that means.
4. “Normal Heights”
Christian St. Croix and Loud Fridge Theatre Group deliver a playful and clever portrait of Normal Heights and some of the things we may not know about it. Discover a portal to hell at a post office, the lack of a night janitor at a school, and why 1:59 p.m. does not exist in Normal Heights.
5. “1996 — A Blink-182 Musical’
One of the things I love about Fringe is that you do not need to bring a finished show. You do not need to even bring costumes and props. You can just bring an idea you are working on and just want to try it out before an audience to see how they react. So Daniel Durston offers a 60-minute staged reading (and singing) version of “1996 — A Blink-182 Musical.” As with “Juno and the Jetpacks,” it is high energy and with a lot of creative passion driving it.
But, seriously, you can’t go wrong with any of the shows playing this weekend. This year there is so much rich storytelling, observant humor, and engaging and enlightening personal narratives that, no matter what you choose, you will be rewarded.