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Fringe Festival Reviews: Alone and Together

One of the great joys if the Hollywood Fringe Festival is the sense of community among those who put on shows. The organizers make sure Fringers come together to bond and share comps to their respective shows.

Three of the four shows reviewed here came out of meetings at Fringe “Office Hours,” pre-opening get-togethers at Hollywood bars. I went to most of them to promote the show I was co-producing, Inappropriate, and I met some fascinating folk who drew me to their own shows.

Two were solo shows, two were ensemble pieces. All were intense, but their intensity is about all they had in common.

Solo Shows

Thank You So Much for Coming

Alex Kern in Thank You So Much for Coming. Photo by Bailey Robb.

Cynthia (Alex Kern) welcomes you to her self-described fabulous party in Thank You So Much for Coming. An immersive performance art experience that never takes the predictable path, Thank You ranges from rollicking fun to a treatise on loneliness and keeping up appearances.

Kern is fearless in her interactions, completely engaging audience members all the way to the back row. It’s uncomfortable but mesmerizing to watch her field phone calls from guests who didn’t make it, serve her unique version of charcuterie, and ultimately transform into her own party.

Director Natasha Mercado shares a clowning background with Kern, and as the hour progresses, the absurdity tops out. Come prepared to jump in and enjoy the party and the ride. At the Broadwater Black Box; two remaining performances.


Homeless Romantic

Homeless Romantic Tony Bartolone

The earnest and charming Tony Bartolone attended all the Fringe Office Hours, passionately pushing his autobiographical Homeless Romantic. After a couple of conversations, I was pretty sure I knew what to expect: tales of riding public transportation in lieu of sleeping in a bed and staying in a shack behind a factory.

What I didn’t expect was a cohesive story that’s an unrelenting braid of comedy and tragedy. I laughed deeply, shed tears, and have gotten some mileage from a few of the lines, like calling the Social Security office “a DMV for people who can’t afford cars.”

Bartolone takes the stage—okay, the floor at the front of the room—in multicolored tatters. He occasionally reaches into a mini-dumpster decorated with an Oscar the Grouch sticker to grab a snack. And he proceeds to answer the burning questions he gets from everyone who learns he was homeless for eight years, generously providing the context of his family background.

There’s no sugar coating it; being homeless is “a 24/7 horror show.” As he explains, “It’s hard to find a place to sleep in LA, even outside.” Homelessness is marked by hostile architecture, unsolicited “roommates,” a dearth of loving relationships, and the nearness of drug abuse, violence and even death. Yet Bartolone’s sense of humor prevails.

It must have taken strong direction to focus frenetic energy into something with a beginning, middle and end. Katierose Enriquez, who directed Final Interview earlier this year, wisely left the rough edges intact. Catch one of four more performances, including tonight, at Thymele Arts (Kansas Room ), 5481 Santa Monica Blvd. at Western.

And note that Final Interview returns to Pico Playhouse for four shows in July; click here for tickets.

Ensemble Pieces


Infierno is a memorable trip to hell and back. The show, a contemporary view of Dante’s Inferno, is bilingual, with extensive Spanish that can generally be understood from context by non-Spanish speakers.

Intellectual Deon (Isaac Ybarra) might be dead. Then again, he might be drunk and dreaming as he’s taken on a muzak-filled elevator to multiple circles of Dante’s vision of hell to look for his brother, or maybe himself. He meets Dante (Vitoria Villalobos) who mutely accompanies him to subsequent circles.

Hell isn’t pretty. It exudes a dangerous darkness and reveals the pain and cruelty of its unhinged, desperate residents. From Limbo to Treachery, Deon gets a Christmas Carol-type tour of what might be his eternal future. He grieves as he’s told, “Es tu viaje.”

A complex, involving show with top-notch acting and a set, lighting and sound that increase the pathos, Infierno burns in images of what might be if all goes wrong. One remaining sold-out show at 905 Cole Theatre.

You’re on Mute…Live

What I expected to be a show spotlighting the joys and adjustments of a post-pandemic return to live theater turned out to be a Whose Line Is It Anyway-type sketch comedy show. You’re on Mute is actually the name of an improv group that formed after meeting at Second City.

The group’s action is nonstop, with performers—Toni Senatore, JoAnna Senatore, Billy DeClercq and Griffin Taylor—riffing on a wide range of topics and occasionally sitting in the audience for twisted audience interactions. Some of the improv, using audience prompts, worked well, some fell flat. This is a group to watch as they hone their craft.

No remaining Fringe performances, but the troupe performs the first Saturday of every month at 10pm at The Pack (Broadwater Theater). Click here for tickets.

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Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Theatre West.

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