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It’s Back! Hollywood Fringe Fest Bares All

I first encountered the smorgasbord of eclectic theater that is the Hollywood Fringe Festival in 2018, when I began writing for the Buzz. (See my original HFF preview here.) That year, I reviewed 17 shows. Over the years since, my approach has been increasingly guarded. So many shows, so much “twisted goodness,” so little time (three weeks)! Choosing wisely is paramount.

Even immediately post-pandemic, when the offerings were fewer, it was overwhelming to sort through the titles, which frequently feature body parts, addictions, recriminations and alarming levels of exuberance. This year, as HFF returns to its pre-pandemic numbers (almost 400 shows), the need for curation remains high.

The Buzz once again attempts to prepare you for the oversharing personal tales, the original musicals on offbeat subjects, and the oddly large number of shows peppered with clowns and puppets. So much internal anguish packaged as external entertainment!

We start with logistics. Since the closure of the Complex and other theaters on Theater Row (Santa Monica Blvd. between El Centro and McCadden), the Fringe has spread out. A number of HFF theaters remain in the area (Broadwater, Hudson, 3 Clubs, 905 Cole Theatre, The Hobgoblin Playhouse). Nontraditional venues such as Javista Coffee at Highland and Sunset (Lessons from Children’s Books) have been added. Others are slightly more far-flung, such as Actors Company on Formosa near Sunset (Scrapbook: Pieces of Facebook, God and an Ever Present Orange Clown). Hollywood Forever Cemetery is home to Together Forever, a site-specific dance/violin performance weaving in heartfelt messages from tombstones.

Fringe shows are typically an hour-ish, so pay attention to location if you’re trying to see two or three together—the true Fringe experience! You definitely won’t want to look for parking more than once, except at Actors Company, which has its own lot.

Virtually all are world premieres, so you won’t have reviews to guide you (except those from the Buzz, which will start to appear next Theater Thursday, June 13). Take a chance on a show whose description, including its artwork, speaks to you. If the artwork makes you anxious, or the description is a head-scratcher, move on, to one of the more than 300 other options.

Solo shows abound. Of the 40 press releases I’ve received so far, 30 are promoting solo shows. They’re mostly voyages of self-discovery related to:

There are shockingly niche topics (Bedwetting, The Unspeakable History of (Women In) Ventriloquism, Space Exploration Because Space Exploration Because Space Exploration!!!). And what feels like all of the above (The Abnormal Heart).

On a local note, Larchmont’s own Sunita Param performs her show Back to Me at a theater on Melrose at Larchmont.

These solo shows and the dozens of others at HFF24 open this weekend and run through June 30. Each show has its own schedule and venue. Jump in, explore. Search the Fringe website for some keywords. Get out there and meet some people willing to bare their souls and dedicate themselves to entertaining you.

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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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