If one decides to venture on Santa Monica Boulevard between Gardner Street and Normandie Avenue, in the month of June, anytime between the hours of 10:30am and 2am, one would most likely stumble upon crowds of bizarrely costumed and undeniably sweaty crowds, ready to either perform or watch their third – or thirteenth – stage show of the day. This madness is the Hollywood Fringe Festival, now in its tenth year. Among the more than four hundred shows of the festival, there is one play that stands out as deliciously disturbing, extravagant and utterly relevant – and that is Red Bar.
This show catapults the audience in the middle of a support group, much like Al Anon – but for serial killers. The audience learns quickly that the members of this secret society are basically regular people, who one day couldn’t take it anymore and “slipped”. They are flawed, sure, but no more than anyone else, right? This show seems to suggest just that and it does a scary great job at convincing you as well.
As you enter the Bar and begin the journey of recovery with newcomer Trash (Ramon Guzman), you learn about other fascinating veteran members, such as Hallie, (Jeremiah Ripley), Wheels (Veronica Maccari), Twitch (Ian Price), Maw Maw (Heidi Appe), Jug (Meghan Maddigan) Jessie (Sedona Vivirito), Lizzie (Brittany Gutheim) and Bart (Machael Lea). This cast gives a brilliant performance, bouncing off the walls – literally, at times – with their peculiar personalities, quips and quirks. The show is extremely stylized, with influences from View Points and the Suzuki method. However, the actors succeed in portraying their characters in a grounded, truthful way, despite the highly eccentric staging. Highlights of the cast were Jeremiah Ripley, Michael Lea and Veronica Maccari for their rich and complex portrayals of surprisingly humane murderers.
This hauntingly beautiful play is helmed by long-time Fringe director and producer Benny Lumpkins, who decided to bring Scott Ewing’s play to the Hollywood Fringe after seeing its successful production at the Nugget Fringe Festival, in Grass Valley, California. Lumpkins’ body of work is popular among theater aficionados for his experimental delivery that tosses the traditional idea of “proper” theater out the window. Previous credits include Ishmael, Fuck you Jason! Or Medea by Euripides and Polyshamory.
At the Hollywood Fringe Festival the most daring artists of the greater LA area and beyond (some productions come all the way from Europe) bring their finest work to the single most important theater festival in Los Angeles. If you want to be delightfully spooked go watch this festival gem at the LGBT Center Davidson Valenti Theater for the last performances of Red Bar. More info at hollywoodfringe.org