For those who want to sidestep the Hollywood hype machine and experience raw, sometimes beautiful creativity, the Hollywood Fringe Festival offers a bounty.
Even the gatekeepers in Hollywood often complain about what gets the greenlight and all the great ideas that are rejected. Not so at Fringe. Anyone with a dream and a couple thousand dollars can stage a production. The uncensored results are uneven, but that’s creativity.
This list should help you sort through hundreds of productions and make some picks before the festival wraps June 25. Much of Fringe, from one-person shows to intense drama and musical productions, is staged at small theaters within a few blocks of Melrose and Vine, and many tickets are $20 or less.
Hedda Gabler Top of your list, if you can find a ticket, has to be the Attic Collective’s stunning production of the classic Henrik Ibsen play, freshly adapted by Patrick Marber. So great are the performances by Meg Cashel, Conor Murphy, Palmyra Mattner, Marti Skoler, Madelynn Fattibene, and Luke Medina and the staging by director Hailey McAfee and set designer Lex Gernon, that I could not believe I was watching this 90-minute show in a theater with a few dozen attendees. Stripped down to an emotional high-tension wire with not a wasted movement or word, it deserves a huge audience.
The Allure of Thug Life A perfect way to experience Fringe is Mélia Mills’s joyous one-woman show full of original and funny hip-hop compositions and a unique portrayal of being a special kind of high-school outcast.
Getting There Rebecca O’Brien Directed by the respected Cameron Watson, this one-woman gem features a lady and her little dog interacting with strangers on a city bus as she travels to medical appointments. Thematically related bonus suggestion: Patient 13, a one-woman show by seasoned storyteller Gail Thomas touching on dating, cancer, and psilocybin.
Hanyak Actress Tanna Frederick wrote and stars in what she calls a fictional narrative that portrays a young woman who dreams of Hollywood fame and gets caught in the odd web of a wealthy, eccentric film director.
Sinatra Raw If you love ol’ blue eyes, go see Richard Shelton portray the chairman of the board at a certain moment of his career, talking—and singing—when he’s in the September of his years, nostalgic for the past but still in full voice.
Killer Pregame This two-woman show by Hannah May Howard asks: “What would you do for your best friend?” and portrays college best friends attempting to host the party of the year. What could go wrong?
A Retrospection A sort of memoir clown show with a nudity warning? Who can resist! Star Claire Woolner describes it as “a restrospective no one asked for from a clown no one knows.”
The Seagull Another new adaption of a classic, this version of Chekov’s play is a poetic version presented by L.A.-based development company FutureHome Productions, the kind of group that can use the festival as a springboard.
Brave Face An award for moxie and hustle—and meta-promotion—goes to writer and star Everleigh Brenner who told me at the Fringe opening that her play won Best Overall Show at the esteemed Edinburgh Fringe in 2021. While a bit of research shows it did play there, I could not find a record of any awards. That the story in the play is, according to promotional materials, “about a young woman who lies, blackmails and gets what she wants” makes the mind spin.
Yoni Ki Kahaniya A well-produced four-woman show that is best described as a South Asian version of The Vagina Monologues. An ebullient audience gave it a standing ovation.