Monday, March 5, 2012

FRIGID Festival Round Up - Part One

By Byrne Harrison

Whenever a particularly good festival comes along, and FRIGID is a particularly good festival, I always wish I could clone myself.  There is too much to see and never enough time.  That said, I managed to see a wide variety of plays this year and found most of them to be well worth the time.

"The Terrible Manpain of Umberto MacDougal"
Written by Emleigh Wolf
Directed by Bricken Sparacino
Featuring: Emleigh Wolf (Umberto MacDougal) and Mike Ogletree (Mike Hamilton)

When I think of over-the-top expressions of angst, bad poetry, and sighs pregnant with deep meaning, I tend to think of high school drama majors dressed all in black with clove cigarettes or emo kids.  In Emleigh Wolf's hilarious play, "The Terrible Manpain of Umberto MacDougal," she turns this expectation on its head by portraying the ultimate survivor of terminal manpain - a big, burly Scotsman named Umberto MacDougal.  Full of sighs, forlorn looks, a "Book of Sad," and food to help him eat his pain, Umberto is an absolutely brilliant creation.

Initially the play begins as a lecture by Umberto (with help from his friend Mike), explaining what manpain is (pain that is only felt by men), and how best to express that pain (having a nearby window is useful).  As it goes along, the audience shares in all the humiliations and disappointments in Umberto's life (and there were a lot of them), from his missing father to his lackluster love life.  Each one building on the next as Umberto breaks down, then rallies, then breaks down again, all to the audience's delight.

Ably directed by Bricken Sparacino, and well-acted by Wolf and Ogletree, "The Terrible Manpain of Umberto MacDougal" is my choice for best of the festival.

"The Terrible Manpian of Umberto MacDougal" is part of the FRIGID Hangover, with one additional performance on March 8th at the Kraine Theater.

"The Rope in Your Hands"
Written and Performed by Siobhan O'Loughlin
Directed by Danielle Skraastad

Siobhan O'Loughlin's interview-based play, "The Rope in Your Hands," brings to life the people of post-Katrina New Orleans.  A series of snapshots of the survivors of the city's worst catastrophe in recent memory shows the scars left by the trauma, but also the incredible strength that is manifest by those who stayed in (or returned to) the city.  From the people who watched their lives destroyed, to the people who came to New Orleans post-Katrina with the best of intentions, to the children who didn't understand the magnitude of what was happening, O'Louglin shows a fascinating cross-section of New Orleans life.

O'Loughlin is a chameleon, transitioning smoothly from character to character - a change in stance, a flutter of hands, use of a prop being plenty to establish each new identity.  And with the exception of some minor technical glitches (the play features projections that help identify each character), the production is exceptionally strong.  I would love to see what a New Orleans crowd would think of "The Rope in Your Hands."  I think they'd be pleased with O'Loughlin's portrayal.

"The Rope in Your Hands" is part of the FRIGID Hangover, with one additional performance on March 9th at the Kraine Theater.

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