The Mulch Effect

The Fringe Festival

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 8:30 p.m.; Thursday, Sept. 16, 7 and 8:30 p.m.; Friday, Sept. 17, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 18, 2:30 and 7 p.m. Board the bus at the Exit Theater.

Tired Cliches
What seem at first like unconnected riffs on mundane curiosities (the perversely happy world of photo albums, the shuddery ballet preceding cat vomit) eventually work themselves into a story. Orbiting a pile of cardboard boxes, into which he periodically launches himself to underscore a point, T.J. Dawe weaves a compelling, if raggedly paced, show about his post-grad rude awakening in the mentally sluggish real world. With synchronized brushes and rolls, as well as his voice, jazz drummer Yevgeney Piotrarovitch heightens the comedy (Dawe: "What if doorbells rang with the sound of a human scream?" Piotrarovitch, in the distance: "Aaaaa!"). (H.W.)

Wednesday, Sept. 15, 8:30 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 18, 5:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 19, 8:30 p.m. at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater.

An Obvious Hit: Highway to Helen.
Laura Jane Petelko
An Obvious Hit: Highway to Helen.


The 1999 Fringe Festival. Various artists. At the Exit Theater (156 Eddy), Exit Stage Left (156 Eddy), Il Teatro 450 (449 Powell, Third Floor), the Lorraine Hansberry Theater (620 Sutter), and the Shelton Theater (533 Sutter) through Sept. 19. See for specific show times, or call 673-3847

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Black and Brown and White All Over
Antonio Sacre's powerful solo show describes his own struggles with his half-Cuban, half-Irish racial identity, his triumphs and fears as a high school teacher of black and Latino kids, and the overwhelming effect on him of a weeklong retreat for men of different races and generations. Giving detailed, engaging portraits of the people he's encountered, he connects the dots a little too obviously, but Sacre's message that a generation of young men is being discarded can't be ignored; the production is among the best of the Fringe. (J.M.)

Thursday, Sept. 16, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 18, 7 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 19, 2:30 p.m. at Il Teatro 450.

Alligators From the Sewer
Audiences are frequently more familiar with urban mythology than the classical kind, which automatically grants works based on the former a certain accessibility. L'Eau Theque (pronounced "low tech") succumbed to the lure, but the sketches the group has written around urban legends don't really illuminate the human condition, as was intended. Husband-and-wife team Kimberly and Dennis Goza and their young son Zephyr energetically sing, dance, and mug their way through self-consciously choreographed scenes, ticking off Coke and Pop Rocks, hotel bathroom kidney surgery, and the rest. When it works, it's mildly entertaining; when it resorts to precocious kids and dumb Southerners, it just feels lazy. (H.W.)

Friday, Sept.17, 7 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 18, 4 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 19, 5:30 p.m. at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater.

Knock on Wood
It's a dangerous world we live in, and we all have our own ways of coping. Kim Porter's method was knocking on wood, which, like alcoholism or cowlicks, ran in her Texan family. Porter, an endearing storyteller, comically confronts her compulsive 200-knock-a-day habit through a series of reminiscences tracing the problem back to her childhood, when her Aunt Edna's horror stories of shark attacks in 3 feet of water would be followed by a brisk round of wood knocking from her canasta club audience. Porter's loathing for her own timidity, and the brief bursts of optimism that occasionally still it, is keenly felt, and she juxtaposes lyrical metaphors (a tornado encroaches "like an accusatory finger") with a fine ear for the banalities of ordinary human speech. (H.W.)

Wednesday, Sept.15, 10 p.m.; Sunday, Sept.19, 4 p.m. at Il Teatro 450.

Dirty on the Inside
The Compost Comedy Heap

Nudity Is Contagious
Big Boned Theater

Start Trekkin'
Improv abounds at the Fringe. CCH's trio of Deven Grey, Joel Bryant, and Gregg Spillman is talented, high spirited, and lewd, and interacts with the audience. In one skit they provided each other's voices; "The only thing that can revive me is a great big man-kiss," Deven had Gregg say. In another sketch, an audience member was recruited to play "The Mating Game," questioning two unseen bachelors: Death, and a well-endowed Greek god named something like Erectus. BBT's improv relies less on audience participation, concerning itself more with character and narrative. Each sequence attempts to be a small play. Charles Burbridge, Eric Moore, and Dia Shepardson imbue their roles with delirious detail and audience-given suggestions pop up in unexpected ways. (A request for an occupation resulted in "Priest." Moore became a Judas Priest aficionado in the ensuing scene.) Finally, in Start Trekkin', a group of local actors uses Star Trek as the jumping-off point for their improv, making their own "shhht" noises for the automatic doors and violating the Prime Directive at every opportunity. It's silly fun, perhaps best taken with a couple of beers. (J.M.)

Dirty on the Inside: Wednesday, Sept. 15, 8:30 p.m. Nudity Is Contagious: Saturday, Sept. 18, 10 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 19, 4 p.m. Start Trekkin': Saturday, Sept.18, 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, Sept. 19, 2:30 p.m. All shows at the Exit Theater.

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