- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2006

The inaugural Capital Fringe Festival is front-loaded with theater and performance art. Here’s a sampling of the offerings, which range from more traditional one-person shows and wily cult film send-ups to a cheesy lounge act and a trailer-trash, all-girl retelling of “Waiting for Godot.”

• ‘Self-Obsession in Blue’

“Thelma and Louise meet Samuel Beckett” is how actress Jennifer Harder describes this dark comedy by Kelleen Conway Greenfield, which will be staged by the New York-based the Management theater company at the Fringe. “It follows ‘Waiting for Godot’ very closely, except that instead of male characters, there are these two women stuck in the desert after their 1972 Pinto breaks down,” Miss Harder says. “The characters are exactly like Thelma and Louise — one so childlike and naive, one jaded and cynical.”

The comedy boasts explosions, death, beer and a drive-by from God, and Miss Harder reveals that audiences also should expect “extreme, perverse humor and a message that is ultimately uplifting. There is a sense of wonder about it. Life doesn’t drag on and on forever, like with ‘Godot.’”

Though Miss Harder does not go so far as to say “Self-Obsession” is a family show — “no violence or adult situations, but a few expletives here and there” — she notes that the “clown aspect” of the piece might appeal to audiences well below the boomer generation. “The characters are so self-obsessed they are more creatures than people. And there is the whole aspect of friendship — these two women are such great friends they are almost enemies.”

“Self-Obsession in Blue” will be performed at the Warehouse Theater, 1021 Seventh St. NW, on July 22, 26, 29 and 30. For ticket information and times, call 800/811-4111.

• ‘The Eddie Lounge Show’

By day, he’s a desk jockey. By night, he’s a lounge lizard, tickling the ivories and twirling swizzle sticks.

Ed Spitzberg and his cocktail-loving alter ego, Eddie Lounge, have been entertaining audiences and taking requests from San Francisco to the Vegas strip since 2001. It’s the first time in the District for Eddie and his saucy (or is that sauced?) sidekicks Mo Heeto and Gina Tonic and his band, the Cosmos — but they hope to make the Warehouse Theater a steady gig.

“I started lounge singing in 1999, and it has evolved from me and a piano player to singers, then bass and drums, and some other assorted characters,” says Mr. Spitzberg, who, after closing time, is development director at Arena Stage. “Eddie has been on sabbatical since 2001, but he’s glad to be back with what is truly a lounge act — we’ve got disco, cocktail-bar classics, a little shtick here and there.”

The early “Eddie Lounge Show” was a success in the Bay Area, and Mr. Spitzberg had a chance at the big time in Vegas. “I auditioned for the steakhouse at Harrah’s Las Vegas, which was actually a very nice place,” he says. “The show is tongue-in-cheek, but they really wanted me to be a lounge singer, so it didn’t work out.”

The show will be performed at the Warehouse Next Door, 1017 Seventh St. NW, on July 21, 23, 26, and 27. For ticket information, call 866/811-4111 or go to www.eddielounge.com.

• ‘One-Man Star Wars Trilogy’

Playing to audience members who can recite every line of dialogue and often come to the theater dressed like Yoda is all in a day’s work for Charles Ross, whose “One-Man Star Wars Trilogy” is the Oedipus cycle for the Darth Vader set.

It is a 60-minute trip to a galaxy far, far away, where Mr. Ross — unaided by light sabers, Lucasfilm special effects or minutely detailed costumes (“I do hum the music,” he says) — acts out the first three “Star Wars” movies. “I’ve been doing it for about four years, and initially I didn’t know that many people could follow along,” Mr. Ross says. “But they get all the references, and then some. I also get people who have never seen a ‘Star Wars’ movie in their lives.”

Mr. Ross has worked the Fringe Festival circuit in Canada and a small theater in Chicago and gone to the Dark Side for Star Wars conventions. (“There are doctors, lawyers — normal people — and then there are guys who still live in their parents’ basements,” he observes.) It was in Chicago that Mr. Ross received an e-mail from the folks at Lucasfilm, who, in protecting the “Star Wars” franchise, have closed down productions before, including a misbegotten musical version. “But the reaction from them was a positive one,” Mr. Ross says. “They heard good things about the show from the fans.”

Mr. Ross pays a percentage of the box office to billionaire George Lucas as part of a licensing agreement and says he doesn’t mind because “they guard the trademark and want to maintain the integrity of ‘Star Wars.’ ” He was not so lucky with his one-man “Lord of the Rings Trilogy,” which got shut down because of a big-budget musical being developed in Toronto. Mr. Ross is in the process of writing a screenplay and planning his next show, maybe a “one-man tribute to the Muppets.”

“One-Man Star Wars Trilogy” will be staged at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, 641 D St. NW, July 26 through 30. For more information, call 202/393-3939.

• “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Cowboys Grow Up to Be Actors”

Roping steers, not Shakespeare’s rhyming couplets, was second nature to James Beard, who grew up on a large cattle ranch outside of Glenville, Calif.

His father, Fred, never figured his son would be the type to trade saddle soap for greasepaint.

“At 19, I left the ranch to become an actor,” says Mr. Beard, author of the one-man show “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Cowboys Grow Up to Be Actors.” “I was such a cowboy — it was my first time on a plane, first time out of California.” He has a typical first-day-in-New-York disaster story. The president of the school he was to attend, the National Shakespeare Conservatory, came out of his office and announced, “We’ve been shut down.” “I had nowhere to go, and didn’t know anyone,” Mr. Beard recalls. On a whim, he called the Stella Adler Acting Conservatory, begged for an audition and got accepted even though the acting classes had been in session for two weeks.

Mr. Beard’s show, in which he also stars, recalls those heady, crazy days in New York but also is, “on a deeper level, about finding my identity out from under my father,” whom he describes as “a rough, John Wayne type” none too thrilled that his son had chosen a sissy-pants profession like acting. “He has mellowed since then and has seen me act several times,” Mr. Beard says as he tells of performing his show at a tiny theater in Bakersfield, Calif., for an audience that included his “family, my arty friends, and all these cattle ranchers together under one roof.”

Although he has appeared in productions at the Folger, Theater Alliance and the Shenandoah Shakespeare Express, Mr. Beard has not gotten too fancy for his cowboy boots. “I go home twice a year to help with the branding,” he says. “I out-roped my dad this year for the first time.”

“Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Actors” will be at the National Building Museum Auditorium, 401 F St. NW, on July 21 through 23 and 25. Call 866/811-4111 for information

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