Another wild SF Fringe Festival at the Exit 

click to enlarge Cabaret Terrarium
  • courtesy photo
  • The goofy comedy “Cabaret Terrarium” is among dozens of indie shows in the San Francisco Fringe Festival.
On Tuesday night, the San Francisco Fringe Festival was packed with ebullient theatergoers buying tickets, jamming into the Exit Theatre café for drinks and snacks, exchanging tips on what to see among the dozens of offerings.

I caught two. “Cabaret Terrarium” was an arbitrary choice (about 35 productions in the festival are non-juried, so you take your chances); the other, Alicia Dattner’s “The Oy of Sex,” had a long local run at The Marsh, but I’d never seen it.

“Cabaret Terrarium,” by New York performers Richard Harrington and Chris Kauffman, is a sort of absurdist faux cabaret show that is at various times funny, weird, magical and downright silly.

Gustav (Harrington, amusingly deadpan) narrates, recounting how he awoke, frozen and amnesiac, in a block of ice in the Arctic, rescued by Norwegian archeologists. His silent and eager assistant, Nhar (Kauffman, an adept mime), was missing so he created the imaginary Nhar we see before us.

Through storytelling and a few comically lugubrious and monotonic songs that Gustav sings accompanied by toy squeezebox, uke and pennywhistle, the story of the pair’s worldwide search for Gustav’s origins, and for his true nature (is he fundamentally a killer or a cabaret performer?) unfolds. There’s some audience interaction involving wooden frog noisemakers. (Don’t ask.)

Despite an awkward and confusing beginning and an overlong ending—and a few too many digressions – the show, directed by Patricia Buckley, is for the most part a charmer.

Charm and humor — some of it outrageously raunchy — as well as too many digressions also mark “The Oy of Sex.”

In the solo autobiographical show, directed by Katie Rubin, Jonathan Bender and David Ford (presented in standup comedy style), the preternaturally perky Dattner tells a coming-of-age story in which she gradually arrives at — well, as she says, a sort of enlightenment.

Obsessed with kissing as a teen, determined to hang onto her virginity, technically anyway, until she finds True Love, Alicia eventually becomes a serial one-night-stander so fixated on being loved by everyone that she eventually realizes she’s a bit of a love addict.

How her journey progressed over the course of 15 years or so is funny and painful; I imagine any woman can identify all too well with at least parts of it. The show is over-long, true, and self-indulgent at times. But there’s one scene, in which Alicia, Meg Ryan-like, shows how she once faked an orgasm that’s so funny you can forgive her for excesses. That, plus her brave, warts-and-all confessional style.

REVIEW

San Francisco Fringe Festival

Where: Exit Theatreplex, 156 Eddy St., S.F.

When: Daily (except Monday), through Saturday

Tickets: $10 to $75

Contact: (415) 673-3847, www.sffringe.org

Note: “Cabaret Terrarium” is onstage at 2:30 p.m. today and “Oy of Sex” at 9 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and 7 p.m. Friday.

About The Author

Jean Schiffman

Jean Schiffman

Bio:
Jean Schiffman is a freelance arts writer specializing in theatre. Some of her short stories and personal essays have been published in newspapers and small literary magazines. She is an occasional book copy editor and also has a background in stage acting. Her book “The Working Actor’s Toolkit” was published... more
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