Alright, confession: I am not a Fringer – not a goer or a doer. I am certain that there is a lot of worthwhile activity which takes place there, but in my personal theatre persona there is not room for the oft-profane, leftward leaning, self-indulging festive of “anything goes”. I am not a truly “anything goes” type of guy – I am filtered, and I am comfortable being what I am, especially theatrically speaking.

So, it was a large deal for me to venture out last night, with Mrs. K at my side, to attend our first Fringe show, the offering of my longtime friends, Larry Haworth (whom I have worked onstage with and as a director of in 7 shows since 1999) and Amy Pettinella (whom I have known since 2003, when she joined an “Oral Interpretation” class I was teaching as an aspiring writer who hoped for a voice for her pieces).

Their Fringe play, Flowers and Other F-words, is a collection of vignettes, performed by Haworth, directed by Pettinella and written by both, concerned with the many sides of a man. The pieces range from an angry man’s stirring visit to his long-gone parents’ gravesite, to a regretful man’s visit to the Viet Nam Memorial to work out his feelings about courage and loss, to a proud grandfather’s visit to the grand-daughter he helped raise, on her 16th birthday. We also visit with a simple man, a man dreading a disclosure and a man of retirement age facing the prospect of a proposal. It is a good variety of circumstances to spend an hour with, and Haworth does a wonderful job with the tasks of the one-man show, a difficult genre to be sure. Difficult because you are up on stage alone, with no one else’s energy to feed on, no one to help untie your tongue or no one to help create the imagination that is theatre.

Haworth is a very good actor – I have seen this firsthand many times and have held him in high esteem for it for many years. This is material he is very comfortable with, as a lot of it, though not all, is biographical. The first piece, Good vs. God, especially seemed so – from what I have gleaned about his past from many conversations over the years. So, the emotions seemed genuine and collected from his reality – method, almost.

But I sensed a little difficulty on Haworth’s part with allowing enough emotion out of himself in that first piece and I felt this was the product of two things: One – the room he played in, the smallish Theatre On The Square Stage II, where too strong a portrayal could ring off the walls and possibly damage patrons’ eardrums, seems confining. There was a kind of restricted display in Good vs. God when the deep regrets of a tightly restricted childhood and parental outlook turned to anger. This room could have, I think, created the hold-back feeling in that part of the performance.

Second – the very choice of said emotion being loud and ringing  if given full force seems to enhance the issue. Pettinella and Haworth might have changed this choice to a more centered and core-held emotional display which would have carried the day and allowed for a truer subsequent collecting of self, which is what I think was the specific untrue moment.

This is one of the few things I saw that seemed a problem in conveying the emotions of a man, in this case driven to expunge his locked up feelings about his father’s choices and his mother’s angst. The other 5 vignettes played true, with emotion correctly placed. And there are a ton of emotions in the pieces.

The piece as a whole is, I think, a triumph for Haworth/Pettinella. It explores a full range of a man’s challenges in a very universal way. It brings to light the side of a man and his life that is often not dealt with in this format. And I must say that it seems a tremendous move forward thematically for Ms. Pettinella, who has a continuing spectrum of themes to explore now that she has made a departure from female-angst-centered themes. I look forward to her upcoming Almost Heaven at Indy Fringe Theatre in November.

Flowers and Other F-words continues at the FringeFest Saturday and Sunday, August 27 and 28 at 3pm and 10:30pm, respectively. I urge you to attend and not miss an opportunity to see solid writing, performed by a gifted actor.

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