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St. Lou Fringe hopes to lure audiences with oddball ‘House’ and ‘Creepy Basement’

Promotional photo for "House"
Joe Hanrahan
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Promotional photo for "House"

What’s it like to have a mother whose seven-foot-tongue slices your arm (eight stitches!) and a wife who greets your boss in thigh-high boots and consistently claims she's on the phone with "nobody?"

Sounds like a family on the fringe. And that's fitting, because it's the storyline of St. Lou Fringe Festival's production of “House,” by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor. The fourth-wall-breaking comedy is staged six times during this year’s annual festival of performing arts, which runs through Saturday, June 27.

Joe Hanrahan
Credit Joe Hanrahan
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Joe Hanrahan

Joe Hanrahan of Midnight Theatre Company plays Victor, the sole character in the play that's directed by Sarah Whitney.

“It’s really as ‘Fringe-y’— if I can use that as a term — a show as I’ve ever run across,” Hanrahan said.

Even so, Victor is an everyman.

“It’s one of those shows that make you understand a little more, feel a little more about what it’s like to be human,” Hanrahan said.

"House" begins with frantic chair-throwing then settles into a rhythm of absurdist fantasies (dog couples dancing to Lionel Richie) and fast jokes, like the one about Victor's AA meetings: "The last bastion of macrame is 'group.'"

For St. Louis theater-goers who know Hanrahan, it's worth the price of admission ($10) just to see him mock-seriously dance to club music.

Dance, music and mustaches

Before the Thursday night performance of "House," a handful of people took pictures of sculptures near the Fringe box office in Straus Park. They're provided by Artica, a local group whose annual festival has been called St. Louis' Burning Man.

Sculpture by Artica in Strauss Park
Credit Nancy Fowler
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Sculpture by Artica in Strauss Park

Box-office merch includes multi-colored Fringe-labeled umbrella hats ($5), which, if the rain continues, could rival ticket sales as a money-maker.

In its fourth year, the Fringe offers dozens of shows. You can see them here in a calendar view . As in past years, Fringe accepts acts on a first-come, first-served basis. Many, like “House,” hold multiple performances throughout the 11-day period.

Here’s a throw-a-dart list of St. Lou Fringe acts:

  • "The Traveling Tap Show" shuffles and stomps at the Kranzberg Arts Center on Friday and Saturday, June 19-20.  The Chicago group offers original choreography for $15 a pop.
  • "Mustache across America" is onstage at the Kranzberg Arts Center on Friday through Saturday, June 19-21. It’s a stand-up show about how a mustache-shaped cross-country bike ride changed one man’s life. Tickets go for the proverbial cost of 20 shaves-and-a-haircut, or $5.
  • Creepy Basement Show is not actually held in a spooky lower level but at the Stage at KDHX, Thursday through Saturday, June 25-27.  The Creepy Basement Players is a St. Louis improve team  and the 2014 winner of the 2014 Fringe Crush Award and the Spirit of Fringe award. For $5, you'll get a series of improve games and a long-form show based on single audience suggestion.
  • "iLand" is a solo dance performance that explores our land, including the Earth, at the Kranzberg Arts Center, Thursday through Saturday, June 25-27. Featuring dancer Elinor Harrison, the show oddly quotes both Rick Santorum and Miley Cyrus in its description, and costs $5.
  • "Failure Is Not an Option" is not a command but a one-man music show featuring D-rell, a Harlem hip-hop artist whose message is “Black Lives Matter." It runs Friday and Saturday, June 26-27 at Duet performance space, and costs $10. Songs on the playlist include “Wrong Turn” and “Mistaken Identity.”

THE BASICS

St. Lou Fringe

Where: Fringe: Grand Center, various locations; see Fringe website. "House": CEL Center for Architecture + Design, 3307 Washington Ave.

When: Fringe is Wednesday-Saturday, June 17-27; "House" runs Friday-Saturday, June 19-20 and Thursday-Saturday, June 25-27

How much: $5 badge gets you in the festival area for the entire run; in addition. $10 buys a “House” ticket. Other individual shows cost up to $15.

Tickets: Badges sold in Strauss Park (across from The Fox) 

Information: St. Lou Fringe website

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

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