Hip-Shot: ‘Showcase Showdown’
United States Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 123
Saturday, July 10 at 8:00 p.m.
Thursday, July 15 at 8:00 p.m.
Friday, July 16 at 8:00 p.m.
They Say: "The producers of last year's top-selling show (SpeakeasyDC and The Sin Show) present a storytelling game-show. Hear unforgettable true stories and participate by guessing the end of a story, choosing sides, picking out the truth, and more."
Glens Take: Weve chided the SpeakeasyDC folks in this space before gently, and never less-than-admiringly about their ringer status. For years now, theyve been the trust-fund babies of Fringe, what with their built-in local fanbase, deep(ish) pockets, their mutant ability to sell out shows without working up a sweat and, yes, their reviews, which dependably land on the Fringe-Metacritic scale somewhere between fawning and fellating.
Theyve got laurels, is my point, and the impulse to rest on them must have been powerful strong. After all, the Speakeasy formula would seem to encourage repetition; certainly last years Sin Show seven storytellers taking on the Seven Deadlies wasnt appreciably different than their previous Fringe outings, or indeed their weekly shows, unless a bit longer counts as different.
Theres also the fact that the stories these performers tell have been workshopped to hell — painstakingly shaped, honed, crafted for maximum effect. Which, if you think about it, is about un-Fringey as it gets.
And thats probably why this years outing, with its slap-dash gameshow bells and whistles (the bells, at least, are quite literal) feels so heartening. The storytellings just as strong: Witness Sheldon Scotts portrait of himself as a young overachiever, which he stuffs with rich language that should sound written, but never does; or Jessica Solomons note-perfect, finely detailed evocation of 1992. It's also just as varied: Solomon seems to be just discovering the beats and laugh lines of her story, while the wounded, faux-exasperated tone Mike Kane employs to relate a tale of cat-napping seems more calibrated but just as funny.
But the low-rent, low-fi, low-brow Price is Right gimcrackery in which theyve couched the stories? The contestants from the audience? The golden-throated announcer (B. Stanley, whos more Gary Owens than Johnny Olson/Rod Roddy, really)? The glamorous prizes (read: Shake n Bake)? The louche host (John Kevin Boggs, who bats a perfectly respectable .500, in quip-per-laugh ratio)? The interstitial vintage commercials (seriously, that Old Spice spot is just disquieting)?
Its all filled with awkward pauses, blown cues, strained laughter, panicky performers, and flop sweat. Its cheesy and exciting and kind of awkward, and watching it you cant miss the fact that these people have stepped outside their comfort zone, that they dont know quite whats going to happen, and that wherever the evening ends up, you and they are gonna discover it together.
SpeakeasyDC: Welcome to Fringe.
See it if: Your favorite pricing game is Cliffhanger.
Skip it if: Your favorite pricing game is that shitty golf one.
[ED NOTE: Look, even we know enough about sports to know that a batting average of .500 would be much closer to Goddamn Miraculous than to "perfectly respectable." We've checked, and Glen's creative license and registration are both in order, so just relax.]