Hip-Shot: ‘Showcase Showdown’

Showcase ShowdownUnited States Navy Memorial, 701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 123

Remaining Performances:

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."

Glen’s Take: We’ve chided the SpeakeasyDC folks in this space before – gently, and never less-than-admiringly – about their ringer status.  For years now, they’ve 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.”

They’ve 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 year’s Sin Show – seven storytellers taking on the Seven Deadlies – wasn’t appreciably different than their previous Fringe outings, or indeed their weekly shows, unless “a bit longer” counts as different.

There’s 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 that’s probably why this year’s outing, with its slap-dash gameshow bells and whistles (the bells, at least, are quite literal) feels so heartening.  The storytelling’s just as strong: Witness Sheldon Scott’s portrait of himself as a young overachiever, which he stuffs with rich language that should sound written, but never does; or Jessica Solomon’s 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 they’ve couched the stories?  The contestants from the audience? The golden-throated announcer (B. Stanley, who’s 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)?

It’s all filled with awkward pauses, blown cues, strained laughter, panicky performers, and flop sweat.  It’s cheesy and exciting and kind of awkward, and watching it you can’t miss the fact that these people have stepped outside their comfort zone, that they don’t know quite what’s 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.]

  • Tim Ereneta

    I'm visiting DC from the West Coast, so I've never experienced Speakeasy's style of storytelling in person and wanted to make sure this was on my must-see list. I was not disappointed in the storytelling. The gameshow format: cute. Kitschy. fun. It got the audience pumped up, but it didn't really support the storytelling, which was truthful, witty, and engaging (and i don't even like personal memoir as a genre of storytelling). Cindy and Mike Kane's storytelling as a married couple was a highlight, as was Christylez Bacon's riff on wifi, but all the storytellers were terrific. I'm torn about Boggs-- his host was over the top, a parody rather than a homage, and i wonder if playing it straight would have worked better. Still, an enjoyable evening, and congrats to Saidman and her cast for a great evening of stories!

  • Glen Weldon

    Dear Ed Note (may I call you Ed?): Ed, I appreciate your having my back, shielding me from the frothing outrage of the Wonks of Summer.

    As you say, and just in case I wasn't clear: I do realize that batting .500 in BASEBALL is nigh-godlike. In the sweet science of impromptu gag-spewing, however, a one-for-two average is, I maintain: "perfectly respectable."