Fringe on the Top 

L.A.'s first noncurated arts festival is a triumph

Thursday, Jun 24 2010

Page 3 of 3

9 p.m. — In Hollywood's Deep South (L.A. ComedySportz Theater on Seward near Melrose), Les Kurkendaal's solo performance in Christmas in Bakersfield recounts his visit to his boyfriend's family in "California's armpit," at their Bakersfield manse. They knew their son was gay, but he'd neglected to tell them that his lover was black. And in a slightly mannered style that stresses clarity over mystery, Kurkendaal proffers a compendium of bigotry and homophobia, through which Kurkendaal is still able to win them over — even terrifying "Grandma," whose very name sparks alarming noises over the sound system.

It's a sweet tale that aims to cut to the humanity of bigots and homophobes. Forgive them, Lord. They know not what they do.

10:30 p.m. — Back to Theatre of NOTE for Kimleigh Smith's T-O-T-A-L-L-Y! — the one-person grown-up version of the kids' show that started the day. Smith portrays herself as a 17-year-old virgin, an ingratiating cheerleader who speaks in Valley-girl cadences, where every sentence is peppered with "totally." She endures a gang rape and the eventual recovery of her sexuality, which was shut down after the attack.

click to flip through (2) PHOTO COURTESY OF PAPERSTRANGERS PERFORMANCE GROUP - Medea on the Fringe
  • Medea on the Fringe

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This is the formula for what could have been the worst one-woman show ever seen; it's actually among the best, thanks entirely to Smith's superhuman vivacity, her blistering sense of humor, in which, with considerable physical heft, she performs those ridiculous high school cheers in a teensy, revealing skirt with a mania that crosses deep into mockery. She is without shame, and she's earned that right. There's not a trace of self-pity; rather, superhero determination.

And when she details her technique for seducing a lover, the result is one of the most erotic and funniest scenes you'll find on any stage, anywhere. Paula Killen directs, and obviously knows exactly what she's doing.

Reach the writer at smorris@laweekly.com

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