[EDITOR’S NOTE]: To maximize coverage of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, Back Stage and L.A. Weekly have joined forces this week, with a pact to avoid both papers covering the same shows. This week, the publications have combined efforts to review 44 performances. All of those reviews can be found at both laweekly.com/theater and backstage.com. Some of Back Stage’s reviews appear below, and some of L.A. Weekly’s reviews can be found in this week’s issue of Back Stage. Thanks to Back Stage Executive Editor Dany Margolies for her efforts on behalf of our city’s theater. For schedule information, contact hollywoodfringe.org. —S.L.M.
GO BACK TO BABYLON In this self-crafted solo show, Gregg Tomé starts and ends as a man who refuses to attend his 10-year high school reunion but then spends his increasingly inebriated evening recalling many of his friends. The framing device might not involve us enough, nor does the actor’s continual disappearance backstage to briefly prepare each character (Tomé is self-directed). But his characters are spectacular and inspire awe each time a new one appears onstage. Tomé skillfully uses costuming and physicality, but his face, particularly his remarkably malleable mouth, memorably sells each new persona, in these cautionary but never preachy tales. Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Hlywd.; Wed., June 23, 8:15 p.m.; Fri., June 25, 6 p.m.; Sat., June 26, 11:45 a.m. (866) 811-4111. (Dany Margolies/courtesy of Back Stage)
BACK TO YOU, A DEAR JOHN (MAYER) LETTER Writer, director and featured performer Brianne Hogan takes aim at the cult of celebrity in this callow comedy that reimagines the private life of musician and tabloid personality John Mayer. Fed up with messing around, the fictive Mayer (Martin Lindquist) seeks his first love, Rihanna (Hogan), hoping to start afresh. The lady’s not interested, but two of her star-smitten friends (Carla Lopez and Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll) try to exploit the connection to further their own careers. Comeuppance tales can be satisfying and fun, but this effort needs extensive revamping: restructuring the repetitious script, fleshing out the clichéd characters and importing strong, outside direction to punch the performances into shape. Comedy Sportz, 733 Seward St., Hlywd. Closed. (Deborah Klugman/L.A. Weekly)
GO THE BAD ARM: CONFESSIONS OF A DODGY IRISH DANCER Trained as an Irish dancer, Máire Clerkin is also a gifted writer-actor, whose tales (directed by Dan O'Connor) of growing up the imperfect daughter of a perfectionist dance teacher touch the underappreciated in all of us. That wayward bent elbow kept young Máire from winning dance competitions, but as she grew up she put the arm to use swilling beer and sucking cigarettes. All's well at the show's end, as Clerkin shows off her dance chops during her fast-forward recap of those tales, while we realize the fleeting nature of all our pain and all our triumph. Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; Fri., June 25, 5:30 p.m.; Sun., June 27, 2:30 and 7 p.m. (866) 811-4111. maireclerkin.com. (Dany Margolies/courtesy of Back Stage)
BETTY Having spent a summer in my teens touring with Betty Hutton in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, I might be a harder critic to win over than most, yet writer Shelby Bond’s crafty concept did the trick, with Hutton (Kellydawn Malloy) discussing her life and mercurial career with the audience as a press corps. Equipped with subjects to broach, each answer concluding with a song by the troubled star Bob Hope dubbed a “vitamin pill with legs,” Malloy has perfected Hutton’s signature squinty smile, although the alternate wide-eyed look of feigned surprise needs practice — right after she loses the cheat sheet taped to the dressing-room tabletop — if the show continues to be explored. Lone Star Laurels at Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., June 19, 1 p.m.; Sun., June 20, 5:30 p.m.; Mon.-Tue., June 21-22, 7 p.m.; Sun., June 27, 4 p.m. (866) 811-4111. (Travis Michael Holder/courtesy of Back Stage)
BONNIE IN BRIGHTON There isn't a program to explain if the series of parental-nightmare escapades experienced by a recent college graduate from Texas, hiding behind her alter ego "Bonnie" while living a crazed year's existence on the British seaside, are based on Erin Parks' real-life adventures — and the script credited to Guy Picot helps keep the authenticity of the piece a mystery. Either way, the staging here is continuously clever, and Parks is an infectious performer who successfully drags us along into her adopted world of drug-smuggling and fleeting romances, making us lose our inhibitions and innocence right along with her. Wasif Productions at Theatre Asylum, 6320 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood; CLOSED. (866) 811-4111. (Travis Michael Holder/courtesy of Back Stage)
GO THE BRITISH INVASION features a series of stand-up comedians from Britain at IDA on Hollywood Boulevard. I caught the duo of Simon Feilder and Sy Thomas in their act, Life of Si, like a British reincarnation of the Smothers Brothers — amiable, eccentric, self-deprecating and squabbling like children over issues of profound import, such as what lines were actually said in James Bond flicks, and whether or not there's time to get the entire audience a cup of tea. It's an act of delightfully nutty repartee, and is gently mocking of stand-up comedy conventions. One plays a heckler with strategically witless insults. I particularly liked an opening video sequence in which the duo tried to pass off what was obviously London for L.A. — "city of angles." Standing in front of the Houses of Parliament, they thrilled at finally being at L.A.'s "city hall," and showing a MacDonald's logo upside down, they veritably gloated at relaxing at the "W" hotel, "here on Hollywood Boulevard!" IDA Hollywood, 6755 Hollywood Blvd.; through June 27. hollywoodfringe.org/project/view/200. (Steven Leigh Morris/L.A. Weekly)