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2016 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Hunt’

Jean P. Bordewich’s political drama Hunt turns back the clock to a divisive time in American politics – the early 1950s of Joseph McCarthy – but the characters and issues resonate in today’s political landscape. A passionate, high-profile Republican who blames minorities for America’s looming downfall. A powerful Democrat too focused on his own ascent to address pressing issues behind the scenes. Well-meaning politicians are caught in bi-partisan crossfire.

Hunt excavates the true story of Senator Lester Hunt (a solid Terry Loveman), who was blackmailed by McCarthyites Senator Styles Bridges (Scott Cummings) and Senator Herman Welker (Gary DuBreuil) in 1953. The Senators’ leverage against Hunt was the initially quiet arrest of his son Buddy (Brice Guerriere) for solicitation of a male undercover cop. Over the course of the play Hunt wrestles with whether to fight the system or give in, receiving help along the way from his insightful wife Nathelle (Suzanne Martin, in a sharp turn) and a kindly reporter (Michael David Anderson).

Despite some shortcomings in the script, Hunt benefits from strong performances. Director Kristin Shoffner manages an expert ensemble that fit well in the period setting. Anderson and Guerriere have a believable rapport, which brings some relief and humanity to the story’s development. Suzanne Martin is delightful to watch as the Senator’s wife, carefully balancing support and strategy. Cummings and DuBreuil are frightening as politicians who embody the banality of evil. Terry Loveman in the title role feels every bit the Wyoming politician: strong, principled, but still insecure at his core.

Costume Designer Julie Cray and, presumably, Shoffner, did strong work on the production design. The costumes and set are 1950s Americana, smartly simple enough to weather the notorious 15-minute Fringe pre-show load-in. Similarly, Lighting Designer Colin Dieck creates moments of thrilling drama using a modest light plot. The work of Composer Josh Harty and Sound Designer Niusha Nawab is complex, weaving original music and sounds from nature into popular songs and news reports from the period.

Audiences coming to the Flashpoint for Hunt will leave with a new perspective on history and, perhaps, even a new understanding of the present. With a disturbingly relevant subject, fabulous performances, and impressive design, Hunt should be near the top of every Fringe itinerary.

The piece was originally posted on DC Metro Theater Arts

2016 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Concrete Devotion’

Fringe performances tend to fall into one of the following categories: shows that make you cringe, shows that make you feel, or shows that make you think. Concrete Devotion, from well-established company Motion X Dance DC, offers three contemporary dance premieres with emotional heft and visual dynamism. It manages to make you feel and think while avoiding that other common Fringe experience.

The first two pieces – “Kindred” and “It’s On Her” – tackle illness, physical and mental respectively. Lauren Carnesi’s choreography for “Kindred” smartly utilizes weight-sharing to portray how disease can make the body weak and the community strong in supporting the ill. Sammi Rosenfeld’s “It’s On Her,” however, is the stand out of the concert. An exploration of mental illness, the staccato rhythm in the music and movement envelop the viewer in the fever pitch of mania. Concrete Devotion closes with a featured piece of the same name that follows a couple as they balance shared professional life with the intimacy of their relationship. The choreography is beautiful at moments – two dancers slowly walking away from each other, for instance – but in places retreads its own imagery (without additional impact.)

The ensemble on the whole is strong, but could be more cohesive; there were many moments when the dancers seemed to be out of tune with one another. Christopher Saunders, the only male in the ensemble, was a standout also for his strong solos, including an emotional performance in “Concrete Devotion.”  Otherwise, the ensemble was balanced enough that all dancers could shine.

The technical elements of Concrete Devotion are intriguing and may be one of the central selling points for the performance. Film of the dancers talking about their personal lives, designed by Stephanie L. Dorrycott and projected throughout, gave each live piece emotional roots. The unsettling imagery in the film of dancers lying on their sides on the floor and running along the walls is striking. The puppet designed by Rachel Adler for “It’s on Her” could successfully play a variety of emotions and added depth as a “character.”

Concrete Devotion will transport you to a cerebral place of emotional contemplation. It’s honest expression of sickness, mental illness and relationship trouble could certainly inspire a fulfilling trip to the Fringe bar.

This piece was originally posted on DC Metro Theater Arts