Theater Review: Special Hollywood Fringe Festival 2021 Report

I had a great time watching five feisty and fabulous Hollywood Fringe solo shows online this year. I would have preferred to see them in person at the Broadwater Theatre – Black Box on Santa Monica Boulevard, but with the current Covid climate, I thought watching them online would be best. There was so much talent and creativity on the stage.

This year I had the pleasure of watching Naturally Tan. written and starring Tanya Thomas, which won both Pick of Fringe and Best of Broadwater, I Heart Maroc written and starring Azo Safo, which also won Best of Bridgewater, REDEEMher written and starring Tatum Langton , The Whistleblower written and starring  Johnny Avila and I Have Too Many Feelings, written and starring Bethany Vee. All these terrific solo shows were developed and directed by the talented  Jessica Lynn Johnson.

After watching all five of these winning solo shows online, I decided to venture out in person to see the highly lauded play, The Dean’s Office, which also won Best of Broadwater. Strict Covid regulations were in place, everyone had to wear a mask and no one was allowed in the theatre without proof of vaccination or a recent negative covid test.

The Dean’s Ofice is having an encore performance Saturday, September 18, at 4pm at Founders Metropolitan Community Church 4607 Prospect Avenue in Hollywood.  The pay what you can performance will benefit LGBTQ FMCC.  Masks must be worn and vaccination cards must be presented and there will be a talk back following the performance. Myriad shows continue through September. Check them out here.

REDEEMher – starring Tatum Langton is a heart wrenching and often funny story of an attractive young Mormon lady who becomes an actress and how she must deal with her beliefs, her husband,  her loved ones and her church.  The lovely and talented Tatum Langton is a relatable excellent story teller drawing audiences in with her sincerity, humor and hope for a successful life against shocking adversity.

Naturally Tan –  starring Tanya Thomas is a dynamic terrific one woman show about an attractive mixed actress from Singapore & the great racial obstacles she must overcome to be her authentic self and  live her life to the fullest.  Ms. Thomas is a  very polished actress equally well versed at comedy and drama and an excellent story teller.  She seamlessly performed over 35 characters and  reminded me of an exotic Sandra Bullock.

I Heart Maroc –  a fun, funny &  fast moving solo show starring talented Azo Safo about a  lovable charismatic young Armenian American lady who joins the peace corps and the obstacles she must over come while serving.  This winning solo show was the shortest show of the group I watched and  was very entertaining, illuminating and full of humor and soul.  Ms. Safo engaged the audience thoroughly.  Her journey to discovery and truth is inspiring terrific and heartfelt and told with great  spirit,  humor and sincerity.

The Whistleblower – an earnest winning one man show starring Johnny Avila  about a well meaning agricultural teacher in the Santa Barbara area who must stand up for himself and his students when an evil corporate nemesis threatens their world.  This solo show was  energetic,  very enlightening and educational and the actor’s  multiple characters were commendable, touching, funny and serious  This true story is very inspiring but a tad too long.

I Have Too Many Feelings  – starring the lovely and talented Bethany Vee  is a very entertaining, inspiring and winning solo show about a lesbian actress who has fought tooth and nail to be her authentic self.  Her difficult journey was very poignant and very funny.   Ms. Vee is an excellent stand up and a very likable lady with sincerity and guts. I liked her use of including humorous video footage and her story sheds a lot of  light why not all prescribed medications are  suitable for all patients.   This funny and talented lady  found herself and it is a joyful humorous and commendable  triumph.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Dean’s Office which is well written by talented  Joyce Lee and well directed by Sherrie Lofton.  This gritty, daring and very well acted ensemble piece starred Nadege August, Darrell Phillip, Tory Devon Smith, Minerva Garcia, Yolanda Romersa and Helen Duffy. Each member of the cast truly shined. It’s a shocking, timely, fast-moving must-see story about systemic racism in education told over the course of three decades. It kept the audience glued to their seats, and the talk back which followed was interesting and poignant.

Harrison Held

About Harrison Held

Harrison Held is a proud Fringe Alumnus performing as Dracula's Assistant Renfield in Down for the Count in producer Dallas Bancroft's Hollywood Shorts which also featured Ed Asner and was directed by John O'Donnell. (Profile photo by John O'Donnell)
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