Thursday, April 29, 2010

This North Coast Weekend

At Ferndale Rep, the annual Teen Show this year is Beyond the Fringe, April 30 and May 1 at 8, and May 2 at 2pm. I am impressed by the boldness and taste of this choice—it is such sophisticated humor, and so British. A Broadway hit in the early 60s, it starred a young foursome who individually became icons: Jonathan Miller (far left in photo) became an author and TV, stage and opera director; Alan Bennett has become a major playwright; Dudley Moore (foreground) became a movie star (Arthur, etc.) after teaming with Peter Cook (far right) for a couple of films (the original Bedazzled) and Brit TV series--the excerpts I've seen are some of the funniest bits ever.

But when they did this show, they had simply been four of the funniest student performers at Oxford and Cambridge. Peter Cook, the least "successful" of the group later, wrote most of the sketches, and was regarded by the others as the funniest. Together with David Frost's Brit TV series That Was the Week That Was, and Richard Lester's early movies (including the two Beatles films), this show not only launched a new style of British satirical humor in the UK and internationally, but sparked a taste for a U.S. approach. Still, with one or two exceptions, this style remained decidedly British.

The Beyond the Fringe performers were heroes to members of Monty Python, and gods to Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Doctor Who) and his generation. The Oxbridge connection is clearly in the humor, especially in the absurdities of language. Both Oxford and Cambridge were 20th century centers of language philosophies--Beyond the Fringe even has a satire on philosophers starring Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore.

Again, I congratulate these students for engaging this material. It's great to know the work of these comic greats--so different from the sad run of comedy today--still lives on.

Update: Well, I stand corrected. It turns out this show is a combination of Monty Python and Beyond the Fringe sketches, with the numerical emphasis on the Monties.

12th Annual 10 Minute Play Festival at HSU, always a popular show, begins its two weekend run tonight (Thursday, April 29). Just six plays this time, but it's a veteran group of student playwrights, directors and actors--graduate student and producer Alex Gradine has been part of five annual Festivals. Photo above is Omari Howard (his third Festival), Everado Cuevas and Sarah Dwyer in A Life at the End of the Tunnel by Mackenzie Cox (her fourth), directed by Steven Robert King (at least his third.) The Festival runs Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 in Gist Hall Theatre this weekend and next, with a matinee this Sunday, May 2, at 2 pm.

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