Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Black Wood at Fringe

Pam and I happen to have been binge watching Dark Shadows, a goth 1960s live TV show. The show ran for an incredible 1,225 episodes. We are still watching the first season, though it seems like it has been forever. Black Wood, written by Steve Schneider and directed by David Russell, recreated what it might be like for the cast of that tradition of live TV. I have a rather personal memory of watching Dark Shadows as a child. My mother was diagnosed with cancer and she spent most of her time in a NYC hospital away from our suburban New Jersey home. Towards the end, she came home and I would sit in bed with her watching Dark Shadows each day. To me the show seemed dark and sinister, often dealing with people struggling to stay alive after having their blood sucked away by Barnabas Collins... a VAMPIRE! This was one of the last memories I had of being close to my mom. I was 10 years old.

Black Wood featured a young method-acting student, Caroline (Melanie Leon) landing a prize role right after graduating from acting school. Her excitement and enthusiasm was thrilling. The long time cast of the show, however, was jaded, just trying to get through each episode without stumbling. To open her first appearance, Caroline read an opening monologue into the mic. Her throaty, reflective, and dreamy performance was perfectly in line with every intro that proceeded the actual on-air drama. In her monologue, she dreamed of how her life would change once she was finally confronted by Black Wood. The intern on the program, William (Hannibal Callens), was black and he tried to hold back a giggle. This was an ongoing joke.

The cast were professional actors faced with having to go live before the cameras for each show with only a brief rehearsal and script rundown. The sinister vampire of the series was Peter, playing Victor (J.D. Sutton.) He had a magnificently chiseled face, reminiscent of Vincent Price. One constant when watching the TV show live is that actors often stumbled horrifically over their lines. In this stage comedy, Victor as an aging actor was the one who would forget his, leaving the cast stunned as they tried to redirect him on the live broadcast. It left room for plenty of comedy and dark terrified stares off into the scary unknown.

This is my favorite Fringe show so far. I have the advantage of being in the midst of watching Dark Shadows. If you have never seen the goth 1960s drama, then some of the subtle jokes might be missed. But I had a blast. When Caroline let it slip that she was proud to be working on a soap opera, the whole cast gasped. They didn't like referring to their show as a soap opera. They preferred to call it a daytime drama. Soap operas suck, but reality bites. I am certain that Barnabas Collins would approve.

Tickets are $12 plus a $10 Fringe Button. Show dates are:

Thursday May 16, 2019 at 8:45 PM to 9:45 PM
Saturday May 18, 2019 at 3 PM to 4 PM
Wednesday May 22, 2019 at 1:45 PM to 2:45 PM
Saturday May 25, 2019 at 1:45 PM to 2:45 PM
Sunday May 26, 2019 at 10:45 PM to 11:45 PM

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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