End times are upon us at the Capital Fringe Festival, steaming through the last of its three weeks in Southwest D.C., and songs are in the air. Michael Gaynor reviews the tune-filled “How to Fall in Love on a Warming Planet,” and Savannah Stephens looks at the Paul Simon-inspired play “50 Ways…”
How to Fall in Love on a Warming Planet
Upon entering the space for “How to Fall in Love on a Warming Planet,” you may be forgiven for thinking you’re at some kind of tongue-in-cheek environmental musical. The colorful theater at the Blind Whino arts club has been adorned in protest signs with fierce slogans such as “Ban Speciesism” and “Their Planet Too.” The banners are so impassioned and so ubiquitous that it feels almost ironic.
But ironic it is not. Nor is it a musical, despite what the Fringe Web page for it suggests. “How to Fall in Love on a Warming Planet” is more of a straightforward pop concert, a nine-song set of eco-conscious music by Christopher B. Cox, who goes by Rivers Wilder Green for the show.
Cox’s lyrics are cloyingly earnest, without a hint of subtlety regarding their pro-environmental message. There’s some clever wordplay here and there: The second song’s chorus — “The oceans are rising, and so must we” — was enough to elicit a singalong from the sparse 5:15 p.m. audience I saw it with. But that’s coupled with mawkish songs such as “Stop Eating My Friends,” which finds the singer befriending various creatures normally bred for consumption and imploring the listener to, well, stop eating his friends.
The good news is that the music is catchy and the three-piece band is made up of talented musicians. Cox himself is energetic and charismatic as the frontman, enough at this performance to shepherd through a successful marriage proposal between two audience members halfway through the set. How’s that for love on a warming planet?
July 26 and 28 at Blind Whino, 700 Delaware Ave. SW.
— Michael Gaynor
“50 Ways…” acts out 50 ways someone could leave (or be left) by their lover. Paul Simon was able to accomplish this in three minutes and 35 seconds, but this one-act play, penned by over 14 writers and directed by Samir Bitar and Mahayana Landowne, gives you 50 breakups in a little over an hour. It can get sad after a while.
That’s not to say all the breakups are depressing. One scene sees the demise of a prom king and queen after they fail to agree on gerrymandering the lunchroom. (Perhaps one theater nerd for every jock table is representative, but is it fair?) Others hurt more, such as a man going on a date after his wife has become afflicted with dementia, or a pair we see throughout the show breaking up multiple times.
The six-person cast, composed of Zoe Walpole (Young Woman), LJ Moses (Young Man), IO Browne (Middle Woman), Aidan Hughes (Middle Man), Deborah Davidson (Elder Woman) and Jack Mayo (Elder Man), pairs up in every feasible way. That is a highlight of the show: its representation. There are mixed-raced couples; gay, lesbian and straight couples; and even couples with significant age differences. The message is clear: All these relationships matter.
The scenes sometimes segue perfectly. Take the woman suffering from dementia: In the next scene, Davidson transforms into an 8-year-old girl telling her blanket that she must grow up and pack it away. Other bits shine with fine acting. In one scene, Moses, perhaps the most adept performer at morphing in every scene, acts as Facebook, trying to get Walpole to check on her ex at four in the morning when she can’t fall asleep. It’s funny, and a little too true.
70 minutes. July 28 at Christ United Methodist Church, 900 Fourth St. SW.
— Savannah Stephens
All tickets $17, plus a one-time $7 purchase of a Fringe Festival button. 866-811-4111 or capitalfringe.org
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