San Francisco Bay Guardian
San Francisco Fringe Festival

Center Stage
Ten Treats From A Strong Theater Season
San Francisco Fringe Festival
Robert Avila
August 25th 2004

Forty-five plays, 12 days, and eight theaters can only add up to one thing: the 13th annual San Francisco Fringe Festival. And at $8 a pop (less with a pass), credible numerologists will tell you this augurs well. Attendees at the country's longest-running fringe festival can expect ample amounts of comedy, surrealism, absurdity, true confessions, and seat-of-your-pants improvisation, most of it onstage. One of the best parts of the festival is the sheer risk taking: going in blind and laying down 60 minutes of your life at the foot of the stage like an animal sacrifice; basing your decision on something as flimsy as an enigmatic title (Rabbit Causes Dog, for instance), or as seductive as a premonition, or as sensible as proximity to a bar. But just in case, here are some (among many) pretty sure bets: seriously, soberly weird group Banana Bag and Bodice, creators of last year's much lauded Sandwich, have something in store called The Young War; Liebe Wetzel's mesmerizing found-object puppetry troupe, Lunatique Fantastique, celebrates the art of aging in Reframing the Hourglass; African American comedy improv group Oui Be Negroes actually knows what it's doing when it doesn't know what it's doing; ditto for clowns Jane Chen and Joan Mankin in The Chinese Clown Cabaret; Ed Holmes's Subhuman: True Tales from Beneath the Sea doubly strikes me as worthwhile (premonition, near bar); and Christian Cagigal returns with last year's popular Magic @ the Fringe, billed as no-fuss and "a little gory." Sept. 8-19. For complete information go to