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St. Lou Fringe hopes to lure audiences with oddball ‘House’ and ‘Creepy Basement’

Promotional photo for "House"
Joe Hanrahan
Promotional photo for "House"

What’s it like to have a mother whose seven-foot-tongue slices your arm (eight stitches!) and a wife who greets your boss in thigh-high boots and consistently claims she's on the phone with "nobody?"

Sounds like a family on the fringe. And that's fitting, because it's the storyline of St. Lou Fringe Festival'sproduction of “House,” by Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor. The fourth-wall-breaking comedy is staged six times during this year’s annual festival of performing arts, which runs through Saturday, June 27.

Joe Hanrahan
Credit Joe Hanrahan
Joe Hanrahan

Joe Hanrahan of Midnight Theatre Company plays Victor, the sole character in the play that's directed by Sarah Whitney.

“It’s really as ‘Fringe-y’— if I can use that as a term — a show as I’ve ever run across,” Hanrahan said.

Even so, Victor is an everyman.

“It’s one of those shows that make you understand a little more, feel a little more about what it’s like to be human,” Hanrahan said.

"House" begins with frantic chair-throwing then settles into a rhythm of absurdist fantasies (dog couples dancing to Lionel Richie) and fast jokes, like the one about Victor's AA meetings: "The last bastion of macrame is 'group.'"

For St. Louis theater-goers who know Hanrahan, it's worth the price of admission ($10) just to see him mock-seriously dance to club music.

Dance, music and mustaches

Before the Thursday night performance of "House," a handful of people took pictures of sculptures near the Fringe box office in Straus Park. They're provided by Artica, a local group whose annual festival has been called St. Louis' Burning Man.

Sculpture by Artica in Strauss Park
Credit Nancy Fowler
Sculpture by Artica in Strauss Park

Box-office merch includes multi-colored Fringe-labeled umbrella hats ($5), which, if the rain continues, could rival ticket sales as a money-maker.

In its fourth year, the Fringe offers dozens of shows. You can see them here in a calendar view . As in past years, Fringe accepts acts on a first-come, first-served basis. Many, like “House,” hold multiple performances throughout the 11-day period.

Here’s a throw-a-dart list of St. Lou Fringe acts:

  • "The Traveling Tap Show"shuffles and stomps at the Kranzberg Arts Center on Friday and Saturday, June 19-20.  The Chicago group offers original choreography for $15 a pop.
  • "Mustache across America" is onstage at the Kranzberg Arts Center on Friday through Saturday, June 19-21. It’s a stand-up show about how a mustache-shaped cross-country bike ride changed one man’s life. Tickets go for the proverbial cost of 20 shaves-and-a-haircut, or $5.
  • Creepy Basement Show is not actually held in a spooky lower level but at the Stage at KDHX, Thursday through Saturday, June 25-27.  The Creepy Basement Players is a St. Louis improve team  and the 2014 winner of the 2014 Fringe Crush Award and the Spirit of Fringe award. For $5, you'll get a series of improve games and a long-form show based on single audience suggestion.
  • "iLand" is a solo dance performance that explores our land, including the Earth, at the Kranzberg Arts Center, Thursday through Saturday, June 25-27. Featuring dancer Elinor Harrison, the show oddly quotes both Rick Santorum and Miley Cyrus in its description, and costs $5.
  • "Failure Is Not an Option"is not a command but a one-man music show featuring D-rell, a Harlem hip-hop artistwhose message is “Black Lives Matter." It runs Friday and Saturday, June 26-27 at Duet performance space, and costs $10. Songs on the playlist include “Wrong Turn” and “Mistaken Identity.”


St. Lou Fringe

Where: Fringe: Grand Center, various locations; see Fringe website."House": CEL Center for Architecture + Design, 3307 Washington Ave.

When: Fringe is Wednesday-Saturday, June 17-27; "House" runs Friday-Saturday, June 19-20 and Thursday-Saturday, June 25-27

How much: $5 badge gets you in the festival area for the entire run; in addition. $10 buys a “House” ticket. Other individual shows cost up to $15.

Tickets: Badges sold in Strauss Park (across from The Fox) 

Information: St. Lou Fringe website

Follow Nancy Fowler on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.