SD Fringe: Phantom of the Empire and Bin Laden: The One Man Show

Mind openers

A long time ago “at an opera house, far, far away — yeah, you read that right!”
  • A long time ago “at an opera house, far, far away — yeah, you read that right!”

Phantom of the Empire: Return of the Opera At last year’s Fringe Festival, Turning Tydes Theatre Company performed Les Midge: An Unexpected Journey of Hobbit Proportions — i.e., a mash-up of the musical Les Miserables with characters from J.R.R. Tolkein. They won awards for best musical and best direction. This year’s entry combines Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera with the entire Star Wars trilogy.

So, the stormtroopers wear white half-masks, and Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Luke sing Webber’s lush melodies while dueling the Dark Side of the Force with light sabers — a long time ago “at an opera house, far, far away — yeah, you read that right!”

The show’s a kick and would have been more so if all the mikes were operative the night I caught it.

Part of the fun is watching familiar characters from the trilogy — which is one long chase scene — freeze and break into pseudo-operatic song, often with polished voices, especially Jordan Hall Campbell (Leia/Carlotta) and Summer Blinco (Luke).

Blinco and co-authors Shane Ruddick, Allen and Jordan Hall Campbell have added another rinse: attitude. Andrea Pulliam’s wry Obi Wan Kenobi’s no exemplar of Total, Blissy Force-hood. When Luke exclaims, “My father was a Jedi!” Obi Wan knowingly retorts in arid tones, “yeah…let’s go with that.” And iconic Princess Leia? Someone calls her, “You, with the big hair.”

Phantom's an equal opportunity lambaster.

Bin Laden: The One-Man Show. Serious Fringe. Knaive Theatre’s theatrical biography of Osama is one of those shows that make you wonder: where else in San Diego could the company from England stage it? Where else but the Fringe?

SD Fringe Festival: Bin Laden: The One Man Show

Pre-show: Sam Redway, scruffy hair and beard, jeans and white shirt with rolled up sleeves, offers members of the incoming audience cups of tea. He jokes, makes everyone comfortable. Then he asks: “Who thinks the world could be better?” and “Who is completely satisfied with the government?” Heads shake. Knees get slapped. Grunts abound.

“Tonight is about you,” he adds, “your rights, your power, your freedom.” He takes his shoes off and details a step-by-step plan to change the world forever (“motivation, action, learning to cope with defeat”…). To support each point, Redway retells the life of Osama Bin Laden and, by implication, tests how far you can open your mind.

Stripped of the demonized image, the solo piece tells a tale of dedication, a nomadic life, stark betrayals, and the need to “see a better world for our children.” Change the name, in fact, and the man has an admirable persistence.

Redway works with few props: shards of cookies atop Styrofoam cups among the most effective. And his presentation, with flickers of humor here and there, smartly cuts against expectations, and even preachiness. He’s a storyteller — a brave one at that.

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