DC Fringe: 7 Sopranos, My Name is Pablo Picasso, & Belle Parricide

A little late, and my mom has already long made commentary on the first, at least, but to wrap up my Fringe experience for the year.  Except not quite, since we’ll be seeing one of the more successful ones on film at the West End Cinema.

A couple days after seeing Many Women of Troy we rode almost the entire yellow line to a church near the convention center to see 7 Sopranos: Divas Just Want to Have Fun, which is exactly what is sounds like: seven sopranos of respectable pedigree singing selections from both operas and musicals, mostly as a group though each got a solo, while occasionally deliberately trying to upstage each other, especially at the beginning.  Unfortunately they weren’t set up for subtitles, but the non-English songs were summarized in the program, and many of them were familiar, through cultural osmosis, through voice lessons(there’s not a voice student in the world who hasn’t sung Amarilli, Mia Bella), or even through Sesame Street(it was interesting hearing the Street Song from Naughty Marietta sung by a human for the first time), and I imagine most of the audience had heard at least one or two or the English-language ones.  Sometimes the arrangement of the ensemble songs were a little odd, though sometimes they ended up sounding quite beautiful(O Mio Babbino Caro works surprisingly well as an a capella number), and turning “Three Little Maids” into “Seven Little Maids” certainly amused the audience.

That Sunday we went to the central area, to see My Name is Pablo Picasso, which was a creatively presented account of the artist’s life.  Though interesting at times, and well-acted, it ultimately was a little too much told, with those who aren’t fans of the artist finding only limited interest.  This Sunday, however, we went there again to see the Georgetown Theatre Company’s Belle Parricide, about the more obscure 16th century Italian figure Beatrice Cenci, who along with her brother and stepmother was executed for the murder of her father, who is generally believed to have sexually abused her.  We’d seen their production of Tis Pity She’s a Whore at last year’s Fringe so we had good expectations, which were certainly met.

Beatrice Cenci’s story, as the play noted, has been portrayed by multiple male authors, but never by a woman, so they got five female playwrights to write very short plays about her: a straightforward one by Lori Fischer portraying how she and her stepmother were driven by desperation to kill the man who held so much power over them, two by Monique LaForce & Lucy Tyler setting two very different versions of Beatrice in the modern day, one by Alia Faith Williams set immediately after the execution, and one by Rebecca Nesvet from centuries later focusing on Percy Shelley, who wrote a famous play about her.  The plays provided a woman’s view and woman’s issues, but weren’t limited to them.  Madeline Ruskin, who centered Tis Pity She’s a Whore as a heroine likewise abused and blamed in her own time, played Beatrice in all four plays in which she appeared, going effortlessly from a frightened child to a ruthless criminal as the plays demanded, while six other players took multiple roles as the various others involved.  The strongest presences might have been Jacinda Bronaugh, who as both the bullied subdued stepmother and the wronged wife of Beatrice’s lover Olimpio had demanding roles to play(and topped it off as a poor painter in Nesvet), and Sun King Davis, who ran the gamut as Olimpio and as the bloodthirsty executioner.

Since it was the final night of the Fringe, after Belle Parricide we went to the Gypsy Tent, as it was called, where my parents had drinks and we watched the awards be handed out for the best shows.  Unfortunately we didn’t see any of the winners, but one of them is the one we’ll be seeing at the West End Cinema.  Then there was music and dancing, but my dad’s shoulder didn’t allow for the latter, so we went home.


One thought on “DC Fringe: 7 Sopranos, My Name is Pablo Picasso, & Belle Parricide

  1. Pingback: Telling old tales of the anguish of women: Beatrice Cenci & Medea « Ellen And Jim Have A Blog, Two

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