Providence Fringe Festival Kicked Off With a Bang

by Will Demers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday July 27, 2021

 Ike Avelli
Ike Avelli  (Source:https://www.ikeavelli.net/)

Since 2014, the Providence Fringe Festival has been giving local and out of town artists the opportunity to show their talents in the area's premier outdoor arts festival. Every July The Wilbury Theatre Group allows those involved in performance art to join dozens of talented folk whose outlets have been curtailed or eliminated by the pandemic. And, by the looks of the crowds at the festival, the people of Rhode Island have been starving for some live entertainment.

Also known as FringePVD, this event — which is spread out over a two-week period — kicked off with a bang on July 19 with some nibbles, drinks, and live performances by Rhode Island Ukulele Armada and The Providence Drum Troupe. Both live and virtual performances are featured, so that those who may not be ready to mix with the general public can still select "One Angry Gay Man," "Gendertalks," or "Smile All The Time," among dozens of others. Most of the outdoor performances are open-air; also there is much room for social distancing. Unlike last year's post-pandemic Wilbury Extravaganza, "Decameron," masks aren't required, nor is a six-feet-apart rule enforced for attendees.

The first of two performances seen was "50 Shades of Gay," a three-person variety show of sorts. Ike Avelli, host and comedian from New York, has been here before performing his show and winning the 2018 Providence Fringe Award for the show of the same name. Avelli is a fan of bright colored suits and matching hats, and slings his cutting barbs to and fro while singing (not his strongest attribute) about Christmas in July and musing about the first time he'd ever seen Barbara Streisand live in concert. He has boundless energy, and is followed by his two cohorts in song, singer/actor Tym Moss and drag entertainer Vicky Villainess.

Ross belts the torchy tunes with gusto, and Villainess, who looks amazing in whatever she's wearing, gives us a Christmas-themed, boozy romp through the cocktails. The opening of the show was unfortunately beset by audio and technical issues (a byproduct of such events), but each performer was gracious and unfazed by these problems. The issue with such a show in Providence is that it's incredibly familiar: We live in a town with drag shows every weekend, no matter what the season, and we've heard/seen much of this before, whether lip synced or just freeform comedic musings.†

The second performance I saw hit much harder: "I Love You. I Hate You. Shut Up And Tell Me Everything: My Trials, Tribulations And Total Lack of Understanding About Borderline Personality Disorder (A Semi Sometimes Sorta Sequel.)" Teddy Lytle, a Brown University MFA graduate in acting and founding member of the Spectrum Theatre Ensemble, performs a one man show. The latter is a company of neurodiverse theatre artists based in Providence. Lytle opens with an expository song, and launches into an exploration of childhood, relationships and alcoholism/drug abuse. Lytle frankly opens his heart and mouth about subjects many would leave in the back of their minds: Borderline personality disorder, alcoholism, and sexuality.†

The "sequel" part alludes to his January, 2020 one-man show "a.dick.ted," which Wilbury hosted, but this reviewer has not seen. But having seen his considerable acting chops in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (Spectrum Theatre Ensemble), this is more than laying bare one's soul; it's a rough, frank, curse-laden exposition of humanity and its frailties. Openly bisexual Lylte is mostly alone onstage, while acting as his voice of reality is his partner Bay, dressed in '80s exercise gear and angel wings. Brilliantly executed, even while reading questions from the audience off of notecards, he never seems false.

FringeFestPVD has much to explore. Whether you're up for finally being among people, or getting up from your comfy couch, this festival is just what you need.

"The 2021 Providence Fringe Festival" continues through July 21, 2021 at various locations, most within walking distance of each other. For information or tickets, call 401-400-7100 or visit†thewilburytheatregroup.org†OR†fringepvd.org.