I spent most of my first night of the 2017 KeyBank Rochester Fringe Festival at the School of the Arts' DS Comedy Club. Small tables fill the room, which makes it feel comedy club-esqe — minus the two-drink minimum. The stage for the first production of the night, "Wild Horses," was sparsely decorated; a small table and a glass of wine were the only indication of what was coming.
Portraying nearly 10 different characters, Davida Bloom is something to behold in "Wild Horses," a play written by Allison Gregory and staged by the JCC CenterStage Theatre. Rochester is the second of four rolling premieres for the production.
"Wild Horses" follows a rebellious 13-year-old girl as she navigates her way through the shenanigans of adolescence in the 1970's, told as herself once she's reached her twilight years. Setting the scene is music by various 70's artists, like America, The Rolling Stones, and Elton John. Bloom — who has worked as a voiceover actor and casting director, and is currently an associate professor of theatre at the College at Brockport — differentiates her characters with different voices and mannerisms, and it can be a little hard to follow at times. But her performance makes it all worth it.
"Wild Horses" will be performed again Saturday, September 16, at 5 p.m.; Sunday, September 17, at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.; and Saturday, September 23, at 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. SOTA: DS Comedy Club. $15. Appropriate for ages 13 and up.
The audience for the sold-out 7:30 p.m. show of The Madelein/Maddy Comedy Hour, also at the DS Comedy Club, leaned on the 50-plus side — maybe not the most ideal audience for these two no-holds-barred comics, but both of them were able to find a stride and ultimately had the audience playing into their hands. Local comic Marcus Whitfield served as both emcee and opener, and managed to get laughs out of the crowd even though his "Anybody here listen to rap music?" line was met with crickets.
Both stand-up comics are both from Western New York: Madelein is from Rochester and Maddy hails from Buffalo (she's now based in NYC). Madelein's impression of Julie Andrews performing Nicki Minaj's "Superbass" is something to behold, and if you follow comedy, you're going to hear a lot about Maddy Smith — see her before everyone is talking about her.
The Madelein/Maddy Comedy Hour will be performed again on Friday, September 15, at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. SOTA: DS Comedy Club. $10. Appropriate for ages 13 and up.
I wish I could say that I ended the evening on a high note, but Stand Up for Drag at the Lyric Theatre's Main Stage just didn't deliver. The show's only highlight was emcee Miranda Marie Sugarbaker, also known as Rochester drag queen Poison Waters. Things started out strong, with Ms. Sugarbaker lip-syncing to a cheeky Eartha Kitt number, and following it with some solid stand-up, but the two male comics that followed struggled to find any laughs from the crowd, which was just painful to watch.
Over all, the show seemed to suffer from an identity crisis. For instance, drag queen Vanity Fair performed a lip-sync number to Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," which just felt out of step with the rest of the night. If the performance had the same cheekiness as Sugarbaker's — followed by a little stand-up — the night would have been more cohesive.