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SD Fringe: The 146 Point Flame

SD Fringe: Nothing With Nobody

SD Fringe Festival: Nightbird

  • RAW Space, 921 First Avenue, downtown
  • $10

SD Fringe: Dog Years

SD Fringe: Doctor Shmoctor

  • RAW Space, 921 First Avenue, downtown
  • $5 - $10

SD Fringe: Burning on the River

Woman in the Mirror, A Dancer's Journey

146 Point Flame

They called a snake in Vietnam “Two-step Charlie.” A rock asp — get bit and you went down in two steps. So you had maybe 10 or 15 seconds to curse or reflect on life — or just to shuffle off.

The 146 victims of the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (1911) had up to 18 minutes.

On the ninth floor of the Asch Building in Greenwich Village, most of the workers were teenaged girls, immigrants. They spoke little or no English and worked 12 hour days, seven days a week. To make conditions a literal “sweatshop,” management locked the doors so the girls couldn’t take a short break or steal scraps of fabric to make clothes they couldn’t afford otherwise.

On March 25, a fire broke out in a rag bin on the eighth floor (a nearby hose was too rotted to put it out). When firemen arrived, their ladders and hoses only reached the seventh. The garment workers on eight, nine, and ten found themselves encased in an inferno.

Matt Thompson and Julianne Eggold’s 146 Point Flame recreates the tragedy, fully, in 30 minutes. What an amazing piece of writing! Descriptions of the havoc are horrifyingly vivid (one image that got to me: “one hundred bodies wedging toward a window” — to jump: i.e. 9/11 in 1911).

As four immigrant girls rush to find a way out, their lives flash before their eyes. Each has had two: before coming to America (repressed); and in Manhattan, where they can “live free as you couldn’t in your old world” (but the factory treats them like slaves).

They reflect in haste. Some find something that won’t burn.

146 Point Flame has its final performance tonight at 11 p.m. at the Spreckels Fringe Off Broadway. It’s a piece to be seen and heard — and heard better than the one I caught. Even though the actors and the audience are on the stage of the Spreckels, maybe 20 feet apart, max., any actor speaking upstage becomes inaudible, since sounds go straight up.

This wasn’t a problem for Vuccino Teatro’s fiery Nothing With Nobody (performances: Saturday at 9:30 p.m., Sunday, at 6:30 p.m.) or Eddie Yaroch’s Nightbird (Saturday, July 12 at 2:00). These top notch shows belt big feelings. The monologues of 146 are more inward: a voice whispering to itself with only minutes, or just seconds, to speak. They need to be projected straight out so people can hear the poetic, frantic, and deeply felt last words of young women who never had a chance.

Word of Mouth: Last Call

To help me cover the Fringe, I asked several theater people to mention shows they liked. For a different perspective, I asked Brendan MacNeil. He runs the elevator at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center for the Festival and made suggestions based on overheard conversations.

Along with many already mentioned, MacNeil heard persistent praise for:

Dog Years, Tenth Avenue Arts Center, Mainstage, 930 Tenth Avenue, downtown, Friday, July 11 at 8:00 p.m., Sunday, July 13 at 5:00 p.m.

Doctor Shmoctor, Spreckels RAW Space, 923 First Avenue, downtown, Thursday, July 10 at 8:00 p.m., Sunday, July 13 at 12:30 p.m.

Burning on the River, Tenth Avenue Theatre, Mainstage, Saturday, July 12 at 9:30 p.m.

Woman in the Mirror, A Dancer’s Journey, Tenth Avenue Arts Center, Mainstage, Friday, July 11 at 12:30 p.m., Saturday, July 12 at 8:00 p.m.

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