With each beer Alex swigs, every person he pushes away, anxiety builds.
  • With each beer Alex swigs, every person he pushes away, anxiety builds.
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Disappearing Act InterMission Production’s one-act play is not to be missed. The plot centers on the psychological damage of war. Alex struggles to acclimate to life at home after two deployments in Iraq. His loved ones struggle with his alcoholism and self-destructive behavior. Loss pervades the story: loss of life, relationships, and — ultimately — the innocence that keeps us sane.

SD Fringe Festival: Disappearing Act

  • The Geoffrey Off Broadway, 923 First Avenue, downtown

The brilliance of the script lies in its realism and lack of moralizing. The show opens to Alex penning a note as his mother and sister peer over his shoulder and cry. A somber tune with the lyrics “wouldn't it be nice to disappear?” plays in the background. Is it a suicide note? A diary of the horrors he’s seen and committed? No direct answer follows, creating an air of anxiety. His family and the audience are left to wonder over his fate. With each beer he swigs, every person he pushes away, anxiety builds.

Alex’s friendships with fellow Marines Buck and Kick — seen in flashbacks — add levity to the script. They tease each other over sentimental care packages and make crass “your mom” jokes. They also bare their souls over a love of poetry and pump each other up every time a “Dear John” letter from home brings someone down. We see the human under the camo in these moments.

Steve Froelich delivers an emotionally infectious performance as Alex. When he stands in spotlight with arms outstretched — a symbol of sacrifice for his mortal sins (religious themes underscore the script) — we crave deliverance from his pain, too.

TRIGGER WARNING: Suicide, PTSD, and domestic abuse.

The Year of the Woman aims for Mamet, falls short. Fashion model–turned–GOP presidential candidate Gabby Steward takes crass political theater to a new level. While the media elevates her with each play-by-play of her latest stunts, behind the scenes, a Manchurian Candidate more raw than realistic (even for a puppet) emerges.

SD Fringe Festival: The Year of the Woman

  • The Geoffrey Off Broadway, 923 First Avenue, downtown
  • $10

The one-act play centers on the rise of the Twitter-loving candidate, the journalist whose story made her a star, and a political advisor out for herself. The premise of the story works: politics is a mirage, and behind the veneer are beasts who eat their own. Gabby’s good looks and centerfold résumé provide cover for the underhanded schemers out to destroy the political Frankenstein they created.

What doesn't work undercuts what does: a birdshot of themes pile on an otherwise interesting script. The two female characters read as trite rehashes of beauty and brain. Gabby’s foul-mouthed, sex-driven, crotch-grabbing id wants to dominate the journalist with a conscience. Sex scandals, Hitler references, and a triangulated love affair flatten the plot with contrivance.

One bright spot is Tom Steward’s performance as superego/Rolling Stone journalist. He sells a pretty unrealistic plot line with ease. A Gawker blogger might obsess about the sexual skeletons in a politician’s closet his entire career, but he wouldn't be the “good guy.” Perhaps it's the English accent that makes the “respectable journalist” bit plausible.

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