Philly Fringe Opening Weekend Starts with a BANG

by Walter Bender

Charlotte Ford shows how to eat a banana in BANG (Photo by Jeff Monko)

I’ve been asked a few times, “What makes a production eligible for Philly Fringe?” I’ve not had a good answer to that, and in fact have asked myself several times whether shows I’ve seen during the Live Arts-Fringe Festival have been “Fringe” shows. Dancing her way to our rescue, Charlotte Ford brings the ultimate Fringe show to this year’s festival, BANG.

Normally I would give you a bit of a synopsis at this point, or describe the characters in the play. BANG is hardly normal…there is no plot (but there is a theme) and the characters are, well, fringe-y. The performers in BANG (Lee Etzold, Charlotte Ford and Sarah Sanford) undergo their own metamorphoses during the production, and much of their performances will be determined by each audience. There is a lot of interplay with the audience, to the extent that a couple audience members are involved heavily in the production at times. Sarah Sanford is Cheyenne, a “new-age spiritualist”, who is thoroughly confused by why she is there and what she should be doing…at first. Lee Etzold is Gayle, a woman who seems more into going with the flow, and who is seriously in touch with her sexuality. Charlotte Ford is Barb, who dances, recites Canterbury Tales in Olde English, and is the free-est spirit among the three. (One video sequence with Ford was particularly hilarious, with Ford dancing through South Philadelphia streets, a coffee house and the South Street Bridge…naked. I’m quite certain that none of the people that were at these venues were prepared for what happens.) All three are amazing performers, their focus and concentration impressive throughout. They are given opportunities to show off their equally impressive improvisation skills as they interact with the audience.

Sarah Sanford improving with a beer, a hand mixer, a squeeze clamp and other devices for her pleasure. (Photo by Kevin Monko)

The production itself is very impressive as well…a bare stage with curtains surrounding the back, opening when needed to have the minimal set pieces and props appear and disappear on command. Lighting and sound are designed to accent the performers when needed, yet never overshadowing what’s happening on stage.

BANG is a frank, explicit and stark exploration of sexuality, albeit in a very non-threatening and hilarious fashion. Through sketches, songs and video, these three talented performers make us examine our views on sex, sexuality, and societal mores. More than that, they make us laugh for the entire performance. BANG is a brilliant performance piece. Time permitting (and seating permitting) I might go back to see it again…I’m sure each performance will be unique and very entertaining.

Conceived by Charlotte Ford
Co-created by Lee Etzold, Charlotte Ford, Sarah Sanford
September 7-12, 2012
Christ Church Neighborhood House
20 North American Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

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k September 9, 2012 - 11:04 am

The description of the characters is incorrect. Sarah Sanford plays Barb, and Barb is none of the characters described. (She’s nerdy, terrified, and pure clown). Charlotte Ford plays Cheyenne, a free spirit. And I’m not sure what show you saw where your first description of Gayle, the mom-jeans-wearing, beer drinking woman, would be “seriously in touch with her sexuality.”

Walt Bender September 9, 2012 - 12:25 pm

One of the things I love about theatre is everyone’s opinions about what it’s about. I saw the opening night performance, and this was my interpretation of what I saw. My apologies about getting the names of the performers wrong…you are correct about me mixing them up, and that’s something that I am embarrassed about. Thank you for the correction.

Helen September 9, 2012 - 8:11 pm

I saw the opening night performance with my husband and we both laughed ourselves silly. What a great time! These three women and the scenes they each played were hilarious! Thanks for a GREAT evening out!


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