Fringe Festival updates the classics

Rob Fordeyn, Stephen Thompson and Thibault Lac update a Greek tragedy in Rob Fordeyn, Stephen Thompson and Thibault Lac update a Greek tragedy in “Antigone Sr.”
/ Bengt Gustafsson

As a rule, the Fringe Festival is all about the shock of the new. That doesn’t mean that Fringe artists leave the past completely behind, however. From Greek tragedies through The Bard and Victor Hugo, this year’s festival features a number of productions of familiar, classic material, albeit viewed through the theatrical equivalent of a funhouse mirror. Here are some of the highlights of these irreverent takes on the classics.

‘Till Birnam Wood…’
Through Sept. 14, $12, Studio X, 1340 S. 13th St.
With witches, murder, betrayal, ghosts and blood-soaked hands, “MacBeth” may be Shakespeare’s darkest play. But it’s never been so dark as it is in the hands of actor/director John Schultz, who is blindfolding his audience for the duration of the play, making the question, “Is this a dagger which I see before me?” more unanswerable than ever.

Sept. 7-20, $25, Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre, 2111 Sansom St.
“To be” seems the only option here; otherwise, South African playwright Robin Malan’s pared-down adaptation would be completely silent. The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre presents Malan’s one-actor distillation, which cuts out everything that doesn’t emerge from the mouth of the Danish Prince himself — or herself, in this case, with Hamlet being played by local actress Melissa Dunphy.

‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame… A Mute Play’
Sept. 11-22, $20, First Presbyterian Church, 201 S. 21st St.
The Renegade Company, best known for performing “Moby Dick” in a bathtub, returns with a tight-lipped version of Victor Hugo’s oft-adapted novel. The production takes its cues from German silent cinema, setting Quasimodo’s story against a nightmarish expressionist backdrop.

‘Antigone Sr./Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (L)’
Sept. 12-13, $29, FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Blvd.
Choreographer Trajal Harrell keeps the all-male cast for Sophocles’ play while updating the Greek tragedy with a New York runway set, pop culture references, and voguing.

‘By You That Made Me, Frankenstein’
Sept. 12-21, $20, The Franklin Inn Club, 205 S. Camac St.
Perhaps recognizing a kindred spirit in the resurrection of a moribund entiti, the Philadelphia Opera Collective continues its mission of engaging modern audiences for opera with a new adaptation of Mary Shelley’s landmark horror novel. Intimately set among the book-lined parlor of Philadelphia’s oldest writer’s club, the production combines trained and untrained singers performing for an audience sipping wine and relaxing in armchairs and sofas.

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