Prague Fringe enters last few days

Some new shows are opening and some of the hits are still playing

The 16th edition of Prague Fringe runs to June 3 at venues across Malá Strana, so time is starting to run out if haven't gone yet this year.

Standouts in the schedule include Protest, a play by Václav Havel being performed by US-based Alliance for New Music-Theatre. The troupe is back for the third time. Protest is one of the Vaněk plays, with that character standing in for the playwright. The play is one of several in this year's Fringe that looks at political issues such as government intrusion into people's lives. Havel's work is not performed here in English very often, so anyone with an interest in Czech arts and history should try to catch it.

Fans of scary stories have a treat in the one-man show Whales & Souls by Sexy Dirt Productions, where a park ranger tells an elaborate yarn by the side of a lake at night. The story is designated for an 18 plus audience, but the adult content is actually a rather minor part of the play. Actor Chris Roe portrays seven characters, holding up all sides of the conversations. The tale grows very dark as it progresses. The simple production using projected shadows to suggest a set is quite effective. It is at A Studio Rubín until the end of the festival.

On the lighter side, The Monks of Umami: Radiodyssey takes a look at a long-lost radio show from the 1950s, or at least that is the claim. The three actors of Jet Productions try to re-create the alleged legendary show but that is just a starting point for series of sketches as the evening rapidly falls off the rails. The radio show format allows the actors to switch from one absurd situation to another rapidly while they try to avoid further catastrophes. The show is inspired by classic radio comedy of a bygone era, with some modern updates added. It runs to the end of the festival at Café Club Míšeňská.

Shenandoah is a mix of original songs and storytelling. A young woman in Nebraska describes her life and her desire to leave her small town where even a truck stopping is a major event. Singer and actress Nancy Monahan has an incredible voice and a natural stage presence. She is accompanied by live drums and guitar as she takes command of the space. The story is a bit loosely structured, and deals with a man who spent decades building a healing machine out of scraps, among other things. The songs are inspired by the poetry of Ted Kooser. The play is in a small room upstairs in Malostranská beseda until June 2, and seating is very limited.

Sleeping Beauty is a true oddity. It doesn't so much tell the well-known story as it tries to draw the audience into a dreamlike state in a room filled with pillows and loose feathers, while a rather lethargic Sleeping Beauty just comes to life momentarily to interact with the audience in a one-on-one manner. It is also in a small room upstairs in Malostranská beseda until June 2, with limited seating.

Rules of Inflation by Balloons Theatre has provoked strong reactions among the audience. The play takes the audience inside the world of man in Joker-like makeup who somehow has taken complete control over four characters identified only by their color. They spend their time playing games. It is quite disturbing, but would have been much more effective if it had a clear message. It is at Divadlo Inspirace until the end of the festival.

Hummingbird lived up to the hype, and remains one of the top shows in this year's festival. Tooth+Nail Theatre takes a true story from the 1950s and dramatizes it with a tight script and some difficult physical theater. The same company was here last year with a mostly lighthearted production. This one shows they can take their style to more serious dramatic themes. It is at Divadlo Inspirace until the end of the festival.

Also continuing their runs and worth seeing are Hess, which has been the hit of the festival, and the comedy shows Men With Coconuts and Zack and Viggo: Dream Team. Both Zack and Viggo also have solo shows, as do some of the members of Men With Coconuts.

But simply because something hasn't been mentioned doesn't mean it isn't good. There are too many shows to see them all, and it is always worth taking a chance.

For more visit www.praguefringe.com.

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