BWW Reviews: LEGAL TENDER Surprises and Satisfies at Capital Fringe Festival

Nine stories in 60 minutes? Is is possible that someone could really feel satisfied by such short pieces? As it turns out, they can.

LEGAL TENDER goes through a series of scenes, all beginning with the phrase, "One dollar". This common thread creates a straightforward connection, but also highlights the very different ways people value one hundred cents.

The production relied primarily on the oral aspects of performance. The physical action on stage seemed to mostly augment the impact of the story rather than create it. Each of the narratives had their own charm. Some were humorous, while other retained a more serious quality. Together they felt like being read to by a master storyteller, which resulted in the familiar feeling of asking to hear, "just one more".

A minimal set allowed for easy transitions from piece to piece. A few chairs, a bench, and a podium were all that were needed to create a sense of atmosphere. Under the direction of Michael Oliver, each of the five actors transformed into multiple characters seamlessly. With the change of a hat or the addition of a cardigan, a battered wife became a gas station attendant, and a narrator became a street performer.

Sanctuary Theater's ability to take Elizabeth Bruce's prose directly to the stage is an exciting experience to witness. Specifically, Forrest Rilling as the driver in "Exact Change Only" and as Davey in "Cargo Pants" was notable. Rilling's dramatic shifts in character were particularly entertaining to watch. Similarly so, Andrew White was captivating in his performance in "Little Jimmy", Sharyce McElvane was exceptional in her muliple title roles, and Rachel Viele showed incredible versatility switching from a Yankee mother at a Texas gas station to a distressed girlfriend struggling with anger management issues. Maya Oliver brought a gracefulness to her character, especially as the mother in "Airport Caddy". All of the actors contributed to bring these stories to life.

Each of the narratives had a potential relatability. Seemingly each audience member could find a piece of prose that was particularly poignant to them. This assortment of fiction also implied that certain pieces would become, by design, less personally relatable, but like with many things, the variation provided the interest, and overall the theme of the dollar became more important than the individual narrative.

During the opening performance, the audience responded with great enthusiasm. Laughter was common, especially when a character said or did something that made a viewer think, "I've been there". During each changeover, one or two audience members always hesitantly clapped before the quick transition wanting to show their appreciation, but the show had already moved on.

And why do nine short stories in LEGAL TENDER become so satisfying? Because each narrative begins and ends in the the heart of the action. Cutting off the excess fat that seemingly plagues longer performances, these nine performances hone in on sending one sharp message to the reader. In a piece of paper that we assign an arbitrary value, one dollar can connect us, past and present, young and old, rich and poor, and something so simple as 20 nickles, 10 dimes, 4 quarters, or 100 pennies can become so much more than just money.

Runs July 13-27 2013, at the Gearbox, 1021 7th Street NW, 3rd Floor, 20001.

For tickets and information:

ADVISORY: Recommended ages 13+ due to language and content.

Photo credit to sondai expressions creative, llc

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From This Author Nisha Tracy

Nisha Tracy is currently earning her Masters in Art Therapy from George Washington University, and works both in digital and traditional media, including sculpture, printmaking, (read more...)