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Rebecca reviews "The Steele Sisters: Comedy Sword-Fighting Show" and "The Nameless Days of Gumdrop Smith" 

The two ladies who comprise "The Steele Sisters: Comedy Sword-Fighting Show" gave the kind of playful, riotous performance that makes you wish they were your buddies. Gwendolyn and Gertrude Steele, dressed in fanciful layers of medieval garb, took the stage at Blackfriars Theatre and revved the audience into a participatory frenzy with a few playful false-starts before actually beginning the show.

Through silly antics, squabbling laced with intermittent sword-fighting, and loads of hammy asides, we learn that the two rivaling sibs have been booted from daddy's home for some misbehavior or another. With the family inheritance at stake, the gals are engaged in a race to wed first, and to make matters worse, have targeted the same man, whom they selected from the audience. The three then proceeded to play off one another so smoothly and hilariously that I couldn't decide if the gentleman was a plant or a performer in his own right.

Some crowds can be reticent to show amusement, much less contribute to the show, but these ladies were in control. At one point, the sisters had a dozen participants on the stage shaking their butts, all while charming cheers, jeers, and sad trombones from the rest of the crowd. I was constantly giggling at the ladies' bawdy and hyperbolic one-upping of one another, and the exaggerated pouts from one when the other gained the audience's support.

Catch "The Steele Sisters" on Wednesday, September 24, at 7 p.m. or 9 p.m., the latter of which is a pirate-themed show. Tickets are $16.

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The Steele Sisters
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The Steele Sisters

The Steele Sisters performed Tuesday, September 23 at Blackfriars.
PHOTOS BY MARK CHAMBERLIN

Click to View 16 slides

A bit later on, I made it over to MuCCC to take the soul-searching journey that is "The Nameless Days of Gumdrop Smith." Penned and directed by Kate Royal, this 90-minute one-act production by Building 9 Theatre premiered Tuesday evening. And what a beautiful beginning it was!

How we think about ourselves shapes our reality, but whether we go with the shifting flow or resist reinvention, we never truly remain the same person through our entire lives. In this play, the catalyst for shift is the act of naming.

As Gumdrop embarks upon a new relationship with a man named Diesel (Liam Enright), the androgynous protagonist reveals that (s)he has been given a fresh start with the sort of bright and energetic enthusiasm that would make any Whovian grin inwardly.

We learn that on each birthday, Gumdrop's parents (Carl Girard and Nicole Cupo, who each play three supporting characters with equal precision) gift their child a new name, based on their current whims. It's up to Gumdrop to then discover who the name is, what he or she wants, and spend a year in pursuit of it. Gumdrop is unflaggingly happy, and Diesel is captivated, but before long, he expresses dread as he begins to understand there are no guarantees about his future with such a creature.

At Gumdrop's next Naming Day, his fears manifest in a clever and disconcerting way. After a year passes, it's our protagonist's turn to experience some bewilderment -- with the death of the parents, all the future names were lost as well. Nameless, Gumdrop describes the following year as the worst kind of purgatory, but it's more like limbo.

Though dressed and coiffed similarly, there was enough variation in how Melyssa Hall and Rusty Allen shared the title role to show that a shift deeper than name and identity is taking place. A fundamental growth in philosophy is necessary, but takes a while to fully birth. Along the way, lonely, Nameless Gumdrop emboldens a variety of aching characters by suggesting they create a new name and new identity for themselves, without hearing the irony in the advice.

Gumdrop ultimately learns that the rules (s)he has been following are just as limiting as the ones that ensnare most others, and is saved by a solution worked out in the magical space between autonomy and a love that persevered through the dark space of unknowing.

In This Guide...

    Rebecca reviews "The Steele Sisters: Comedy Sword-Fighting Show" and "The Nameless Days of Gumdrop Smith"

    The two ladies who comprise "The Steele Sisters: Comedy Sword-Fighting Show" gave the kind of playful, riotous performance that makes you wish they were your buddies. Gwendolyn and Gertrude Steele, dressed in fanciful layers of medieval garb, took the stage at Blackfriars Theatre and revved the audience into a participatory frenzy with a few playful false-starts before actually beginning the show.

    Frank reviews Hopeless Romantic

    The term hopeless romantic makes about as much sense to me as the phrase guilty pleasure. If you're a romantic then you're far from hopeless.

    Rebecca reviews "My Name is Rachel Corrie"

    MuCCC hosted an important work of art the past two nights. The one-woman show, "My Name is Rachel Corrie," chronicles the life of a young American Peace Activist who traveled to Gaza in 2003 with the International Solidarity Movement to defend Palestinian homes from being demolished.

    Rebecca reviews "Merely Players"

    The Sunday, September 21, performance of "Merely Players" felt a bit rushed, as though there was too much content for the hour-long performance. The small troupe flew through one select scene from each of several of Shakespeare's more popular plays, which at times included masks, pantomime, and puppetry.

    Adam reviews "Vintage Hitchcock," "Solo Drum Solo," and "God of Carnage"

    Screen Plays' performance of "Vintage Hitchcock" got my afternoon off to a great start. A packed crowd filled the Dryden Theatre, eager to experience the old-timey goodness of a live radio play -- and the performers more than delivered.

    David reviews "A Page of Madness," "Coffee With God," and "The Last Five Years"

    What better way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon than in a Japanese madhouse? That is the setting for "KuruttaIppeji," or "A Page of Madness," a recently discovered silent film from 1926 by the Japanese director Teinosuke Kinugasa.

    Jake reviews Sound ExChange

    Recently, Sound ExChange received a grant from the Max and Marian Farash Charitable Foundation to produce its "01X Project," a series of concerts that aim to integrate the audience into the performance through technology and visual art. The group -- an artist collective that formed at the Eastman School -- partnered with RIT photography professor Susan Lakin and computer science professor Joe Geigel, and Katie Verrant, a new media design student at RIT, to really push "01X" into new interdisciplinary spaces.

    Adam reviews the RIT School of Film and Animation Student Honors Show and "Trending"

    I started my third day of the Fringe Festival by heading over to the Little Theatre to catch the RIT School of Film and Animation Student Honors Show. Speaking before the screening began, Administrative Chair Malcolm Spaull explained that the program was curated by faculty members to incorporate each type of film (narrative, documentary, experimental, along with 2D, 3D, and stop-motion animation), with works by students from every year of the program -- from first year BFA students to those in their final year of their Masters -- being represented.

    Frank reviews The Younger Gang

    As the ghosts of so many mondo-cool rock shows of years gone by bounced off the walls of the empty pool that is Manhatan Square Park, The Younger Gang conjured bluegrassy boogiemen and specters of its own. This string-driven quartet takes the vintage patina of old-tyme music and applies it to a slightly modernized sound.

    Casey reviews PUSH Physical Theatre and "Germination"

    PUSH Physical Theatre is always entertaining, but it has deep ideas to communicate as well. Through movement, of course.

    David reviews "W.A.C. Iraq" and "Bernhardt on Broadway"

    Rochester Latino Theatre Company's "W.A.C. Iraq" takes a complicated subject and presents it in a simple, powerful way. This tribute to Latina women in the Armed Forces who have served in Iraq honors their contributions, details their sacrifices, and asks some disturbing questions about a country that gives poor women opportunities in the military and often takes them away when they return from service.

    Frank reviews "Dead Dames Don't Dance"

    "Dead Dames Don't Dance" at Geva -- or anywhere else for that matter unless you count my minor obsession with the Black Dahlia doing her annual bisected Charleston in my fevered dreams.

    Casey reviews Sisters of Murphy and "Unbridled"

    Friday on the Fringe was full of free offerings, but fun, not free, is the word that epitomized the night for me. I left feeling happy, energized, and excited about the festival; music, dance and photography cavorting in my brain. Sisters of Murphy, a local band that fuses traditional Celtic drinking songs with rock 'n' roll played at that Manhattan Square bowl, a venue that worked well acoustically.

    David reviews "SaMe SeX sHaKeSpEaRe" 2014

    The Rochester Shakespeare Players' "SaMeSeXsHaKeSpEaRe" was a hit at last year's festival, and if you've ever wanted to see Macbeth in a red power suit and heels, or Hamlet as the original emo teen, you have one more chance to see the 2014 edition, on September 26. This is a nicely paced, 45-minute tour through familiar scenes from the plays mentioned above, plus "Twelfth Night" and a sonnet, with the genders reversed ("Macbeth's" Weird Sisters are now Weird Homeless People) or otherwise scrambled.

    Jake reviews Circus Orange's "Tricycle"

    Before I dive into my thoughts on Circus Orange's "Tricycle," I feel like I should give a quick disclaimer: Given the performance's scope, the large crowd, and the layout of Manhattan Square, there were parts of the performance that were just impossible to see from my position. I welcome readers to fill in some of the details and tell us about their perspective of the show.

    Photos from Canary in a Coal Mine, Silent Disco, and "Divas"

    Canary in a Coal Mine will perform again on Saturday, September 20 at 10pm at MuCCC. Silent Disco will occur again Friday, September 26 and Saturday, September 27 at 11pm at the Spiegeltent.

    Frank reviews perCepTION

    So there I was, nursing the blood of the bean from a ceramic chalice, watching the nubile cavalcade's ebb and flow at Java's on Gibbs Street, when what to my wondering eyes appeared but perCepTION on stage kicking out the jams in hiiiiigh gear. This outfit was tres cool with lots of exploratory spirit that never went too far as its members were tethered to the earth and one another.

    Rebecca reviews Cirque du Fringe

    Cirque du Fringe's take on Mardi Gras played to a packed Spiegeltent on Thursday night, and was a thoroughly entertaining trip. Old-timey clowns Tyler and Carl were the informative and charmingly abrasive hosts of the 20 Penny Circus, providing humorous banter and historic tidbits about Fat Tuesday between daring acts by the Kenya Safari Acrobats, who delighted everyone with B-Boy-style acrobatics.

    Adam reviews "Dashboard Dramas"

    Located just outside of the Spiegeltent -- but at the opposite end of the Fringe spectrum as the glitzy spectacle of "Cirque du Fringe" -- "Dashboard Dramas" is a no-frills affair, though it still completely encapsulates the spirit of the festival: It's fast, fun, and wildly creative. Directed by Patricia Lewis and written by Abby DeVuyst and Kerry Young, the show's format is ingenious: four parked cars along the edge of the Spiegelgarden, each assigned a number from one through four.

    Photos from "The Cougar & the Cabana Boy"

    In this original musical comedy, cougars fraternize with their pool boys. Check out future performances on Thursday, September 25th, Friday, September 26th, and Saturday, September 27th at the TheatreROCS Stage at Xerox Auditorium as part of the 2014 First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival.

    FRINGE FEST 2014: City's Daily Fringe Blogs

    Reviews and photos from the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival
    The 2014 First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival runs September 18-27, and City Newspaper will be out EVERY NIGHT of the festival, covering multiple shows. Check in first thing each morning for photos and reviews of the previous night's entertainment, listed below by date.

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