Thursday night’s local music and live theatre double header at Writers & Books was among my favorite evenings at the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. Local folk-indie-awesome band, The Lonely Ones, performed a diverse and wonderful set of original compositions, followed by the excellent, MUST SEE University of Rochester TOOP production of Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, “The Importance of Being Earnest” which, literally, brought the lattice down.
Let’s start with Earnest.
“The Importance of Being Earnest” @ Writers and Books
To be clear, I will pledge my support to student productions until the day my proverbial curtains close. That said, they are usually a mixed bag of quality, plagued with director inexperience, bland overstatement, and poor (pick of the crop) acting.
I’m happy to announce that University of Rochester TOOP’s (The Opposite of People) production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” rivals some of the best theatre I’ve seen at the Fringe this year. Ian Van Fange, only a sophomore at UR, directs Oscar Wilde’s extravagantly clever script into a tight, well performed play that had the nearly sold-out audience invested from start to finish, crying with laughter. When I spoke with Van Fange, congratulating him on the wonderful production, he gave all the credit to his actors. And I can see why. His cast was certainly amazing.
Daniel Mensel (as Algernon Moncrieff) and Michael Tamburrino (as John Worthing, J.P.) are impeccable together, eliciting a contagious chemistry that never quits. These two young actors jump into Wilde’s shoes brilliantly. Were they born to play these roles? Maybe. All we know is what we can assume: Mensel and Tamburrino were born to play many more roles after this.
No small mention here for Kathryn Loveless (as Gwendolen Fairfax) and Sarah Kingsley (as Cecily Cardew). These two young actresses hold a distinct and infectious chemistry all their own. Loveless hits the stage with confidence, blending boldness and affectation into a perfect 19th Century Londonite. Kingsley, appropriately, is having more fun than anyone else. Her girlish, naive character is performed with a veteran’s balance of cartoonishness and believability.
I could write forever about “The Importance of Being Earnest.” Instead, just go see it. You only have two chances left so hurry and get your tickets: Friday, September 27th at 10PM and Saturday, September 28th at 4PM.
The Lonely Ones @ Writers & Books
Fringe is great for stumbling upon musical artists you would’ve never discovered conventionally. This was my first time seeing and hearing of local band The Lonely Ones. They’re a four piece folk group from Farmington, NY. Boot-stompin’, sure, but in all the right ways, and not in any of the pretentious Mumford and Sons hipster ways.
The first few songs of their set were fun: upbeat folk-pop with a hue of bluegrass. But I was more impressed, as the set progressed, with the diverse range and richness of their riskier and more innovative compositions. It’s apparent the band actively works against settling into ruts. Lead singer and acoustic guitar plucker Levi Gangi’s songwriting expands well to piano, evoking David Gray and Ben Folds Five, and Samantha Thomas’ harmonizing back-up vocals make for a healthy change of pace whenever she takes over, here and there, on lead vocals.
Joined by a driving rhythm section with John Muoio on (stand up) bass and Kim Glover on drums, the folky foursome breathe a fresh breath into the cliche-ridden, trend-drained folk-indie genre. Is there any hope for folk music? The Lonely Ones are betting on it.
The Lonely Ones have some local shows on the way. Stay in touch and check them out if you can.