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Prague Fringe almost over

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If you still haven’t gone to Prague Fringe, time is running out. The festival of alternative theater ends June 2. The shows are all about an hour long, and run in nine venues in Prague’s Malá Strana district.

Several new shows have started to replace the ones that closed earlier in the week.

Some shows that will be running until the end stand out and are worth making the effort to see.
Form has three office workers stamping papers. This escalates into a highly choreographed physical theater piece by UK group Rendered Retina. The three men deal with a crisis brought on by a single sheet of red paper among all the white ones. They bring a lot of imagination to the rather sparse set of a desk and boxes of paper. Anyone who has worked in an office can relate. They are at Divadlo Inspirace.

The Fringe this year has had fewer plays in the traditional sense than in the past. One good one is A Parcel for Mr Smith, an absurd one-man play about a certain Mr Smith, living on Detritus Lane, who gets an unexpected package. The rather nerdy and reclusive man overthinks the implications of opening the box, which he did not sign for. He also overthinks the implications of not opening it. An energetic performance by the actor emphasizes the dilemma. The show by UK’s Cloud Nine Theatre Productions is at Café Club Míšeňská.

Delving into a true event, Young Oscar; Wilde in San Francisco re-creates the famed British wit’s trip to the title city to give a lecture. One actor plays Wilde and several reporters who tried to interview him. The script comes from newspaper articles, bits of Wilde’s lecture and other witticisms by the author. The actor from US-based Rock Bottom Spectacular is a bit too old for the part of the young Wilde, but he nails the costume and attitude of the writer, and brings the somewhat forgotten chapter to life. It is at the Golden Key.

Kafka is back for the end of the festival as well. J.B. Alexander has been at the Fringe before with shows inspired by Kafka. This time he is with the company called Los Dos for Karlos Before the Law, about a prisoner and a guard caught up in a Kafka-inspired philosophical cat-and-mouse game.

Two plays, Hamlet (An Experience) and Games by Henry Naylor run for just the last three days of the festival.

For parents with kids, or even adults who want a silly laugh, there is Chores, staged by Australia’s Cluster Arts Pty Ltd. Two kids are told to clean up their room, but it just gets messier and messier as talented physical comedians unspool rolls of paper, juggle and play with giant blocks. They are at Malostranská beseda.

Another hit with the young crowd is El Diablo of the Cards. The show is aimed at all ages, but Brazilian magician Ewerton Martins lets kids sit up front, and he uses them as assistants. The show uses only cards, so sit close if you can. The tricks are quite good, and Martins’ ever optimistic attitude wins the audience over. He is at the inner foyer of Malostranská beseda.

Some absurdness for more mature audiences, the relatively short show What Next? has a Chinese woman celebrating her birthday by buying a robot. Actress Lai Nei Chan from Macau is the birthday girl, and she is joined on stage by Neil Sinclair, who has been at the Fringe before. There is a broad range of humor, ranging from a clever bit with a pair of smartphones making a duet of “Happy Birthday” to broad physical humor with oversized chopsticks. The ideas could have been developed a bit more, though, to fill out the whole hour. It is definitely one of the fringier pieces in the festival, and is at A Studio Rubin.

Scotland, one of the few shows to run for the entire festival, continues to sell out its shows at Divadlo Inspirace.

Two musical shows both have LGBT themes in common. Johnny Darlin: Songs About Boys sees the talented musician delving into his own diaries for a very personal show about his experiences from youth until now. The performer was here in the past with a similar show. This new production relies on original songs and does not have the special video effects that were a bit of a distraction last time.

Songs of Gays, by the London Gay Men’s Chorus Ensemble, is a purely musical show that played to large applause at Malostranská beseda on its opening night.

Still on the musical idea, We Are Ian looks at rave culture in the UK at the end of the 1980s. The play has good word of mouth from those who have seen it. It is at Divadlo Kampa.

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