The last day of the 5th Annual San Diego International Fringe Festival ended as strongly as it started for me.

First, I caught the last performance of “THE BANZA,” a totally delightful musical created by three of last year’s graduates of Canyon Crest Academy (CCA), under the banner of Ellipsoid Players: Jacob Surovsky wrote the book and (often clever) lyrics, and Zane Alexander and Kion Heidari (who also starred) composed the music.  The story is close to their actual lives: freshman year of college. The show is smart, the characters are well drawn and skillfully portrayed, the singing was excellent and the music tuneful, varied (there’s even a tango!) and well played. Equity actor Jason Maddy (who had been their drama teacher at CCA) adroitly directed and also played a few comical roles, including a very funny Rod Serling (of “Twilight Zone” fame), who was an alumnus of Antioch College, where the play is set. The monster/ghost haunting the residence hall is a bit far-fetched, but the problems and anxieties of new college students are believably portrayed. An impressive world premiere created by these young artists.

The grand finale of the Fringe, for the fourth year, is THAT 24HR THING. Six accomplished playwrights are given 24 hours to write 10-minute plays; four other playwrights created monologues. The six directors and 18 actors had 8 hours to bring the plays to life — including staging and memorized lines. It was terrific. The writing was incisive — a fair amount of it political — and the acting was uniformly superb. Interestingly, a cellphone featured in just about every play. There was lots of comedy, but also plenty of poignancy. This should be a must-see for your Fringe-going every year.

And now, after having seen a ton of shows, these are my final Critic’s Picks:





8 Songs for a Mad King


Underneath the Lintel


6 Quick Dick Tricks


Hip Hop Cabhooray


That 24Hr Thing



It was a pretty solid Fringe all around, considering that there’s no quality control (a hallmark of the Fringe, though I wish it were otherwise). I can’t wait to see what next year’s Fringe will bring; there’s always some improvement or addition. My ongoing wish-list: transportation among the far-flung venues, and considerably more advertising to the general public.

Onward and upward, Fringeneers!