Take a Solo

A staple of the Fringe-going experience is the low-concept musical. Included in this year's crop is Air Guitar, the story of how one man had to put down his guitar to find his music. Written by Sean Williams, Mac Rogers, and Jordana Williams (creators of Fleet Week, which enjoyed a strong buzz at last year's Fringe), the show revolves around Drew (Stephen Graybill), a solo guitarist with dreams of glory that are bigger than his talent. When his best friend Steve (Michael Poignand) and his wife Celeste (Becca Ayers) discover the air guitar phenomenon, they inexplicably push Drew toward competing in the New York championship. Drew, however, feels that this insults his artistry and dismisses air guitar as a fad. His scorn is augmented by invisible pal/devil's advocate/world-famous air guitarist Ulrich (Jeff Hiller), who keeps popping up to berate Drew and tells him not to compete. Ultimately, Drew's undeniable talent for guitar-less strumming leads him on a path to adulthood and acceptance.

Backed by an overpowering backup band playing generic hard rock, the singers had a difficult time getting the lyrics across to the audience. Those that were understood were either entertaining in their real speech origins (like slangy recitative), clever in their mockery of college band poetry (like the hilarious "I'm a Busy Man"), or just boring in their clichéd take on human suffering. (It might have been better had the lyricist stuck to the first two styles, even if it meant sacrificing some pathos for wit.) The plot was driven ably by the simplicity of the scenes; clearly, the book writer knew that the gold was in the well-choreographed performance pieces and not in the apartment scenes.

After all, the money shot in a show called Air Guitar is, well, air guitar. There were many fine examples on display, as Drew and Ulrich committed fiercely both to their performances and to their musical simulation. Hey, once their Fringe run ends, perhaps Graybill and Hiller will make a trip to the finals in Finland?

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