Review: San Diego’s Fringe fest is smaller and harder to find this year, but some shows sparkle

The San Diego International Fringe Festival returned this month after a two-year pandemic break, but many local theatergoers may have missed its arrival.

This year’s fest, with just 25 shows, is a fraction of its past size, and outdoor sign and tent rules in Balboa Park have made it hard for passers-by to spot its vibrant signage. Yet despite these challenges, the innovative, indie spirit of the Fringe lives on with several well-conceived and original new shows, many of them written and performed by San Diego artists.

The festival runs through Sunday with online-only ticket sales ($10) at Below are some brief reviews and recommendations of what to see at the Fringe.

Paco Erhard stars in the solo show “Worst. German. Ever.” at the 2022 San Diego International Fringe Festival.

(Michael Prine)

Paco Erhard: ‘Worst. German. Ever’

Union-Tribune columnist David L. Coddon will have more on Paco Erhard and his solo stand-up comedy show in his Art & Culture Newsletter this week, but I’m singling out Erhard for my favorite show of the fest, so far.

Erhard’s hourlong set focuses on his pointed and hilarious observations of the differences between Germans and Americans, based on his time living in the American bible belt as a high school exchange student and his very German personal devotion to order, punctuality, recycling and high-speed driving. His current show is all new to US audiences, so it’s changing daily based on audience response.

Critic’s pick, Remaining shows: 9 pm tonight. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. 7:30 pm Saturday. Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre, 2130 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park

Terri Park and Reegan Ray in

Terri Park and Reegan Ray in “Castaways” at the 2022 San Diego International Fringe Festival.

(Michael Prine)


This tragicomedy by San Diego playwright-producer Liz Coley is surprisingly moving, thanks to a powerful performance by Terri Park as “Ginger,” a delusion senior woman who lives in a memory care center.

Ginger believes she’s the movie star character Ginger Grant on the 1960s TV series “Gilligan’s Island,” where she thinks she’s still marooned. Her companion is “Mary Ann,” a fellow resident who believes she’s the TV show’s farmgirl character Mary Ann Summers. Reegan Ray plays Mary Ann as a devoted friend who plays along with Ginger’s delusions and occasionally slips into the island reverie.

The early scenes and finale of “Castaways” are played for laughs, with the women interacting with each other, a pale of male nurse-attendants (Michael Rodriguez plays both) and a kindly doctor (John Tessmer). But the play’s heart, played with knowing insight by Park, is how frightened Ginger becomes when her dementia triggers feelings of confusion, abandonment, betrayal and despair. Will Erickson directs the 50-minute production.

9 pm Tuesday. 4 pm Wednesday. Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater

Gabriela Sosa in

Gabriela Sosa in “Love in the Time of Taksim at the 2022 San Diego Inernational Fringe Festival.

(Michael Prine)

Gabriela Sosa: ‘Love in the Time of Taksim’

This multilingual, Panamian-born author and filmmaker stars in this comic solo play inspired by her book of the same name. It’s about her early 1990s crush on former Vice President Al Gore, and how her plan to stalk him at a climate change summit in Istanbul, Turkey, was foiled by street protests and an unexpected love affair with her Turkish guide.

The writing in the 60-minute play is descriptive, interesting and amusing but it probably comes across much better on the page than the stage. In its current format, it feels more like an illustrated TED Talk than a full-bodied theatrical experience.

7:30 pm Friday. 4 pm Saturday. Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater

‘On The Spectrum’

Mother-and-son actor-singers Marybeth and Blaize Berry co-wrote and star in this musicalized true story of how their lives have been shaped by the Blaize’s autism and the death of his father from cancer. It features songs by Alex LeFevre and direction by Tyrie K. Rowell.

The hourlong drama details how the middle school-age Blaize suffers through bullying and loneliness at school, how he and his mom struggle to connect and her feelings of guilt and grief. The story is original, honest and insightful, but it could easily be shortened by 15 minutes. The pre-recorded bully taunts, the songs, the poetry reading and the mom-and-son photo slide show all feel too long.

4 pm today. Centro Cultural de la Raza, 2004 Park Blvd., Balboa Park

ACE Theatrics performs a scene from “Hamlet” at the 2022 San Diego International Fringe Festival.

(Michael PRine)

Shows I’m also intrigued by

I haven’t gotten to these yet, but they look and sound promising from what I’ve seen in preview performances and reviews from my colleagues.

  • “Ha Ha Da Vinci”: This quirky show by tuba player-illusionist Phina Pipia is about time travel, magic and the “Mona Lisa.” She has good energy and stage presence, and I was intrigued to see more. 4 pm Tuesday. 4 pm Friday. 1 pm Saturday. Centro Cultural de la Raza
  • “Hamlet”: Newborn ACE Theatrics, a troupe made of former and current SDSU theater students, is doing a 60-minute “Hamlet” that’s features modern dance and movement and Viking-style tribal makeup and rituals. It looks fresh and interesting. 9 pm Friday. 6 pm Sunday. Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater
  • “Turn Me On, Dead Man”: Phillip Magin’s new play is about the supposed conspiracy behind the Beatles’ backward recording of “Paul is Dead” on the Beatles’ “White Album.” Looked promising and well-staged in a preview 7:30 pm today, 6 pm Thursday. 4 pm Friday. 2:30 pm Sunday. Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater
  • “Are You Lovin’ It?”: This zany comic theater duo from Osaka, Japan, returns to Fringe with a weird and wild show that appears to be about a Japanese businessman and his costumed assistant trying to convince people to either invest in or buy “healthy” food at a McDonald’s rip- off chain. 7:30 pm Tuesday 9 pm Thursday. 6 pm Saturday. Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater
  • “Shelter, a One-Woman Show”: Returning from the 2019 Fringe fest, Renee Westbrook of San Diego is once again presenting her solo monologue “Shelter” on the frightening and lonely time she briefly spent living on the streets in LA and the people she met. 4 pm today, 6 pm Tuesday. Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater
  • Teatro San Diego New Works!: I’ve heard rave reviews on this program of two one-act pieces: “Body Talk,” a series of vignettes that tells stories with the body by Clinton Sherwood and “The Dropout: The Unofficial Musical” by Victoria Matlock Fowler. 9 pm today. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Centro Cultural de la Raza
  • “The Pandemusical Diaries”: San Diego actor William BJ Robinson has written a parody musical set to the score of “Hamilton” where he rewrote the lyrics to describe his two years of isolation and self-doubt during the pandemic. From the preview, it looked creative and funny. 9 pm Wednesday. 4 pm Thursday. Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater

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