festina lente Presents Two Powerful Solo Shows at PHX:fringe Festival

Courtenay Gillean Cholovich might have just about anything in that box, in IMAGINATIONMACHINE.
Courtenay Gillean Cholovich might have just about anything in that box, in IMAGINATIONMACHINE.
Joya Scott

If you're available to really immerse yourself in this year's PHX:fringe Festival, starting Friday, April 1, a bicycle might be the way to go, one's mobility permitting. No performance venue is far from the Roosevelt-to-McDowell corridor, between Seventh Street and 13th Avenue, and it's getting too warm out to sprint.

I had the opportunity to check out a couple of Phoenix-born Fringe shows at a February preview, while they were still in development, so if you prefer your avant-garde with a little avant-connaisance, this is your stop, mister.

The reliable weirdos of festina lente bring us solo works by two of their founding artists: Courtenay Gillean Cholovich's IMAGINATIONMACHINE. and Adam Pinti's The VOID.

festina lente Presents Two Powerful Solo Shows at PHX:fringe Festival

Presented back to back in their ASU Tempe previews, the two performance pieces share some common threads. As artists, friends, and classmates, Cholovich and Pinti naturally harbor similar concerns and fascinations with such things as storytelling, memory, childhood, and questionable uses of humor and sexiness.

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Other parallels seem more unconscious or coincidental (and they might not be as obvious in the upcoming reworked versions). Finally, each of these folks is a vitally physical, masterfully expressive actor -- but how each works toward and through that virtuosity is one of the departure points from which they and their work flourish as very different things.

At Modified Arts, Cholovich will present a quasi-scientific study, peppered with whimsy, employing multimedia, and engaging the audience in a search for identity and meaning (or, as the promotional materials say, exploring " ... the line between imagination and memory, and the artist's purpose ... to confront herself in a way she had never expected."). As we've mentioned before, she's little and cute, and that might predispose you to be charmed and intrigued by a premise she admits is self-indulgent.

Meanwhile, the nearer you get to Cholovich, in a geographic sense (and this appearance will be the closest I've been aware of since I started catching her performances), the more her relentless energy becomes an attracting force that's also a little scary and awe-inspiring -- almost mythic. She's working hard and she lets us see it, but her actions appear spontaneous, yet compulsory, like a maenad's frenzy. Still adorable, though -- it's a blessing and a curse.

Pinti, on the other hand, is Mr. Smooth. A stylized control is evident in the structure of The VOID's staging, and Pinti is suited to this type of showcase, more isolated and presentational (but no less captivating) than Cholovich's. He will own the bite-size Soul Invictus space, with muscular, streamlined movement that tells fragments of story with flashes of character, kind of like a butched-up Robin Williams who doesn't appear to care whether you're having a good time -- there's theater to do.

The VOID's theme is more focused; it's about a near future in which HIV/AIDS (the "Viruses Of Immune Deficiency," hence the title's acronym) have been cured in the laboratory of one man's body. Though that sounds like a wonderful fantasy fulfilled at this point, the framework of the piece travels through trauma, grief, and other near-unbearable truths, working on a puzzle we aren't sure we want to see completed. It displays many of the strengths of David Barker's Dodging Bullets, although, at least last month, it was less linear and even more visceral.

The VOID will be presented at Soul Invictus, 1022 NW Grand Avenue, Friday, April 1, through Thursday, April 7. Performance dates and times vary; admission is $15. Purchase tickets here. IMAGINATIONMACHINE. runs Friday, April 1, through Saturday, April 9 at assorted times, at Modified Arts, 407 East Roosevelt Street; get tickets, $10, here. Or you can call Phoenix Theatre's box office, 602-254-2151, for ticket info for any PHX:fringe performance.

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