From the Fringe: ‘The Soirée’

Fringe review: ‘The Soirée,’ Celebration Barn Theater, South Paris, Maine

By Elizabeth Maupin

Welcome to an elegant evening chez Elizabeth, where French music is playing, open bottles of wine are at hand and a single red rose sits in a glass full of gin.

Well, not quite full, because your hostess, the divine Elizabeth, takes a swig of the gin, spills the cheese on the floor, sweeps it up and deposits it back on the tray.

No matter: She’s such a charming hostess, and if you’re not up for a song she and a comical French counterpart will enlist you in an art show or demonstrate how to read a novel and twirl a hula hoop at the same time.

A solo show performed by Amanda Huotari (and directed by vaudeville clown Avner Eisenberg, known as Broadway’s Avner the Eccentric and the title character in The Jewel of the Nile), The Soirée is a mild-mannered riot – ever so polite at the same time that it’s completely off the wall.

Part of a smallish audience Monday night, I found myself transformed into a Frenchwoman (must have been my French-Huguenot blood) and standing onstage with balloons strapped to my ankles. Another reviewer in the audience was enlisted to draw a portrait of our hostess. And a third audience member, a woman, was drafted as a melodramatic villain, complete with beard.

Huotari is a stitch behind her gracious manner, and she’s also physically adept: Our audience oohed and aahed at her prowess with a tray, until she dropped the thing on the floor. This is one of those below-the-radar Fringe shows that deserves not to be overlooked. Go see it: You might get a little dessert.

Remaining shows: 10:35 p.m. Wednesday 5/26, 5:10 p.m. Thursday 5/27, 9:45 p.m. Saturday 5/29. Blue venue.

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