Actor Tim Mooney has been disappointed by just about every performance of the play “Julius Caesar” he’s ever seen. So to improve on William Shakespeare’s 400-year-old classic, he’s edited it down to an hour of the best stuff and played up the humor.
“After a year of exploration and memorization, I discovered that we mostly get the end of the play wrong,” Mooney said about the way actors usually play the roles. He thinks actors too often play “Mark Antony’s final tribute to Brutus with 100 percent sincerity, and I think it’s actually really a subversive joke. Which changes everything.”
Mooney, who is based in Illinois, will bring his one-man “Breakneck Julius Caesar” to Portland’s annual PortFringe theater festival, running Saturday through June 23.
The festival, in its seventh year, is known for cutting-edge and barrier-bending theater pieces and is one of a growing number of fringe theater events around the country. There will be some 35 individual shows, performed multiple times, totaling more than 120 performances. About half of the performers are from Maine, and about half are from out of state. The festival is a place to see things you might not see elsewhere – like a one-hour, one-man “Julius Caesar.”
Though the festival officially starts Saturday, a kick-off event begins Wednesday. “Horse Tale,” by the New York-based Hit The Lights! Theater Co., will be presented through Friday at 7:30 p.m., at the Portland Stage Studio Theater. The show is a shadow play that was inspired by both legends of the American West and Looney Tunes animated escapades.
The wide variety of work in PortFringe includes a musical where the lyrics come from the labels of household products, a performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” using 5-inch-high action figures and a one-man show about being an Airbnb host.
“The Surreal Vetting of Martin Mann” is about a man being questioned at some sort of confirmation hearing by a Big Brother-type government body. At various points, there’s a monologue and a musical number.
“The Cardboard Countess” is a show that explores the friendship between a troubled teen and a homeless woman who wears a gown made of garbage bags.
“Man on a Treadmill” is about an everyman going through his day, wondering what it’s all about, and then doing it all again the next day.
For descriptions of all the shows at PortFringe, go to portfringe.com.
WHERE: Portland Stage, 25A Forest Ave.; Bright Star World Dance, 108 High St.; Space Gallery, 538 Congress St.; and Mechanics Hall, 519 Congress St.; all in Portland
WHEN: Saturday through June 23
HOW MUCH: $12 for individual shows, $32 for a three-show pass, $85 for a nine-show pass and $150 for an all-show pass