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Two weekends of left-of-center productions make Fringe Fest the Coachella of local theater

Gripping drama, slapstick comedy, silly improv and a kid-friendly production are all on the docket for this year’s Las Vegas Fringe Festival, taking place over the next two weekends. Now in its fourth year, the festival’s whirlwind schedule and short performance runs give new and established troupes the perfect venue to test out original or edgier works, and to test the agility of cast and crew to navigate the quick stage changes and cramped dressing rooms.

Given this year’s lineup — 13 local theater groups staging a dozen plays, all in 90 minutes or less — even the most lackadaisical theater supporter should find it easy to get out and show some support.

All plays take place on two stages at Las Vegas Little Theatre, 3920 Schiff Drive. Tickets: $12 per play; $120 for festival pass; $66 for six-play half pass. More info: www.lvlt.org/Fringe2013.htm.

THE BEST ODDS

Actor Shane Cullum and director Gus Langley, who killed in last year’s festival favorite Iphigenia in Orem, team up again in Olde English Productions’ The Exhibition, telling the tale of severely deformed Englishman John Merrick (the “Elephant Man”) and his relationship with Fredrick Treves, the doctor who cared for him after years of abuse and rejection. Thomas Gibbons’ script incorporates lines from the doctor’s actual notebooks, delivering the story through overlapping monologues and conversations. For those still haunted by David Lynch’s film on the same subject, I’d bank on Cullum and JJ Gatesman to strike some big emotional chords. (Friday, May 31, 7:15 p.m.; Sunday, June 2, 9 p.m.; Friday, June 7, 6 p.m.; Sat, June 8, 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, June 9, 2 p.m.; Fischer Black Box )

Cockroach Theatre offers The Residents, a pair of offbeat love stories. Erik Amblad directs Erica Griffin’s Kizzy in a Tizzy, a dark comedy about the lengths people will go to for love, and Ernie Curcio takes the puzzling nature of love literally in his 35-minute musical Sudoku, directed by Will Adamson. (Saturday, June 1, 7:15 p.m.; Sunday, June 2, 4 p.m.; Friday, June 7, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, 9 p.m.; Sunday, June 9, 12 p.m.; Fischer Black Box.) Fresh off his powerful performance as Willy Loman in Cockroach’s season-ending Death of a Salesman, Curcio has a second original play — in collaboration with Mountain Mama Thespians — called Moil Beside the Rock, a historical mystery set in post-Gold Rush San Francisco, also featured in this year’s festival. (Saturday, June 1, 5:45 p.m.; Sunday, June 2, 2 p.m.; Thursday, June 6, 9:15 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, June 9, 8 p.m.; Fischer Black Box.)

Quadranine presents Candidate: Burton, Adam Harrell’s comedy featuring a classic Albert Brooks set-up: Recently deceased man trapped in purgatory is forced to defend the value of his mortal life. Count on this cast, which includes Michael Drake, Kim Glover and Brandon McClenahan, to hurl some hefty guffaws through Harrell’s “cosmic courtroom.” (Saturday, June 1, 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 2, 7 p.m.; Thursday, June 6, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, June 9, 12:15 p.m.; Mainstage.)

Making its U.S. debut is The Humble Assessment by Kris Saknussemm, an Australian-American novelist and recent Gallagher Fellow at UNLV’s Black Mountain Institute. Produced by Porcelain Bomb Productions, the edgy, David Mamet-ish comedy was described by Australian press as a “highly disturbing” tale of a man in the throes of the “psychological warfare” that is the job interview process. (Saturday, June 1, 8:45 p.m.; Sunday, June 2, noon; Friday, June 7, 6 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, 7:45 p.m.; Sunday, June 9, 6:30 p.m.; Mainstage.)

Fringe Shorts is a four-play smorgasbord of works by three Vegas theater companies, delivered in one tasty time slot — perfect for those looking to get the most Fringe for their buck. Line-up includes Found Door Theatre’s productions of Frank Shaw’s Chili and Christopher Durang’s Mrs. Sorken, Olde English Production’s God on a Roof by JJ Gatesman, and Seventh Chevron Productions’ Waxing On, by Erica Griffin. (Saturday, June 1, 4:15 p.m.; Sunday, June 2, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, June 7, 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, 1 p.m., Sunday, June 9, 6:30 p.m.; Fischer Black Box.)

LET IT RIDE

Scenes from a Cell features — duh — scenes written on Mick Axelrod’s cell phone. Will the gimmick pay off? The playwright’s couplet-heavy Joy Of The Sting was a surprise hit earlier this year, so I’d expect something clever here. (Friday, May 31, 7 p.m.; Sunday, June 2, 9 p.m.; Friday, June 7, 7:45 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, 4:30 p.m.; Sunday, June 9, 2 p.m.; Mainstage.)

Didn’t get your proverbial fill of dick jokes in last year’s go-round? Never fear, Poor Richard’s Players’ Dick Johnson 2: Private Eyes (last year’s “best of fest” recipient) promises to wow audiences once again with double the suspense, double the mystery — and double the private dicks. (Saturday, June 1, 3:45 p.m.; Sunday, June 2, 5:30 p.m.; Thursday, June 6, 6 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, 2:45 p.m.; Sunday, June 9, 8:15 p.m.; Mainstage.)

APK Productions founder Ryan Balint directs Scott Caan’s Two Wrongs, wherein two neurotic lonely hearts’ romantic pursuits receive a nudge from their reluctant therapist. Comedy and pathos ensue. (Saturday, June 1, 9:15 p.m.; Sunday, June 2, 12:30 p.m.; Thursday, June 6, 7:45 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, 6 p.m.; Sunday, June 9, 3:30 p.m.; Fischer Black Box.)

If the idea of seeing your life play itself out onstage makes you throw up a little in your mouth, avoid Happy Hour Improv’s Your Life, The Improvised Play. Or go be part of the show. Each 40-minute play is different, based on the audience. (Saturday, June 1, 7:15 p.m.; Sunday, June 2, 1:45 p.m.; Thursday, June 6, 9:15 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, 6:15 p.m.; Sunday, June 9, 3:15 p.m.; Mainstage.)

Vegas’ senior thespian troupe The Speeding Theatre-Over 55 presents Robert Anderson’s The Last Act Is a Solo, about a performer past her prime tempted by a director’s intriguing proposition. (Friday, May 31, 8:45 p.m.; Sunday, June 2, 6 p.m.; Thursday, June 6, 6:15 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, 2:30 p.m.; Sunday, June 9, 5 p.m.; Fischer Black Box.)

And Endless Productions’ Alice in Wonderland is an ambitious retelling of the Lewis Carroll classic, boasting a formidable cast size. (Friday, May 31, 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, June 2, 3:45 p.m.; Friday, June 7, 9 p.m.; Saturday, June 8, 1 p.m.; Sunday, June 9, 4:45 p.m.; Mainstage.)