2017 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Release: A Rock Opera’

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An exciting aspect of CapFringe is getting a sneak peek at a new show in the first stage of development. Such is the case with DC Dogs’ Release: A Rock Opera, now playing at the Gallaudet University Elstad Auditorium.

Composed and music directed by Mark Baughman (no relation to this reviewer), with script and direction by Steve Organ, Release tells the story of lab technician Amy Ryan (Lexie Martin) who fights to defend her medical discoveries from plagiarist Dr. Sharon Hendricks (Christine Asero). While the narrative doesn’t seem to know exactly where it wants to go, yet, Baughman’s soulful rock songs evoke the feel of a great concept album in concert.

Release also boasts strong technical presentation for a Fringe production, most notably excellent sound mixing and a solid four-piece band (local band Working Theory). Organ’s direction winningly embraces the “open air kitchen” spirit of Fringe, placing the musicians in the action and allowing actors to don costumes in full view of the audience. Designers Quoc N. Tran and Betsy Zuck incorporate projections that support the rock concert vibe. Lyrics can be difficult to understand at times, but Gallaudet’s surtitle screen makes up for the deficit.

The standout performance by far is Lexie Martin as the protagonist Amy. Her rockstar vocals shine equally in lyrical moments such as “The Road From Laramie,” as well as powerhouse songs like “Out On A Wire.” As the drug addict Thom Wilson, Carlos Ramirez cuts loose with legit rock chops in “Take What You Can Carry.”

Hopefully Organ and Baughman will continue to develop and hone Release as a work of theater. Fringe might be just the beginning for this promising show.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Release: A Rock Opera plays through July 23, 2017 at Gallaudet University, Elstad Audiorium – 800 Florida Avenue NE, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call (866) 811-4111, purchase them at the door, or purchase them online.

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