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STAGE REVIEW

Quick-witted 'Fringe' kicks off fest

Paul Bonin-Rodriguez has a way of describing the world that feels like dramatic DSL amid a sea of theatrical dial-up. Not only are his ideas fast and clear, they are also multitudinous, pinging around on his abundant creative bandwidth. With his one-man show ''Fringe & Fringe Ability," Bonin-Rodriguez is a strong choice to open ''Out on the Edge: The 14th Annual Festival of Queer Theater," presented by the Theater Offensive at the Boston Center for the Arts.

''Fringe" follows the life of John Roy Hobson, an Austin-based flight attendant for Southwest Airlines who freelances as a home-accessory designer. As John sorts out the needs of work, family, and self, he comes to the realization that he lives on the edge, or fringe, of his own life. The show is connected to a larger body of work by Bonin-Rodriguez that details John's younger days, but ''Fringe" also stands on its own. It's a complete piece that swings back and forth from comedy to emotional conflict.

There are two sprawling yet not entirely reinforcing arcs to the narrative. One involves John's fitful romance with an interior designer in Chicago. The other explores John's relationship with his mother, who still lives in John's hometown of Cedar Springs, Texas.

One link between the two story lines is a cross-country flight that takes John from his love interest in the first act to the somber responsibilities of parental caretaking in the second. Both halves are absorbing, but Bonin-Rodriguez would do well to increase the number of connections between the two.

There's little more than a folding chair, a ladder, and a messenger bag onstage, but Bonin-Rodriguez deftly creates a range of locations with his words. His quirky characters move from a sleekly decorated apartment in Chicago to a rundown diner in Texas as quickly as Bonin-Rodriguez switches roles from a demanding Texas design client to a portrayal of entertainer John Tesh. Bonin-Rodriguez bounces from character to character easily and often hilariously.

On the downside, he stumbled over lines throughout Thursday's performance, something that can be deadly, especially with dialogue as quick-witted as his. The miscues seemed more a result of his adjusting to late tweaks to the script than of his losing track of his own story.

Ultimately, Bonin-Rodriguez survives these mishaps, as do the unique musings of John Roy Hobson. The needed fixes aren't complex, but they are critical to Bonin-Rodriguez's future success with the play.

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