Capital Fringe Festival shows to catch, according to its biggest fans

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Where can you find shadow puppetry, firsthand accounts of Burning Man and a burlesque/opera show about a mermaid? At the offbeat, anything-goes Capital Fringe Festival, which returns this year to varied venues with 40 shows and nearly 275 cast and crew members.

With so much variation, it can be overwhelming to sort through all the options offered by the two-week theater festival, which began last week and continues through July 23. But despite Fringe’s ever-changing nature, there are a few patrons who return year after year and know how to select the best shows the festival has to offer.

“There’s 11 billion things going on, so how do you choose between them?” says Elizabeth Engel, who has been a Fringe patron since 2006. “I usually try to hit a variety of types of shows, so go to a comedy … a musical, a dance piece, and get a little sampling of everything.”

Engel also suggests paying attention to the casts of the shows you enjoy since the same groups of performers tend to reappear in subsequent years. Other patrons, however, prefer to let the festival take them in new or different directions.

“We do some research beforehand, but one of the attractions of Fringe is the element of surprise,” says Bill Wydro, who has attended the festival with his wife since 2010 and keeps a collection of festival buttons from previous years. “Though I would advise any first-time attendees that if they see a show early on, not to prejudge the quality of the other performances.”

Here are the shows Capital Fringe Festival superfans are most excited about this year.

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