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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD

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iflitifloat
Broadway Legend
joined:10/10/03
Broadway Legend
joined:
10/10/03
FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#1
Posted: 8/12/11 at 10:44am
I look forward to this every year...and it truly is a potluck smorgasbord of the good, the bad, and occasionally, the ugly...of a wide range of theater.

On my agenda for tonight:
Rachel Calof 5:15
Chagrin 7:15
COBU (dance) 9:45

Anyone else going to anything tonight?
Sueleen Gay: "Here you go, Bitch, now go make some fukcing lemonade." 10/28/10
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RippedMan
Broadway Legend
joined:8/14/05
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joined:
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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#2
Posted: 8/12/11 at 5:49pm
I saw the poster for Rachel Calof, so let me know how it is. Seems interesting.
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toomeytwopiece
Featured Actor
joined:1/30/06
Featured Actor
joined:
1/30/06
FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#2
Posted: 8/13/11 at 2:28am
"Winner Take All" was quite good tonight. The place was packed and they received an enthusiastic standing ovation. I'd recommend it!
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EugLoven
Broadway Legend
joined:4/23/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
4/23/05
FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#3
Posted: 8/13/11 at 2:38am
IT'S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN... FRINGE!!!
I'm an expert at "Fringe Binge-ing"

I volunteer, which provides the opportunity to see a show per every shift you work.

It's no secret I tend to stick to the gay stuff (because it's usually really fantastic), the musicals (because the good ones usually have post-Fringe life, so you can see them first!) and the word-of-mouth buzz ones (because they're usually really damn damn good)!

I have tickets ($9 on TDF!):

I LIGHT UP MY LIFE: THE MARK SAM CELEBRITY AUTOBIOGRAPHY
- I saw it this afternoon. Very cute but also very gay one-man-show about telling his life-story from the perspective of someone who believes he's a potential celebrity. It's funny, reflective, gay-themed and therefore often humorous and crass!

HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOST MY VIRGINITY
- Written and starring one of my great friends from college theatre (San Francisco) bringing it here. One-woman Latina comedy show (playing 21 characters, 3 languages and a fist-fight) about self-discovery, love, sex, her family.

I plan on seeing (via volunteering/vouchers/luck):
DESTINATIONS
- Musical drama about a reuniting band on tour

LIFE INSURANCE
- Short solo show, don't know much about (just volunteering)

PARKER AND DIZZY'S FABULOUS JOURNEY TO THE END OF THE RAINBOW
- If Wizard of Oz had a foursome with Star Wars, Thelma & Louise and Da Vinci Code its offspring would be this hilarious musical adventure with dead bodies, drag queens, clones and the gay holy grail!

GLEEAM
- High school Glee club gets hacked to death by a mysterious masked slasher, complete with musical numbers.

HEADS
- Another friend from college (SF) is assistant directing, don't know much about it, comedy

HUSH: THE MUSICAL
- Musical set in an airport VIP room during a snowstorm in which eccentric characters are forced into comical confrontations

HELLO, MY NAME IS BILLY
- Filthy unapologetic musical thrill ride through the landscape of one gay man's pursuit of love and the ultimate high, littered with crack pipes, booty bumps and hot boddies (starring my friend Robert, aka DJ Executive Realness)

2 BURN
- Gay noir drama, a college student is willing to give much more as he and his professor vie for power over language, sex and each other

THE DAY THE SKY TURNED BLACK
- Edinburgh Theatre Fest hit show (usually a mark of a great piece) detailing the true events of Australia's greatest natural disaster known as Black Saturday 2009 when the country is ravaged by firestorms

THE TOUGHEST GIRL ALIVE
- True story of LA gang member, unwed teen, plus sized, pornstar, bisexual, multi-award winning blues phenomenon Candye Kane (SF Bay Area talent!) with her music

ELYSIAN FIELDS
- What would happen if all of Tennessee Williams' gay characters from "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "Suddenly Last Summer" (which are dead before his famous plays begin) met?

THE UNDERBELLY DIARIES REDUX
- One man show, he was a stripper, a hustler for men and women, from a prominent Jewish Canadian family, capitalism personified, an R-rated comedy

YEAST NATION
- From the creators of URINETOWN, the entire run is already completely sold-out but it will probably be in the Encores week and/or have a life beyond FringeNYC
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ooblogway
Understudy
joined:5/20/07
Understudy
joined:
5/20/07
FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#4
Posted: 8/13/11 at 8:12am
I saw WALLSTORIES last night. Excellent dance piece on the topic of the Berlin Wall. I nice change of pace from the regular Fringe fare.
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metaphorical
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joined:10/15/10
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joined:
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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#5
Posted: 8/13/11 at 10:09am
Rachel Calof

VENUE #2: CSV Flamboyan
1h 30m
Show seen: Fri 12 @ 5
Remaining performances: Mon 15 @ 4:15 Fri 19 @ 2 Sat 20 @ 9 Sat 27 @ 2:15

Rating: 4
(using the BroadwayWorld rating system of 10=effusive praise; 9=excellent; 7/8=positive with some reservations; 5/6=respectfully unenthused; 3/4=mostly negative; 2=little to recommend; 1=offended, insulted, angered)

A picture bride survives an unbearable childhood in Russia and a brutally harsh North Dakota family of in-laws and winter before things become better.

If this logline strikes you as surprisingly inactive for a dramatic story, you’ve identified the central problem in the one-person play “Rachel Calof.”

Teachers of narratives—whether it’s a play, movie, short story, novel, or even a memoir or nonfiction narrative destined for a magazine—all agree: If your story has a protagonist, the protagonist has to actively resolve the plot’s complications (or fail trying). Jack Hart, in his excellent book “Storycraft” says, “when you’re looking for a protagonist, search for the person who makes things happen.” Rachel Calof, it turns out, is no protagonist.

The play is based on a book, “Rachel Calof’s Story: Jewish Homesteader on the Northern Plains” (Indiana University Press, 2009) that in turn is based on a hand-written memoir Calof’s family found after she died, augmented by “scholarly essays that provide historical and cultural background,” according to IUP press materials.

In childhood, Calof, whose mother died when she was four, is bounced like a pinball between a thoughtless and cruel father, a thoughtfully cruel step-mother, and an imperious and uncaring great-uncle who, as Calof approaches marrying age, wrenches her from a growing friendship and love with a village butcher boy by sending her to America to marry a total stranger to the family.

In America, Calof is an impeccably passive fiancee and then wife and daughter-in-law. Her mother-in-law, by turns superstitious and just stupid, but always domineering, would make one long for the violently cruel step-mother.

Writer Ken LaZebnik shows almost no awareness of the need to make Rachel Calof at least somewhat the mistress of her own fate. It’s left to the music and lyrics (by Leslie Steinweiss) to show us a Rachel acting on her own initiative, pathetically fashioning a lamp out of mud and butter as the fuel. To be sure, in on lone, belated scene LaZebnik has Rachel saying no to the ridiculous demands of her husband, himself laughably submissive to his mother. It’s not enough. Every good thing that happens to Rachel—the visit by a neighbor to Rachel and her six-week old baby, left alone in a tiny shack; the declaration by the shochet that the ailing post-partem Rachel is allowed to eat unkosher ox meat; the children she is allowed by her husband to have—happens to her.

The narrative is bookended by Rachel's desire, and eventually resolve, to visit her daughter in Seattle. Stepping across the threshold without her husband’s permission is apparently LaZebnik's idea of the decisive act of an active protagonist. It’s not enough, and not just because all we see is a resolve; it comes 85 minutes and 30 years too late in the story. Worse, with a flat inactive protagonist, “Rachel Calof” almost inevitably has no other interesting characters either. Everyone, especially the husband and his mother, are flatly cruel and stupid, albeit hardworking.

There’s much to enjoy in Rachel Calof—the hardships of homesteading are novel and engrossing to a modern audience, and Kate Fuglei’s acting is inspired, her Russian-Jewish accent letter-perfect, and her singing voice is stunningly clear. In the words of IUP, “her narrative [is] both unique and a representative western tale.”

It’s not possible to rewrite a show from the audience, nor is it a critic’s place to do do, but it’s impossible not to note that the protatonist-confrontation-resolution structure is not the only one available to the author, nor is Rachel the only protagonist available.

The story as it actually seems to exist on the page’s of Calof’s memoir is one of a family with almost insurmountable challenges of culture, abject poverty, pride, and jealousy, finally and reluctantly uniting to defeat the greater enemy of North Dakota’s unrelentingly grim and nearly fatally harsh winters. In that story the husband’s admirable qualities of hard work and fealty to family would at least briefly shine, and the mother-in-law, enduring 40-below winters at the end of her life and, like Moses, given only a view of the promised land, might at least evoke our sympathy.



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metaphorical
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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#6
Posted: 8/13/11 at 10:11am
Chagrin

1h 0m
VENUE #8: The First Floor Theatre @ LA MAMA
Show seen: Fri 12 @ 7:15
Remaining performances: Sun 14 @ 4:15 Wed 17 @ 10 Thu 18 @ 4 Sat 20 @ 12

Rating: 5
(using the BroadwayWorld rating system of 10=effusive praise; 9=excellent; 7/8=positive with some reservations; 5/6=respectfully unenthused; 3/4=mostly negative; 2=little to recommend; 1=offended, insulted, angered)

Four friends who used to star in a kid’s quiz show have drifted apart until they return to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, for a TV reunion and the near-suicide of the smartest one of them.

The structure of "Chagrin"—a single scene outside a hospital—requires that the power of the show consist entirely of the successive, ongoing reveal. That requires impeccably coordinating the twin faucets of mystery and information.

Here, unfortunately, the story goes cold, as the early minutes become bogged down with unimportant information that didn’t carry us far enough toward answering the bigger questions in the backstory, while the final minutes persisted beyond their being answered, to the extent the play answers them at all.

The only action in such a story is a character’s decision to confess something or lie. It’s not enough. At some point, the audience craves action in the present.

The lack of any real action means as well that there are no opportunities for the characters to change, and with only the four friends on stage, the story becomes, over time, claustrophobic.

By contrast, had, say, the TV producers come downstairs from their vulture-like perch at the one friend’s bedside (which we know about only second-hand), they could have forced the four to make choices and reveal character through actions instead of empty words.

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metaphorical
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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#7
Posted: 8/13/11 at 10:14am
COBU

VENUE #14: Bleecker Theatre
0h 45m
Show seen: Fri 12 @ 9:45
Remaining performances: Wed 17 @ 7:30 Fri 19 @ 5:15 Wed 24 @ 2:30 Thu 25 @ 5:15

Rating: 9
(using the BroadwayWorld rating system of 10=effusive praise; 9=excellent; 7/8=positive with some reservations; 5/6=respectfully unenthused; 3/4=mostly negative; 2=little to recommend; 1=offended, insulted, angered)

Our favorite show of our three-show opening night was COBU, which describes itself as an “explosive fusion of Japanese Taiko drumming and funk tap dance ... created and directed by STOMP veteran Yako Miyamoto. COBU is a dance/percussion troupe with the motto “Dance like Drumming, Drum like Dancing”.”

In the first piece, five drums are on stage, three upstage, and two down, each with a woman wearing a unique outfit that in one way or another—whether its pink hot pants with black fishnets, or a yellow tank top, yellow shorts, and loose yellow leg warmers, or just an orange golf hat worn backwards—bespoke hip-hop. The woman at the center drum, who I came to quickly think of as the queen drummer, wore olive drab baggie cargo pants and a sort of long sleeveless black hoodie robe.

The entire effect was both sexy and extremely powerful, and got only more powerful as the show progressed.

Three dancers appeared between the two rows of drums, at least, at first they seemed to be just dancers, but they held drumming sticks and soon alternated the choreography with drumming on the floor itself.

There were about nine distinguishable pieces—the boundaries were unclear, except when the costumes changed, which happened several times—and perhaps my favorite was the third, in which the queen drummer led off with a lengthy tap dance that included using the side of her square-heeled tap shoe for added volume and, for a moment, rising en pointe. After the dance, she sat cross-legged downstage, facing away from the audience and toward two drummers who came out and played the rhythms she had tapped out. In a later number, she would sit in the same place and do a call-and-response with the entire troupe, with her banging only the floor.

Every time it seemed we’d seen everything the troupe had to offer, something new was added. In the fourth number, drums lying sideways were struck on both sides by two different women, several of whom, standing between two drums, alternated between them. The eighth piece was mostly dance, with the queen drummer holding the beat—mostly dancing, that is, until it evolved into a beautiful chanting song.

I can’t easily describe the finale except as a tour de athletic force of rhythm and choreography that included cartwheels, dancers jumping over one another, and the queen mother wielding a six-foot-long stick with which to strike the sticks of others and be struck by them.

A powerful pas de quatre in which dancers circled four drums and with perfect precision struck their own and those of the others, first with little ronde de jambs over them, then with swooping, drumming 360 turns beside them, was the dramatic highlight of the piece and an altogether pleasing show.

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iflitifloat
Broadway Legend
joined:10/10/03
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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#8
Posted: 8/13/11 at 10:53am
I responded well to Rachel Calof, in no small part because I am fighting situations (mostly medical) that are beyond my control at the moment. That being said, I would be uncomfortable recommending to someone I didn't know well, because the story itself has a flawed construction (articulated nicely further down in the thread).

I thought the actress (Kate Fuglei) portraying the title character in this solo show, could easily win a prize for her performance, even in a weak vehicle. She's a wonderful performer who has the animation and ability to "shape shift" and keep things fresh, even if the story is more of a wandering memoir than anything else. I also found the songs to be appealing narratives of what seemed to be her inner response to the things happening to her. She also has a beautiful, rich alto voice (with some serious training, I suspect) which never waivered from being pitch perfect.

I wasn't bored for a second. And again, I related to it personally as the underlying take home message for me was how one can choose to face their circumstances with good humor and perseverance, and can make the best of what's been handed to her,

I also find myself wondering how different her choices might have been a century later. I imagine she would have been less passive and more assertive at a later spot on the time continuum.

I liked this show for what it was, but totally understand why others wouldn't. I think it's worth seeing for Kate Fuglei's performance, if for no other reason.
Sueleen Gay: "Here you go, Bitch, now go make some fukcing lemonade." 10/28/10
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iflitifloat
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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#9
Posted: 8/13/11 at 10:57am
What he said. Except to add that, as an Ohio native, I can say with some authority that no one from Chagrin Falls has an accent anything like Seymour's. It took away all credibility from everything that came out of his mouth.
Sueleen Gay: "Here you go, Bitch, now go make some fukcing lemonade." 10/28/10
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iflitifloat
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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#10
Posted: 8/13/11 at 11:06am
What a way to end the night! I love dance, but more often than not I tend to tolerate drumming (scarred by early exposure to unnecessarily lengthy drum solos a la Iron Butterfly during my formative years, no doubt) when it goes on for more than a couple of minutes.

No problems with THIS drumming. Or dancing. It was mesmerizing, precise and focused with flawless choreography that seemed to have hundreds of variations.

I'll recommend this without any reservations. It's a perfect show to add into the mix if you are seeing several shows in one day. Or for the end of the day when losing steam. Damn. It worth a trip into the city just for the experience.

Sueleen Gay: "Here you go, Bitch, now go make some fukcing lemonade." 10/28/10
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iflitifloat
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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#11
Posted: 8/13/11 at 11:11am
Since I don't have the ability anymore to edit (when did that happen?) My two previous posts refer to Metaphorical's posts immediately preceding mine...Chagrin and Cobu.
Sueleen Gay: "Here you go, Bitch, now go make some fukcing lemonade." 10/28/10
linus84
Swing
joined:2/19/04
Swing
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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#12
Posted: 8/13/11 at 11:51am
Saw a sneak peek of Browsing which is playing at Venue #1 CSV and it was quite good. Deals with the library closings that have been happening.
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Astrid2
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joined:3/17/11
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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#13
Posted: 8/13/11 at 2:12pm
I too am volunteering so I plan to make a run at a lot of shows using my vouchers. So far I'm definitely seeing Jersey Shoresical, The Legend of Julie Taymor, and The Miss Teen Jesus Pageant. Keeping it classy!

I might, MIGHT see Parker and Dizzy. It looks horrible but a part of me desperately wants to see Rodiney from The A-List: New York attempt "acting"...
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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#14
Posted: 8/14/11 at 10:06am
The Bardy Bunch: The War of the Families Partridge and Brady

1h 40m
VENUE #9: The Ellen Stewart Theatre @ LA MAMA
Performance seen: Sat 13 @ NOON
Remaining performances: Sun 14 @ 5:45 Fri 19 @ 9 Sun 21 @ 8:45 Wed 24 @ 2

Rating: 8
(using the BroadwayWorld rating system of 10=effusive praise; 9=excellent; 7/8=positive with some reservations; 5/6=respectfully unenthused; 3/4=mostly negative; 2=little to recommend; 1=offended, insulted, angered)

When I say I thoroughly enjoyed “The Bardy Bunch” you have to take into account that I don’t think I’ve ever seen an episode of the Brady Bunch (nor the movie); I was not a fan of the Partridge Family; and I don’t have the greatest head for Shakespeare.

Yes, Shakespeare.

“The Bardy Bunch” is a telling of Romeo and Juliet where the rivaling families are the Bradys and the Partridges and there are two forbidden loves, not one: Marcia-Keith, and Greg-Laurie.

But the Shakespearean references only start there. Midsummer Night’s Dream, All’s Well That Ends Well, Tempest, and most especially Macbeth and Hamlet—I can’t tell you all the plays quoted from and referenced (the playbill claims a dozen), because they come fast and furiously and, as I say, I don’t have the greatest head for Shakespeare, confusing the various gender-bending ones, for example. Sorting out the Hamlet from the Macbeth was particularly tricky until I realized that the same ghost was doing double-duty: For the Bradys, he’s Duncan, for the Partridges he’s Hamlet’s father.

It’s a clever idea, and that kind of cleverness pervades the show—notably in the mixing of Shakespearean plots, without losing itself in fealty to any one of them, but also in the use of music, especially the way “ Woke Up in Love” and “I Can feel Your Heartbeat” hurtle the conflicts toward their inevitable tragic and hilarious conclusion.

The huge cast is entirely outstanding—it seems unfair to single anyone out, but Marcia (Cali Elizabeth Moore) and Greg (A.J. Shively) are particularly aptly cast, Erik Keiser’s singing channels Keith’s voice perfectly and is terrific in its own right, and speaking of voices, Craig Wichman gets Reuben’s so right it’s eerie. It’s probably not possible for the Alice part not to be a crowd pleaser, but Joan Lunoe does a terrific job of milking the small role for all it’s worth.

I have only two small complaints about this show—the name, and the fact that in an early scene Marcie and Jan make an explicit reference to Romeo and Juliet. It’s unnecessary, and undermines the show’s greatest charm—that the subtext to a story grounded in the most ephemeral of 1970s pop culture is rooted in the 16th century writer who created the most enduring cultural monuments we have. Indeed, the number of Fringe shows that reference the Bard is literally and figuratively uncountable—but don’t think I’ve seen it done better.

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metaphorical
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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#15
Posted: 8/14/11 at 10:11am
PigPen Presents: The Mountain Song

1h 0m
VENUE #12: 4th Street Theatre
Performance seen:Sat 13 @ 7:30
Remaining performances: Thu 18 @ 6:30 Mon 22 @ 7:15 Thu 25 @ 10 Fri 26 @ 3:45 Sat 27 @ 12*

Rating: 10
(using the BroadwayWorld rating system of 10=effusive praise; 9=excellent; 7/8=positive with some reservations; 5/6=respectfully unenthused; 3/4=mostly negative; 2=little to recommend; 1=offended, insulted, angered)

“PigPen Presents: The Mountain Song” was already going to be a hot ticket on the strength of the company’s general excellence award at last year’s Fringe (for “PigPen Presents: The Nightmare Story”). Now it’s going to be a hot ticket for word of mouth. Before, it was “if it’s anything as good as last year... .” Now, it’s “it’s even better than last year.”

The Mountain Song has a lyrical and narrative cohesion that seems deceptively simple to achieve. Through song and prose, the story is told of an carpenter searching for his mute daughter’s wedding. Along the way, he scales a mountain three times, is launched into flight by a waterfall, meets a giant and builds for him a pair of shoes the size of a boat, and is carried to the ocean by a man who uses his suitcase as a horse.

The voice of this thoroughly original story is that of a tradition of tall tales that’s distinctly American—no Swiftian sarcasm here—and the language is authentically that of the Appalachian hollers—perhaps those of West Virginia, a stone’s throw (at least, a giant’s stone’s throw) from Carnegie Mellon University, from which the troupe of seven graduated this past May.

The style is an emerging form that we might call theatrical collage.

The Pigpenners use a hand-held length of fabric to represent the mountain, a child’s dress for the daughter, a papier-mâché head and hand for the giant, a pair of fingers for the man climbing the fabric mountain, a shadow-stencil for a village, a shipping pallet for a raft, more shadow stencils, and more objects d’puppetry. That no two are of the same scale, even in the same scene, only adds to the charm.

Last year’s Fringe saw at least two such shows; besides Mountain Song’s Pigpen predecessor, there was the astonishingly incoherent and delightful “Butterfly, Butterfly, Kill Kill Kill!” (imagine if, instead of making “What’s Up Tiger Lily,” Woody Allen had spent four years at CMU with the Pigpen boys).

There’s nothing incoherent about “Mountain Song” though. The story moves clearly and inexorably toward a bittersweet ending that’s fully foretold in an opening speech, and the speechifying throughout is as charming as the bluegrass music, the shadow and other puppetry, and the life-sized acting.

The whole thing made me want to rent a couple of grandkids and go back to the next performance. The only thing better than seeing “Mountain Song” through adult eyes or those of a child would be seeing it through both at once.



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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#16
Posted: 8/14/11 at 11:59am
The Eternal Husband

1h 15m
VENUE #8: The First Floor Theatre @ LA MAMA
Performance seen: Sat 13 @ 2:45
Remaining performances: Mon 15 @ 2 Wed 17 @ 3:45 Sun 21 @ 6 Fri 26 @ 9

Rating: 8
(using the BroadwayWorld rating system of 10=effusive praise; 9=excellent; 7/8=positive with some reservations; 5/6=respectfully unenthused; 3/4=mostly negative; 2=little to recommend; 1=offended, insulted, angered)

The conceit of author and director Nat Cassidy’s loose adaptation of the novella of the same name is that Dostoevsky was the Raymond Chandler of his day. While I can’t speak to the fealty of the adaptation, the detective at the center of “The Eternal Husband” is indeed a close kin to Philip Marlowe.

The detective, Younger Man, well played by Arthur Aulisi, is haunted by his past and an unfamiliar Older Man who he thinks is following him. Older Man turns out to be the husband of a woman Younger Man had an affair with nine years earlier.

All the roles are well played, Elyse Mitro's adulterous and castrating Natalya, and especially, I thought, that of Claudia (Karen Sternberg), a friend and former lover to Younger Man. Charles Gerber, a terrific actor, seemed less prepared for the role of Older Man than the other three, though the contrast between the meandering early scenes between the two men on the one hand and the crisp banter of Sternberg’s scenes with Aulisi on the other surely had more to do with the quality of the dialogue than the quantity of rehearsal time.

I can’t say whether noir is a particularly strong undercurrent in this year’s Fringe, or if the perception that it is merely reflects the selection biases of this reviewer, but certainly, as our society becomes ever more pragmatic and job oriented, conventional and utilitarian (more math-and-reading, yet with ever-less history and literature to calculate and read) our artists will, as they have in every age, ask the counterintuitive and countercultural questions—which in this age, means the existential ones.

For after all, Cassidy’s conceit, which is (his program notes notwithstanding) by no means uniquely his, is well founded. Good noir, like existentialism, blurs the bounds between reality and imagination, and it is surely no coincidence that not only were Dostoevsky and Nietzsche writing their seminal works contemporaneously, so were Sartre and Chandler, Camus and Cain. That would make The Eternal Husband noir to the nth.

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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#17
Posted: 8/14/11 at 12:01pm
74 Minutes of Stereo Radio Theater

1h 15m
VENUE #18: The Studio at Cherry Lane Theatre
Performance seen: Sat 13 @ 5:15
Remaining performances: Fri 19 @ 7 Tue 23 @ 8:45 Thu 25 @ 7 Sat 27 @ 5 Sun 28 @ 2

Rating: 9
(using the BroadwayWorld rating system of 10=effusive praise; 9=excellent; 7/8=positive with some reservations; 5/6=respectfully unenthused; 3/4=mostly negative; 2=little to recommend; 1=offended, insulted, angered)

If you want to spend 74 minutes of pristine hilarity, you could hardly do better than to spend them watching “74 Minutes of Stereo Radio Theatre.”

This two-person show consists of eight hilarious vignettes: a game of desert island (pick one book, CD, food, person) that goes horribly wrong and right; a chance encounter on the street of two friends who decide to have a doomed love affair; a delusional tribal chieftan and his loyal and infinitely wiser advisor; a nervous new patient and her psychiatrist explore the voices in her head—a large Jewish family; a TV chef and her passive-aggressive mother; a bachelor showing an amorous young woman his collection of macaroni & cheese; a challenging job interview for a coveted position of gong ringer; and two teenagers who work in a trendy clothing chain store.

The last was expendable (and the gong ringer would have been a great—pardon the word—note to end on) but the first seven were thoroughly charming—in some cases surprisingly so. When the light rises on the tribal chieftan I was sure I would hate the tired stereotype, yet it might have been my favorite segment. As I teach my writing students, you need to exorcise clichés, except for the rare occasions when you turn them inside out, making them fresh again.


Or my favorite might have been the game of desert island—a textbook example for my students of building a scene with rising beats. The piece depends entirely on the timing of the machine-gun animus-laden repartee, a challenge the multitalented Maureen Fitzgerald (who also wrote the show) and Andrew Shulman (who directed it) met with surpassing ease.

Or my favorite might have been the gong ringer—a classically simple idea of absurdist theatre brilliantly executed, in which a ridiculously wealthy and eccentric mansion-owner more than meets his match in an revisionist scholar of a preposterous art form.

Shulman makes the most of his considerable acting abilities to turn another absurdist character—owner of the world’s largest collection of macaroni & cheese—into a sympathetic—albeit pathetic—potential boyfriend. It would be hard to pin Fitzgerald down to the vignette I liked most for her acting, and likewise for her writing—there’s just too much to choose from.
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GlindatheGood22
Broadway Legend
joined:7/17/07
Broadway Legend
joined:
7/17/07
FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#18
Posted: 8/14/11 at 12:22pm
Anyone see Bella and the Pool Boy? I have a cousin in it but I'm not going to be able to see it.
I know you. I know you. I know you.
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MusicalAreTrivial
Swing
joined:8/9/11
Swing
joined:
8/9/11
FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#19
Posted: 8/15/11 at 3:42pm
Saw Hello, My Name Is Billy and Hush The Musical this weekend. See the first and run from the second. My notes are in the link below.
Hello, My Name Is Billy at FringeNYC
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metaphorical
Chorus Member
joined:10/15/10
Chorus Member
joined:
10/15/10
FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#20
Posted: 8/16/11 at 11:18am
Life Insurance
“A motorcycle crash on a rural Virginia road. An overeager volunteer firefighter, a bitter standardized test instructor, and a stoic salesman must confront the American dream. Death. Birth. Sacrifice. Office supplies.”

0h 37m
VENUE #17: Manhattan Theatre Source
Performance seen: Sun 14 @ 4
Remaining performances: Thu 18 @ 6:15 Fri 19 @ 9 Wed 24 @ 2 Sat 27 @ 12

Rating: 9
(using the BroadwayWorld rating system of 10=effusive praise; 9=excellent; 7/8=positive with some reservations; 5/6=respectfully unenthused; 3/4=mostly negative; 2=little to recommend; 1=offended, insulted, angered)

“Life Insurance” is a clever inquiry into the circumstances of a motorcycle death on a Virginia country road and other questions about how much control we have over our lives in the face of fate and the actions, capricious and otherwise, of others.

The life insurance agent who paid a sales call to the deceased shortly before his demise, the former college teacher who first called 911, and the born-again first responder first on the scene tell their disparate, overlapping stories in alternating bursts.

Comparisons between this show and the movie “Crash”—in subject matter as well as the random joining of lives—are inevitable but not entirely apposite, given the vast differences between theatre and film in general and the specific fact that one actor plays all three parts.

Joel Jones, who also wrote this play, does a superb job capturing the three characters and moving between them. The program notes say the show began “as a single-character monologue in a bar in Charlottesville, Va.” One has the idea—and not just because the insurance agent continually sips from a rocks glass—that it was also, as so many good plays are, conceived in a bar. But the addition of the other two characters played by the same actor not only distinguishes it from “Crash” but surely more than triples the play’s considerable power, if not its initial impact.

This is a show that seemed to end with a whimper, but it’s the whimper of a mutt that followed me onto the subway, into my home, and perhaps even delayed my sleep. I don’t remember “Crash” keeping me up late at all.


Updated On: 8/16/11 at 11:18 AM
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joined:10/15/10
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joined:
10/15/10
FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#21
Posted: 8/16/11 at 11:20am
WHALE SONG or: Learning to Live With Mobyphobia

1h 15m
VENUE #8: The First Floor Theatre @ LA MAMA
Performance seen: Sun 14 @ 2:15
Remaining performances: Thu 18 @ 2 Mon 22 @ 6 Wed 24 @ 7 Sat 27 @ 9:30

Rating: 5
(using the BroadwayWorld rating system of 10=effusive praise; 9=excellent; 7/8=positive with some reservations; 5/6=respectfully unenthused; 3/4=mostly negative; 2=little to recommend; 1=offended, insulted, angered)

“Whale Song” is a perfectly okay play about overcoming grief. I would ascribe to it a more definite idea or purpose but I’m not sure it has one. If—and unfortunately only if—you’re suffering from recent grief and think a play would help, I heartily recommend it.

As the show begins, Maya, a young New York schoolteacher, addresses her class of four year olds in increasingly inappropriate ways. It quickly comes out that she has recently lost her father.

The father, it also quickly comes out, died in an unusual way that involves whales. Meanwhile, Maya can’t return phone calls and instead spends her time obsessively watching the TV news about a whale that has accidentally—or was it????—swam up the Hudson.

Through a quick series of phone messages that emphasize Maya’s psychic isolation, we’re introduced to her sister in Florida, her boyfriend, and a drummer dude she wants to hire for obscure but ultimately unimportant reasons.

None of it has much importance. The relationship to the boyfriend can’t endure, the sister is only as supportive and helpful as one can be through occasional phone calls, the drummer understands her best and least meaningfully. They each ultimately add up to little more than plot devices, such as the plot is; their own needs are limited and predictable and don’t come into conflict with Maya’s, which in turn add up to little more than an inchoate desire to understand her father’s death and whether she herself is crazy. It’s not really enough to drive a whale up the Hudson—or a plot toward a climax.
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metaphorical
Chorus Member
joined:10/15/10
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joined:
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FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#22
Posted: 8/16/11 at 11:25am
Who Loves You, Baby?

0h 50m
VENUE #13: Bowery Poetry Club
Performance seen: Sun 14 @ 7
Remaining performances: Fri 19 @ 10 Sun 28 @ 4:15

Rating: 9
(using the BroadwayWorld rating system of 10=effusive praise; 9=excellent; 7/8=positive with some reservations; 5/6=respectfully unenthused; 3/4=mostly negative; 2=little to recommend; 1=offended, insulted, angered)

Modern writers have the benefit and burden of decades and centuries of past culture. The modern style is to mine it relentlessly and the post-modern style is to do so self-consciously. The prior work then becomes subtext. That creates a further complication for the writer, because, after all, subtext must, from time to time, surface.

These self-conscious moments are thus fraught with risk, as the new work must lower the fourth wall that separates the stage from the audience even as it erects it—even as the theatrical experience depends on its continued existence. It helps, though, that the cabaret format has always had a low picket fence of a fourth wall.

So picture a one-hour 2011 nightclub act in which Savalas (Tom DiMenna, brilliantly) comes back to comment on the lack of Real Men in the years since his demise. (About one modern actor he says, “In my day you stuck a guy like that in a club sandwich to keep the bread from falling off.”) Picture him reprising the weirdly successful singing career most of us forgot (or never knew) he also enjoyed, and, of course, commenting as well on the pop singers of today.

Throw in some affectionate references to such friends as Peter Falk and Frank Sinatra. Add a hilarious first-person prologue (performed by Taylor Negron, who directs the show) about Savalas at the height of his cultural prowess feeding steak tartare to a kid he is babysitting. Add as well a few numbers in which Savalas calls his brother George to the stage to help him sing or dance. Wrap it all up in a solid 60 minutes of advice, sage and self-consciously absurd.

Such a show should have legs. But see one of its remaining Fringe performances. Why risk missing it, when right this week you can go see the man who loves you?
iagowasframed
Understudy
joined:3/10/10
Understudy
joined:
3/10/10
FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#23
Posted: 8/17/11 at 7:51am
I won't try to review Bardy Bunch because it was just done to perfection above, I'll simply add that I agree with the review and really is one of the funniest Fringe shows I've seen and I go every year.

I'm going to see Yeast Nation next week so I'll see how that goes.
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mybigsplash
Broadway Star
joined:4/30/08
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joined:
4/30/08
FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#24
Posted: 8/17/11 at 10:53pm
RAVE review from the Associated Press for Legend of Julie Taymor...
http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory?id=14325657
Stephen: "Could you grab me a coffee?" Me: "Would you like that with all the colors of the wind?"
wexy
Broadway Legend
joined:9/19/05
Broadway Legend
joined:
9/19/05
FRINGE FESTIVAL THREAD#25
Posted: 8/18/11 at 5:39am
Julie Taymor was lots of fun..
'Take me out tonight where's there's music and there's people and they're young and alive.'

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