BWW Reviews: RATED M FOR MATURE and STORY TIME WITH MR. BUTTERMAN Hit FringeNYC 2012
Greetings from Fringe 2012! Today, I was assigned to review not one, but two, fringe shows for Broadwayworld.com. Although they were assigned to me randomly, I started to think about how much they have in common. The first show I saw was "Rated M for Mature" at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Directed by Paul Dobie and written by Greg Ayers, "Rated M for Mature" is a 90-minute opus about the horrific life of being a teenager.
Don't worry. It's a comedy.
Inspired by actual events in Ayers life, at least according to his Kickstarter page, this dark comedy follows Eric. A teen bullied to the breaking point, Eric finds refuge in an online game (hence the title of the piece). However, when his computer is taken away from him, who will pay the price?
It's obvious that a lot of love, attention and time went into this piece. In fact, according to Ayers' Kickstarter page, he's been working on this piece for two years. Although I felt that the last 15 minutes or so took perhaps an unnecessary jump from a thoughtfully grounded dark comedy into Quentin Tarantino crazy town, it was overall a strong piece. Until the last third of the show, the teen leads were truly treated as three-dimensional and not as caricatures.
The cast was very good, especially handling what I thought to be a disappointing final third of the show. Standouts included Brian Munn as befuddled stepfather, Larry, and Ben Hollandsworth as angst-ridden teen, Eric. Director Paul Dobie pulls the show together creating a pretty cohesive piece. The show moved and had high energy.
"Rated M for Mature" closes today at Fringe 2012. You have one more chance to see it. For more information about the show and future productions, check out the production's website at www.RatedMthePlay.com.
I wrapped up the day at "Story Time with Mr. Buttermen: Fables for Adults Living in the Modern World." Although this was a musical comedy that wound up being much lighter fare than "Rated M for Mature", they essentially had a lot in common. It made for a the perfect twin bill. Essentially, "Story Time" answers what happens to teens like Eric, if the final third of his show didn't happen and he grew up.
Both are homage to the disaffected.
"Story Time" encourages you to join the beloved Mr. Buttermen, who leads the audience on a journey of depravity. Yes. This is a comedy as well. "Classic" fables include Petey the Impotent Rabbit, The Girl Who Cried Rape and Pigmailman.
The score is pretty strong for this independent musical. A high point was definitely Pigmailman. I did actually shed a tear.
I don't know if this was intentional or not, but "Story Time" felt like it was strongly influenced by Stephen Schwartz. It was kind of like "Godspell" on acid. Although "Godspell" wasn't my all time favorite musical, "Story Time" makes the format work. I love the mix of spoken word poetry with a revue score. Director Christian De Gre does a great job of entertaining, while making you care for each of these characters in their spotlighted fable.
Sadly, "Story Time" closed at the HERE Mainstage Theater yesterday. However, this show has also played La Mama E.T.C. in 2011. It already has an established life beyond the Fringe. To learn more about this and future productions of the show, check out the show's website at www.mrbuttermen.com.