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A CurtainUp Report

2009 New York International Fringe Festival

Updated August 31, 2009

For a list of awards (marked by on the list below), click here.

Again this year, after the completion of the Fringe Festival, there is an unaffiliated program of shows from this year's festival. This program presents shows in repertory at Actors' Playhouse and Soho Playhouse between September 10-26, 2009. Further information on the Fringe Encores program, including performance times and tickets, is available here. The shows included in this year's Encores are Viral, The Boys Upstairs, Contemporary American's Guide to A Successful Marriage @ 1959, His Greatness, And Sophie Comes Too, Complete, Sex and the Holy Land, Notes On the Land of Earthquake and Fire, Devil Boys From Beyond, I Can Haz Cheezburger, the MusicaLOL, MoM, Powerhouse, Zipperface, terranova, Tales from the Tunnel, Willy Nilly, Muffin Man, The K of D, Jesus Ride and Dolls.
Selected shows that we reviewed are marked by on the list below

Click on Show Title Below, or Scroll Down Page to Browse

38 Witnessed Her Death, I Witnessed Her Love: The Lonely Secret of Mary Ann Zielonko (Kitty Genovese Story) | The 49 Project | And She Said, He Said, I Said Yes | And Then You Die (How I Ran a Marathon in 26.2 Years) | ARTIFEX. The Artistic Life of Emperor Nero | Baby Wants Candy | Be the Dog | Bitch! | Borderline | Cephalopod: A Play Below Sea Level | Citizen Ruth | Complete | The Confessional | A Contemporary American's Guide to a Successful Marriage © 1959 | Don't Step on the Cracks | Eat, Drink, and Be Merry | Egg Farm | e-Station | The Event | The Fall of the House of Usher | Far Out: The new Sci-Fi Musical Comedy | Flight | The Green Manifesto | Harold Pinter Pair | Hint | His Greatness | A History of Cobbling | Jen and Angie | The K of D: An Urban Legend | Kaddish (or The Key in the Window) | A Long Walk Home | Love Money: A Recession Rock Musical | M--Macbeth | May-December with the Nose and Clammy | A Midsummer Night's Dream | MoM - A Rock Concert Musical | Muffin Man | Poke Until Wince | Romeo and Toilet | Sadie, Sadie | Scandalous People: a Sizzling Jazzical | Series 6.2: Paint on Canvas | some editing and some theme music | Tales from the Tunnel | The Taming of the Shrew | A Time to Dance | Truth Values: One Girl's Romp Through MIT's Male Math Maze | Ukrainian Eggs: Terrible Tales of Tragedy and AlleGorey | Union Squared | The Unlikely Adventures of Race McCloud, Private Eye | Vote! | White Horses | A World Elsewhere! Arias in the Key of Clown | Zipperface!!?! The Hobo Musical

EDITOR'S NOTE: Now in its thirteenth year, FringeNYC runs August 14-30, 2009. This year's festival has scheduled more than 200 shows at more than 20 venues. We will report on a healthy dose of this year's offerings in the reviews below.

Many people do their show-picking on the fly, but readers are advised to consider making reservations for popular shows they don't want to miss. What shows are those? We don't like to predict. Further information, schedules and tickets at least 24 hours prior to the show time are available by phoning 866.468.7619 (9 AM-7PM, credit cards only, convenience charge applies); on the web at: (24 hours a day, credit cards only, convenience charge applies) or in person at Fringe Central at 54 Crosby Street between Spring and Broome Streets (Noon-8PM, cash or credit card). Day-of-performance tickets are available (cash only) at the door at each venue, 15 minutes prior to the show. Prices: $15, reduced (only at Fringe Central or at the door) to $10 for kids under 12 to FringeJR events and for seniors. There are also passes: 5 shows for $70, 10 shows for $120 and the "Lunatic Pass," which entitles you to attend as many shows as possible, for $500.

A complete list of venues (with addresses) can be found at the end of this page or by clicking here.

The last name of the author of each capsule review is indicated at the end of the review in brackets.


Joe Maloney and Bonnie Milligan's send-up of the traditional murder mystery, directed by Halina Ujda, features a set that could have been taken from the game board of Clue and characters that come straight out of an Agatha Christie story. The score includes everything from tango to gospel. And the script is filled with sly winks to the audience and a thorough smashing of the fourth wall. The only thing the show is missing is a real plot. But many in the audience may be having too much of a good time to notice. At Minetta Lane Theater. 90 minutes [Simmons]

The Fall of the House of Usher
Loosely based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe this mishmash of poetry, prose and music is written and directed by Brent Cirves with music by Mike Johnson. Although the main musical number is set to Poe's "Annabel Lee," many of the other songs have lyrics penned by writers far superior to Poe. This is the best feature of the play. The rest is overacted melodrama that drags on and on and on until it comes to a bloody ending that would have horrified even the macabre author of the original story. At Connelly Theater. 2 hours, one intermission. [Simmons]

38 Witnessed Her Death, I Witnessed Her Love: The Lonely Secret of Mary Ann Zielonko (Kitty Genovese Story)
This is a sketch of a shocking, fascinating story that needs more details to fill in the numerous gaps and discrepancies. LuLu LoLo wrote and performed in the 1964 account of a young woman who was stalked, stabbed, and raped late one night on a quiet residential street in Queens. The witnesses were 38 neighbors looking out their windows, and nobody helped her, called an ambulance or summoned the police. The apprehension of getting involved, the system that encouraged this attitude, further examination of the murderer's story are all lacking. There is another major aspect to the story as well, the intolerance against gays in 1964. Kitty Genovese was a lesbian and living with her lover, Mary Ann Zielonko. Secrecy was the code and their relationship was not revealed to the public until this account, based on an interview with Zielonko 40 years after the murder. Four limber, expressive dancers illustrate emotional scenes through Jody Oberfelder's choreography, using '60's pop recordings. LuLu LoLo acted as narrator, reporter, newspaper editor, Mary Ann Zielonko, as well as the murderer, Winston Moseley. This is riveting theater, with intensity and passion that unfortunately represents only the mere core of the whole story. At Robert Moss Theatre. 45 minutes. [Ahlfors]

It's no easy thing to keep your eye on three teenage candidates all at the same time. But in the new cartoon musical Vote! one must do just that and figure out the most qualified person to be the next student council president at Green Valley High School. In this almost 2 hour show, we meet Muffin Pasquinelli (Legally Blonde's Bailey Hanks), Mark Boyd (Morgan Karr), and Nikki Murphy, (Sasha Sloan), who pull out all the stops in their bid to get votes. Although the show is occasionally too cute in its romantic espionage, it has many good scenes that incisively index how each young candidate maps out an effective campaign strategy, and subsequently attacks-and counterattacks-his or her opponent. In spite of its adolescent silliness, one gets a real taste of the skullduggery encountered along any campaign trail. There's a live band on stage and veteran Broadway actor Rachelle Rak's choreography is top-notch. Sure, its setting is just a rinky-dink American high school, and the candidates are only pint-sized versions of their real American counterparts. But what makes this production gel is its contemporary feel and its very talented creative team (including Broadway performer Deidre Goodwin as the teacher Ms. Venora Fowler). This show is winning and can pull you into the hot center of a political race. And one of its political speeches, "Just Black Enough," sung by the character Nikki, is really worth listening to. At Minetta Lane Theatre. 1 hour, 45 minutes.[Donovan]

Harold Pinter Pair
Without being on the creative level of his masterworks like The Homecoming or The Birthday Party, Harold Pinter's one-acters--The Lover and Ashes to Ashes--won't disappoint you. These 2 menacing comedies deftly turn outrage into poetry and are punctuated with the author's signature pauses, unsentimental language, and hints of threatening behavior. The more effective and better played is The Lover, but the more haunting one is Ashes to Ashes for its economy of gesture and psychological scope. The first work is written like a comedy sketch, and delineates the intense domestic relationship between Sarah (Julianna Zinkel) and Richard (Chris Thorn). The couple's romantic love oddly survives by each spouse engaging in weird sexual fantasies with the other partner. The second playlet is confusing but ultimately more intellectually penetrating, taking us on a journey into the "mists" of the past. Devlin (Allen McCullough) interrogates a woman, Rebecca (Christine Marie Brown), about her former love affair, and she readily supplies ambiguous details about her near strangling by her former lover. Not for the squeamish, it subtly links the power plays employed in romantic relationships to the conduct of the Nazis in World War II. The acting in these companion pieces is excellent. Don't turn a deaf ear to this double-bill program. Each work is a gem and teaches us how words can be weapons, and how man's inhumanity to man can play out in both the private and public domain. At SoHo Playhouse. 1 hour, 45 minutes. [Donovan]

Egg Farm
Bill Heck's and Nick Mills' Egg Farm will literally crack you up. It's a show that crosses the theatrical techniques of Brecht with the dark tones of Sweeney Todd. The playwrights co-star in their own production, which aims to catapult you into the Land of the Future. The premise of the work is that the soul of a woman is injected into a chicken, in hopes of giving birth to a human being "totally devoid of flaws." We never get to meet this new super species of human being, but something more intriguing happens. The two actors morph into dozens of characters, who hatch out of their brittle shells and tell us all about their flawed lives. To be sure, some of the skits are hilariously spot on; others are little more than chicken scratch. But the show is more than the sum of its parts. In its best moments, Egg Farm is reminiscent of the comic antics in a classic Charlie Chaplin film. It's off-beat, funny, heart-warming. At CSV Center-Milagro. 1 hour, 15 minutes. [Donovan]

And She Said, He Said, I Said Yes
Three girlfriends dishing their guy troubles – I almost felt like I should have had a cocktail as I watched And She Said, He Said, I Said Yes. This set of monologues features three actresses (Jehan O. Young, Melissa Joyner and Rory Lipede) who have worked together with playwright Harrison David Rivers and co-directors Eric Louie and Anika Chapin to create a play based on their real-life stories. Each of the girls spends about 30 minutes describing a particular romantic experience and what she learned. The stories tend to be fairly conventional: Should Jehan change her hair for her guy? Will Melissa and her boyfriend survive long distance? Rory's story of adjusting from life as a professional dancer to life as a regular girl in a community college digs a little deeper, but the piece basically rises and falls on how winning the actresses are, and not on the quality of the stories they tell. The good news is that all three are quite engaging, and each establishes a rapport with the audience to keep their story involving. The appeal of the actresses, coupled with the conversational style of the writing, really does lend an instantly intimate, honest quality to the piece. And yet And She Said didn't quite resonate the way I'd have liked. I found myself wishing for a little more narrative heft to make the ultimate lessons each of them learns feel a little less generic. At HERE - Williams Theater. 1 hour, 35 minutes. [Furay]

White Horses
The trouble with writing a memoir of Irish childhood is that it's already been done so well by so many famous writers. Any such play or novel is bound to have something of an inferiority complex. Nevertheless, Owen Dara, the author and performer of White Horses, has bravely given it a shot. This solo play is an adaptation of his published memoir of the same name, and focuses on growing up Catholic in the 1960s and 1970s with constantly fighting parents and very little money. Dara is a likable performer who peppers his story with songs he's written and one-liners aplenty, but the result isn't terribly effective as a drama. The biggest problem is that Dara's script isn't as textured as it needs to be to really sell his story: neither Owen's moments of crisis nor his moments of joy seemed quite real to me. In addition, the story requires a great deal of mimicry as the young Owen interacts with his parents, priests and friends, but Dara's impersonations seem cartoonish and out-of-line with the serious ambitions of the piece. He's at his most effective when he's acting as himself, joking with the audience and artfully describing his personal journey. For the most part, though, this Irish memoir doesn't quite live up to its forebears. At Manhattan Theatre Source. 80 minutes. [Furay]

The Taming of the Shrew
The Reaching Andromeda Theatre (RAT) company's new production of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew is too tame. Any staging of this farcical comedy needs two smouldering firebrands in the lead roles of Katherine and Petruchio. Although Violeta Picayo as Katherine throws off some hot sparks, Henry Dwyer as Petruchio is simply miscast. He seems too young for the tyrannical part, and doesn't possess the necessary cockiness and bravura. True, there are a number of supporting actors who occasionally kick the evening into high gear. For instance, Javier Picayo (Broadway's The Farnsworth Invention) plays the "good girl" Bianca in drag, and proves to be an actor worth his salt. Other notable performances are turned in by Joseph O'Brien as Baptista, Sheila Williams as Gremio, and Brian Loeffler as Hortensio. Curiously, the best scenes in the show are when Bianca and "bad girl" Katherine are on stage together, chewing up the scenery (the 2 actors are real-life brother and sister). Unfortunately, the charming Induction is omitted from the evening. Thus, we never enjoy the "play-before-the-play" episode and see how the drunken tinker Christopher Sly winkingly becomes a gentleman and dozes off at his first play. This production touts "an all age cast from 6 to 66" and the entire ensemble dresses to the nines in traditional period costumes. Still, the production blazes no new paths with Shakespeare's beloved play about sexual politics. At CSV Center-Milagro. 2.5 hours with a 10 minute intermission. [Donovan]

A Contemporary American's Guide to a Successful Marriage © 1959
One of the most fun things about the show Mad Men is watching the rampant sexism in midcentury America. We get some of those same laughs in A Contemporary American's Guide to a Successful Marriage © 1959, a very funny play given an excellent production here. It's the story of two couples who get married on the same day in Iowa in 1959 (one shotgun wedding, one union of high school sweethearts). Neither couple has much idea what they're getting into, but they're assisted by a narrator (the voice of the terrific Chris Henry Coffey) who is happy to inform them exactly how they're expected to live their traditional American lives. Playwright Robert Bastron's script gets a lot of laughs even when it's outrageously anachronistic, and the cast is wonderfully committed to their characters and interact very well together. It seems unfair to pick a standout, but Autumn Hurlbert's relentlessly optimistic housewife Abigail is particularly hilarious (think a young Betty White). An energetic and enjoyable production. At Cherry Lane Theatre. 2 hours, 15 minutes. [Furay]

Tales from the Tunnel
As New Yorkers, we've all spent ages telling each other subway stories; the new play Tales from the Tunnel therefore is wonderfully familiar to anyone who's spent time on the MTA. The play, written and directed by Troy Diana and James Valletti, is something of a love letter to the subway. A series of vignettes about subway experiences, Tales from the Tunnel contains a little bit of everything: random acts of kindness, loud arguments, seat etiquette, overheard conversations, romantic encounters, conflicts with the conductors, and so on. The stories are generally clever and feel original, and contain likeable recurring characters that give the show a little continuity. The multiethnic six-member cast (featuring Rent alum Wilson Jermaine Heredia) can mimic so many accents and mannerisms that they truly feel like representatives of New York City's diversity. After eighty minutes or so, the energy starts to flag a little – great as the subway is, you're certainly ready to get off after too long – but overall this is a very enjoyable ride. At Connelly Theater. 90 minutes. [Furay]

Sadie, Sadie
Like a lot of theatre fans, I can't hear the words "Sadie, Sadie" without mentally adding "married lady" (thanks to the song from Funny Girl). This new play by Ben Izzo contains no wedded bliss however; rather it's about a young girl exploring life in New York City and learning to deal with her problems. It's a romantic comedy: quirky 20-year-old Sadie (the winning Lilly Tobin) meets Jon (EJ Marotta), who is instantly smitten, but Sadie may have too many issues to handle a relationship. There are several funny moments in Sadie, Sadie, but in general the play feels seriously underwritten and far too messy for production. Sadie's problems are much referred to, but never really articulated: she refuses to tell Jon why she's so damaged, which keeps both him and the audience at arm's length. And the script veers into nonsense (for example, an exorcism is attempted at one point) rather than portraying real conflict or character exposition. It also doesn't help that director Samantha Shechtman's pacing is very slow and the performances (excepting Tobin) tend to be wooden. There are certainly the ingredients here for a zany and sweet romantic comedy, but Sadie, Sadie doesn't quite put them together. At 45 Bleecker - Lafayette Theatre. 1 hour, 45 minutes with intermission. [Furay]

A Time to Dance
If survival is an art, then A Time to Dance vividly underscores that truth. Written and performed by Libby Skala, this one-woman show is a tribute to her grand-aunt and dance therapy pioneer Elizabeth Polk (affectionately dubbed "Lisl"). In the program notes, Skala writes about the genesis of the play. In short, A Time to Dance stems from her earlier drama Lilia!, a work based on her grandmother Lilia Skala, an Oscar-nominated actor (the Mother Superior in Lilies of the Field). The author interviewed Lisl back in 1998 in hopes of gleaning anecdotes about her grandmother's youth. But Lisl, weary of walking in her sister's shadow, "diverted each question with stories from her own life." Skala of course immediately detected complacent malice in Lisl. However, when she listened again to the interview following Lisl's death in 2001, she found her story both courageous and artistically viable, and its scope encapsulated a century. Skala feels that her grand-aunt's talent for dancing spilled joyously into her entire life. Or as she aptly says during the show, "Honey, I'm still alive at 99 because I can laugh." In this short play, Skala doesn't try to wow us with any dancing pyrotechnics. The sketch has a dancerly quality to it but essentially remains a biographical piece on her grand-aunt's life. Fusing improvisational movements, creative dance, and narrative elements, the magic of the show is in its almost child-like simplicity and total lack of gimmicks. Skala deftly impersonates Lisl and credibly tells her story in an Austrian patois. We learn how she survived a premature birth, poverty, the Hitler regime, a "crazy" husband, and more. This show never overreaches itself, and is acted with unswerving accuracy by Skala. At 45 Bleecker - Lafayette Theater. 1 hour, 10 minutes. [Donovan]

The Green Manifesto
Had enough with preachy environmentalists and self-righteous vegans? So, apparently, have the authors of the new musical The Green Manifesto, a show which delights in mocking the contradictions and skewed priorities of the green movement. The story features an expensive (and maybe corrupt) green development project, the tumultuous relationship between a couple who met at Whole Foods, fistfights between conservationists and environmentalists, and a sophisticated talking puffin (Dan Debenport). But despite the wacky potential, The Green Manifesto is pretty much a mess. The problems are manifold: the storyline is aimless, the score is pedestrian, and worst of all, the satire isn't as witty as it needs to be. The show does feature some talented performers (Debenport in particular does his best to sell his character, who is basically the Noel Coward of the animal kingdom), and it's always nice to see a musical that aims to be timely as well as entertaining. But although there's plenty to be mocked as far as environmentalism goes (and I say so as a longtime vegan and environmentalist myself), unfortunately The Green Manifesto is a sloppy, joyless and overlong piece of theatre. At Minetta Lane Theatre. 1 hour, 55 minutes with intermission. [Furay]

The Event
You can't get much simpler than The Event as a piece of theatre: a man walks onto a stage and speaks for an hour about the event that is taking place (i.e., the play we're watching). But within this simple structure is a smart and very original work, one that uses the conventions of theatre brilliantly to explore what theatre, or any live event for that matter, brings to us. The play has been written and directed by John Clancy, and is performed (or as the program says, memorized and said out loud) by actor Matt Oberg. The Event meticulously describes itself ("Now the man will tell a joke," "Now the man will walk to stage right," that sort of thing), comments on the kinds of people who come to see the play and as well as those who have put the play together, and details our need to witness events in person. All this might get cloying in a less clever or well-constructed script, but it works well here. Clancy has been served well by his leading man: It's a role that demands both gravity of presence as he describes theatre itself and a "can-you-believe-how-strange-this-show-is" rapport with the audience during the "ad-lib" moments (which are actually also rehearsed, he tells us repeatedly). Oberg provides both of these qualities in spades. The Event might not be for everyone: the term "navel-gazing" doesn't even begin to describe the self-absorption this play exhibits. But especially in the context of this theatre bonanza we call the Fringe Festival, it's rewarding to see a play that examines why theatre itself is important. At Players Theatre. 60 minutes. [Furay]

A Midsummer Night's Dream
In spite of the fact that all of the cast are in their early 20s, the BAMA Theatre Company really takes hold of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and sends it soaring. The opening scene has the cast racing down the center aisle to the stage. And before the audience can catch its breath, all the actors are pulling costumes from a large suitcase, and dressing themselves in a helter-skelter fashion. As we watch them transform into Athenian characters, they chant in loud staccato --"Now! Now! Now!" This melts away, and Theseus' commanding voice begins the play in earnest: "Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour/ Draws on apace." Directed with much tautness by Peter Macklin, this briskly-paced production succeeds with its physical comedy and crackerjack timing. The 8-member cast has good chemistry, and obviously feels at ease with Shakespeare's language. That said, there's something in the production that keeps it from plumbing the psychological depths of the drama. In most modern productions, the actors playing the roles of Theseus and Hippolyta double as Oberon and Titania. And it's no accident. Both couples are often interpreted as the counterparts to each other and point up the play's topsy-turvy themes of order and chaos, of sharply-etched reality and fanciful dreams. Whereas Greg Foro's Oberon plays opposite Lauren Anne Martin's Titania in the Fairy World, the actors are not paired as Theseus and Hippolyta in the court scenes. Granted, there's more than one way to skin a cat, and likewise to stage a Dream. Though you might not get the full resonance hidden in Shakespeare's multiple plots and parallel worlds here, this production succeeds with its originality and its ingenious prop of a suitcase. Whether or not the suitcase is supposed to suggest a kind of Pandora's Box, its inclusion can certainly insinuate that Shakespeare's comedy is not just a sweet, fluffy dream. At Cherry Lane Theatre. 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission. [Donovan]

A strange thing happens during the epilogue of Bitch!, a play about Lady May, the aristocratic mother of Rat Pack actor Peter Lawford. After more than an hour of dull exposition, aimless reminiscences, and paranoid rantings, it suddenly gets interesting. It's at that point we are finally told exactly how Lady May's life ended, and it's a seedy story of Hollywood secrets and her son's relationship with the Kennedy family. Up to that point, though, Bitch! is fairly dull. The play, written by and starring Charlotte Booker, is based on Lady Lawson's autobiography as told to her companion Buddy Galon. It mostly focuses on the budding relationship between middle-aged Lawson and the younger Galon (Joe Kinosian) as she tells him about her life, her fraught relationship with her son, and her suspicions about the Kennedy family. Booker is charming as Lady Lawson, shifting easily between effervescence and paranoia. Her script is weaker, however: Galon's not a very interesting foil (despite Kinosian's lovely singing voice and expertise at the piano), and in any case we're never really sure why we're supposed to be intrigued by this lady. We're left with a disappointing play with a fascinating conclusion. At Connelly Theatre. 1 hour, 25 minutes. [Furay]

Zipperface!!?! The Hobo Musical
There's a wonderful playfulness about Zipperface, a zany murder-mystery musical about hobos, police detectives and (believe it or not) robot wars that makes you forgive all its flaws. The show sets out to mock the recent spate of Broadway musical adaptations of Hollywood movies: Franklin the hobo (Dave Rothstadt, also one of the authors of the show) finds a script to a 1992 movie, and decides to turn it into a musical right before our eyes. In terms of craft, Zipperface leaves a lot to be desired: the script feels haphazardly constructed, and the songs aren't terribly well integrated, either. The show-within-the-show is pretty ridiculous, and is acknowledged as such by basically everyone onstage. Even the song titles seem to say so: examples include "Let's Put on a Terrible Play" and "I am Dead (So am I) (So am I) (So am I)." That doesn't stop it from garnering a lot of laughs, thanks to director Gregory Bing's high-spirited production and a very appealing 15-member cast who make every single character onstage memorable. In addition, the script (by Rothstadt, Jon Bershad and Andy Wolf) contains so much wit and inventiveness that nitpicking feels churlish. Even when it's veering wildly off course, we're enjoying the ride. At Dixon Place. 1 hour, 50 minutes. [Furay]

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Following Adam and Eve on their quest for food and freedom is a real hoot in Eat, Drink, and Be Merry. Forget what you learned in Sunday School or from your neighborhood rabbi, this show sets the record straight: Adam and Eve are really a couple of ordinary human beings who, over a span of a myriad centuries, must populate Mother Earth, reconcile their physical appetites with their souls, and of course invite the neighbors over for dinner. Written by the former food editor of the Daily News, Paul Schultz, this show takes you on a rollicking adventure through the culinary highways of history. We get an up-close look at what may have gone through the minds and taste buds of cave men at their first barbecue as well as what happened at the original Thanksgiving Day feast in Massachusetts. This show can definitely put you in touch with your inner gourmand. It comically outlines the major culinary breakthroughs in ancient and modern civilization. We get scenes and musical numbers sending up the fast-food industry (a manager of Burgertown sings the title song "Eat, Drink, and Be Merry"), the gentrification of New York City neighborhoods with fancy restaurants, and the caloric dangers of munching snacks in front of the TV (dubbed the electronic "oracle" here). All of the songs are delivered tongue-in-cheek, but a few of the songs have real moral bite. For instance, "Christians (Yum Yum Yummy Christians)" subtly reminds us that throwing Christians to the lions at the Coliseum circa third century was once considered big time entertainment in Rome. Obviously, the religious themes in this musical are never forgotten. And though this work feels abbreviated, the creative team has plenty of time (perhaps in a post-Fringe Festival life) to whip together an even richer soufflé. At Minetta Lane Theater. 1 hour, 40 minutes. [Donovan]

A History of Cobbling
Justin Klose and Cameron Reed have collaborated both off-stage and on to first write and then perform this nice short play. Michael (Mr. Klose) and Loraine (Ms. Reed) are a couple who seem to have had their share of troubles, some if not most of which stem from a accident Loraine had on a ski trip. That, however, is only background for this piece. The triggering events are two nearly simultaneous encounters the couple have with little people (of the foot-high variety). On his way home from work, Michael meets a miniature cobbler, who does a fine job of fixing up his shoes on the spot. Meanwhile, Loraine has discovered a small woman knitting in her kitchen cabinet. The premise has a weird Twilight Zone-esque quality that's quite appealing. To a point, it's executed well. But the back story keeps intruding, as Loraine demonstrates her many ailments, not the least of which is a penchant for malapropisms. It's not totally clear where Klose and Reed are heading with this work, that has much charm and many redeeming moments, but it's hard not to be disappointed that there's never really the sort of punch one hopes for in the principal story they start out telling us. The acting is fine, Klose especially so, as is Bill Oliver's direction. As Fringe sets go, Jarrod Beck has also done very good work. At Soho Playhouse. 40 minutes. [Gutman]

The Fringe may be the place to get lots of stuff off the beaten path, but the classics always get their fair shake as well--or at least interpretations of them. The problem usually is that these interpretations either go so far as to be unrecognizable, or toe the line so reverently you wonder what they’re doing in a festival intended to celebrate pieces which push the envelope. M--Macbeth doesn’t suffer from the former problem--the actors are earnest if not inspired, the direction makes pretty standard, inoffensive choices, and the set and costumes seem fairly normal. In fact, the only thing which really sets this production apart is the number of actors: three players perform all the roles of the play, from the witches to the porter to Macbeth and his spouse. This is a cute novelty, but it doesn't add much to the performance--and in fact seems to contribute to a feeling of being rushed headlong through the plot as the actors frantically change from one character to the next (albeit with very limited costume alteration). Large swaths of the play have to be cut to fit it into the hour and ten minute running time, and Banquo seems hardly to have been dispatched before Birnham Wood is showing up at Dunsinane. It's hard to see what point director Robert Monaco (who also adapted the script) is trying to make with these decisions, if he has one, but ultimately fewer actors and even fewer lines don't add up to a memorable production. At Actors Playhouse. 1 hour, 10 minutes. [Wilson]

Baby Wants Candy
I'm not sure exactly how to go about reviewing a show which radically changes every night, but here goes: take a group of improv experts, add a full band, sprinkle in a title shouted from the audience, mix well, and you've got Baby Wants Candy, a fully improvised musical. Really. Actually the fact this show is in the Fringe at all is a bit suspect--BWC has been around since 1997 in Chicago and NYC, and has launched more than one comedy career, so it's hardly an edgy show trying to gain acceptance. But regardless of pedigree, the formula works: the performers are (mostly) clever and funny, and the resulting chaos is often hysterical. The actors have a tendency to err on the side of crude, and if you're put off by things like South Park you'll want to give this a wide berth (when you're working with the title "A Scotsman in Thailand" you're probably in a bit of trouble right off the bat)--and the performance, as you might expect with an entirely improvised show, is a bit erratic. But on the whole this is a lot of fun, and well worth checking out if you bring your sense of humor along. At Players Theatre. 1 hour. [Wilson]

The Unlikely Adventures of Race McCloud, Private Eye
You certainly can't question Tom Hoefner's commitment to his vision--the idea for this show came to him in 1997, and he's been playing with aspects of the concept ever since. In some ways this is a perfect fit for the Fringe--the show follows the life of Race McCloud, the one average sibling in a whole family of cybernetically enhanced superbeings... all of whom spend much of their time reminding him of his "differences." But everything changes when he's hired to track down and bring in Green Suit Jacket Man (yes, really) while simultaneously trying to protect his teenage niece Cookie, who has her own secrets to keep. One two and a half hour romp through vampires, werewolves and restless natives later, the hapless Race has found out a whole lot about everyone else, and perhaps even a bit about himself in the process. Part homage to, part parody of pulp superhero tales, the show is often uneven and far too long--the material could have easily fit into an hour and half without making the narrative feel rushed--and not as clever as it thinks it is. But the actors, particularly Fiona Kearns as Cookie and Ted Frank as the Narrator, do a great deal to make their characters appealing, and despite the thinness of the storyline there are some genuinely funny moments. The show needs work, but if you're at all interested in either superheroes or pulp stories it's worth a try. At Connelly Theater. 2 hours, 25 minutes with intermission. [Wilson]

And Then You Die (How I Ran a Marathon in 26.2 Years)
If you believe that "slower is faster," then check out David Hansen's one-man show, And Then You Die (How I Ran a Marathon in 26.2 Years). Hansen, who penned and performs in the play, invites us to accompany him down the highways and byroads of his life. His solo performance centers on Pengo, an unassuming cartoonist and illustrator, running the 2006 New York City Marathon. But the subjects he covers go far beyond beating the pavement and crossing the finish line. During this one-hour plus show, we listen to his tales of "first love," rejection of all sorts, his battle with obesity, the ups and downs of being an author, a tragedy in his family, and--no surprise here--his very first New York City marathon. The set is comprised of worn furniture pieces, a large screen for visual projections, all cluttered with the accoutrements of a wannabe marathoner. There's lots of dressing, and undressing (with one nude scene) during the piece. But the story is the thing here. And the particularities of Pengo's interior life is what's really on display. In the Playwright's Note in the program, Hansen refers to a line from Kerry Livgren's Dust in The Wind: "And all your money won't another minute buy." It's evident that Hansen puts a lot of stock in living one's life with meaning, gusto, and intelligence. A critic from The New York Times compared him to the late Spalding Gray for his performance in the 2004 New York International Fringe Festival (I Hate This (a play without the baby). But it's impossible to compare Hansen with any other monologuist but himself. He's been there, done that, only slower. At Robert Moss Theater. 80 minutes. [Donovan]

some editing and some theme music
More a multimedia experience than a play, some editing and some theme music begins with three loosely interwoven monologues performed with the help of some clever underscoring, as well as YouTube clips and Mac iSight cameras projected onto a large screen. They are ruminations on keeping diaries, monster hunting, sleeping in, clothing choices. It’s initially difficult to see how they all relate to each other, but trying to figure it out is half the fun. And once you do figure it out, you’ll find a rather provocative, meta-theatrical exploration of the ways in which we document our thoughts and lives; in a technology driven world where we can share things that were once kept largely private, is the self we document accurate, or rather the result of careful editing? Part "vlog," part commentary, part documentary, some editing and some theme music features quirky, playfully thoughtful performances by its three talented co-creators, as well as a fun, sharply smart appearance by director Jean Ann Douglas. At Robert Moss Theatre. 65 minutes. [Blumenthal]

At the age of nine, Evie began to partake in "The Training," an intensive set of seminars that helps attendees "get complete" – in other words, to take responsibility for everything that happens in their lives. As a graduate student in linguistics, she meets Micah, with whom she shares a visceral hatred of certain misuses of the English language. But when Micah enrolls in The Training himself, he risks betraying his friend and research partner. The story may lose track of where it’s headed at times, but playwright Andrea Kuchlewska has created a thought-provoking dark comedy about the intense, often abused power of language. In employing complex shifts in time, her play examines the strength of the very words we choose – their ability to create something of nothing, shape our experiences, or do great harm. Highly intelligent and linguistically rich, this is a play for those of us who love words. And it’ll get you to think twice about what you say, and how you say it. At Cherry Lane Studio. 90 minutes. [Blumenthal]

May-December with the Nose and Clammy
Wary of making commitments in your romantic relationships? Well, you're not alone. In Naomi McDougall Jones' and Jonas Cohen's two-hander, May-December with the Nose and Clammy, an engaged couple must decide if they're ready to take the ultimate plunge into marriage. Set in New York City, this play is witty, wise, and a cut above many of the sitcom-ish shows that posture as drama nowadays. There are so many sophisticated touches in this work from the get-go. An ambitious graduate student, Lily (Naomi McDougall), breaks through the fourth wall in the opening scene to confide in the audience her insecurities about marrying an uptight lawyer, Noah (Craig Waletzko). Rather than have a nervous breakdown, the character Lily invites us to eavesdrop on the evening's proceedings. It's a great framing device to the piece, because it employs each audience member as a de facto judge of the couple's relationship. The rest of the play is comprised of vignettes with these "May-December" lovers-the 22 year-old Lily and the 37 year-old Noah-who both come to the relationship with heavy emotional baggage, including a penchant for short-term love affairs. The authors have co-written this work tightly, and the dialogue is better than good. Not only is the language refreshing, but it's intellectually grounded and peppered with pertinent references to English literature (Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre), classical and contemporary theater (Cyrano de Bergerac and Equus), and popular culture icons (Charlie Brown and Julia Child). The acting is excellent. This 90-minute show is a coherent mix of vaudeville, surreal theatre, wacky episodes of cartoon superheroes, and of course romantic comedy. And, oh yes. It delivers a curtain line that is right on the nose. At Cherry Pit. 90 minutes. [Donovan]

Borderline may be less than an hour long, but it's a very dense piece of theatre. This solo play, written and performed by Rob Benson, is about an unstable young Londoner caught in a downward spiral of drugs, schizophrenia, and loneliness. Benson's script is a frenetic tour through this young man's experiences, and is notable for its surprising number of rhyming couplets and other poetic touches. Benson himself is a very affecting performer whose nervous energy fits the script perfectly. But he's also a fast talker with a thick accent that is often difficult to follow. Perhaps that's why Borderline left me breathless with its intensity, but it also left me a little cold. At Manhattan Theatre Source. 50 minutes. [Furay]

Muffin Man
As sweet as a blueberry muffin and as perky as a cup of coffee, Muffin Man is a very likeable, if slight, new musical. Teenager Lyla (Samantha Blain) is starting her first day working for friendly owner Sadie (Shaye Troha) at a coffee shop, and for the next hour we meet a parade of colorful characters looking for a muffin or a caffeine fix. There's romance (Lyla has a crush on the boy who brings them muffins), lots of wacky high jinks, and plenty of pokes at our national caffeine addiction. Best of all, there's the score by Camille Harris (also the production's director), who is clever with a lyric ("Do you know the muffin man?/Cause my life's a dreary lane") and is a tuneful composer to boot. With all the sisterly bonding, quirky townfolk and over-caffeinated romance, Muffin Man invites favorable comparisons with the TV show Gilmore Girls. If it were any longer, this new musical might have overstayed its welcome, but Muffin Man is consistently fresh and appealing. At 45 Bleecker – Lafayette Theater. 1 hour. [Furay]

Poke Until Wince
Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde comes to mind while watching Poke Until Wince. The show consists a set of six scenes, each featuring a man and woman who are in some way sexually attracted to each other. Like La Ronde, each of the scenes features one of the two characters from the prior scene. But it differs from Schnitzler's classic in that the emphasis here is not on sexual connections, but rather all the emotions, social norms and familial responsibilities that keep men and women from fulfilling their desires. It's certainly an interesting subject, but Poke Until Wince feels more like an intellectual experiment than a drama. Matthew Chesmore's script has a hesitant, stuttering quality to it that prevents it from taking off as a drama, and the tensions between the characters feel a little forced. Also problematic: the cast members don't really inhabit their characters, with the exception of the brash Mandy Schmieder as Erika, the receptionist with a checkered past. At Cherry Lane Studio. 50 minutes. [Furay]

Don't Step on the Cracks
Popular figures in nursery rhymes and folk songs come to life in Don't Step on the Cracks, but not in the way you'd expect. The production is a group creation, written and performed by recent graduates of Marymount Manhattan College. Don't Step on the Cracks reimagines such characters as Peter, Paul and Mary's "Puff the Magic Dragon" and Shel Silverstein's "Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too" in grown-up dramatic situations. These riffs are intertwined with more mundane vignettes about life as a young adult. The talented young ensemble really feels like a team, and are likeable and accomplished actors. I was less impressed with their work as writers, however. Although they show flashes of theatrical creativity in terms of structure, the scenes themselves failed to excite much interest, and dragged more than I'd have liked. Ultimately, this is a nice idea which could have used a more expert authorial hand. At Connelly Theatre. 1 hour, 30 minutes. [Furay]

The K of D: An Urban Legend
In case you're wondering, The K of D is shorthand for The Kiss of Death. Don't let the maddeningly vague title scare you off, though: The K of D is an excellent Fringe production and a very rewarding piece of theatre. The K of D concerns the events of one summer in small town Ohio, when a young girl named Charlotte may or may not have acquired the ability to kill with a kiss. It's a solo play, written by Laura Schellhardt and performed by Renata Friedman. They're an excellent match: Schelhardt's lively prose is particularly suited to Friedman's energetic and dynamic stage presence. Friedman embodies nearly everyone in the small town beautifully, especially a gang of kids determined to find out whether or not Charlotte really possesses the "K of D,"” or whether it's an urban legend. It's a haunting and thoroughly enjoyable play and is highly recommended. At the Cherry Pit. 1 hour, 30 minutes with intermission. [Furay]

The Confessional
I'm usually not too fond of shows that are written, performed and directed by the same person. But there are always exceptions. Jayson Akridge's The Confessional is not only a gripping thriller that will make your heart pound; it is also a provoking meditation on evil that will make your mind work. What's more, under Akridge's direction (with co-director Gloria Dossett), the show maintains an edge-of-your-seat pace that doesn't let up until the remarkable conclusion. And if Akridge's portrayal of Detective Bill Bryce is eclipsed by the truly extraordinary work of Kevin Stidham as the perp, Stanley Prentiss, Akridge is nevertheless a capable actor worthy of praise. The thriller is not so much a whodunit as a was-something-done. After Akridge establishes an aborted relationship between Bryce, a detective renowned for his capture of a serial murderer several years ago, and a fellow detective, the attractive Carter Munroe (Kelly Levander), Prentiss, an affable teacher who has just confessed to bludgeoning a woman to death with a hammer, is brought into Bryce's office. The problem is there's no body and Prentiss is a highly unlikely criminal. But is he insane? Why is he playing games with the police? What are his plans? At CSV Center - Milagro. 1 hour, 50 minutes. [Simmons]

His Greatness
In playwright Daniel MacIvor's own words, His Greatness, despite its subtitle, Inspired by a potentially true story about playwright Tennessee Williams, is "not a play about Tennessee Williams…It is a play about three broken men who because of their time together realize that perhaps by leaving, by stopping, by starting again there is maybe a chance to be fixed." In fact, MacIvor does portray three such men, and he does it quite well. Peter Goldfarb retains a certain nobility as the broken playwright, Dan Domingues is convincing as his loyal assistant, and Michael Busillo makes his improbable character, the young hustler, if not totally believable, sympathetic enough to make the viewer willing to suspend disbelief. What's more, this play is so well written that it remains compelling even though very little actually happens onstage. One can't help wishing, however, that MacIvor had kept his inspiration anonymous and left it up to the audience to figure out what figure might have been behind the play. At Cherry Lane Theatre. 95 minutes [Simmons]

MoM - A Rock Concert Musical
MoM doesn't have much of a plot. The sentence on the cover of the program says it all: "Five suburban moms form a band just for laughs and inadvertently become a phenomenon." There are the typical subsequent changes in their lives. Some lose the love of their children. Some lose their husbands. Some find new love (both hetero and gay). All of which is told via monologues or interpolated scenes that interrupt the moms' concerts. But what the show lacks in plot it certainly makes up in music. Donna Jean Fogel, Jane Keitel, Bekka Lindstrom, Stefanie Seskin and Dana McCoy are all talented musicians who play several instruments in a variety of styles. Lovers of rock, blues jazz, country and good old rock n roll will find much to appreciate in this show, 2 hours with intermission. [Simmons]

Far Out: The new Sci-Fi Musical Comedy
This highly entertaining show presents itself as a send-up of the science fiction genre, but for the most part Brian Breen (music and book) and Michael Chartier (lyrics and book) show themselves far more enamored of the Broadway musical than the sci-fi flick. Far Out is ostensibly about how the nerd, Milton Axelrod (Spencer Liff), finds true love with the sweet Sondra Lee (Tiffan Borelli) and at the same time defeats the aliens who are trying to take over earth. But although the comedy references Queen of Outer Space, a 1958 clunker starring Zsa Zsa Gabor, it also lovingly pays tribute to Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story and Grease. Breen and Chartier even extend their reach to include Tina Turner (the feisty Marcie Henderson as the Supreme Leader) and Marlon Brando cum Stanley Kowalski. It's lots of fun if you're not looking too hard for originality. This kind of free-for-all mentality generally does quite well with Fringe shows. How the show might fare in a more disciplined atmosphere remains to be seen. At Minetta Lane Theatre .1 hour, 45 minutes with intermission. [Simmons]

A World Elsewhere! Arias in the Key of Clown
This young and energetic ensemble performs an imaginative New York tale with 30% clown, 40% musical theater, and 30% quirky misdirection. The bulk of the performance, performed by a large ensemble in red nose with makeup, is performed in Scooby Doo gibberish, ("Bood Ruck" means "Good Luck") which can get frustrating at times. When the ensemble is so inclined, they launch into perfectly articulate songs -- at which point their clown characters are all but gone. Sad about the confused genre, because the performances are pretty lovely, especially Lucy McRae as "The Lost". At Cherry Lane Theatre. 1 hour. [Zapol]

Truth Values: One Girl's Romp Through MIT's Male Math Maze
Funny and insightful one-woman show, starring performer/ Mathematician Gioia De Cari, about her experiences as a Doctoral Student at MIT: battling sexism among faculty and students. A compelling coming-into-feminism story, replete with hilarious characters. Especially telling is her chauvinist professor Shatzenfuff, who insists Gioia bring cookies to the consortium each week, and when he acknowledges her it's as if she is giving him a headache by her very existence. The story is riveting enough to overcome some indulgence, and rushing, on the part of the actress. However, she can make a reading of her math thesis compelling! Kudos to Gioia, and go see this show! At 45 Bleeker - Lafayette Theater. 85 minutes. [Zapol]

Citizen Ruth
It’s witty and wise, but Citizen Ruth is no Knocked Up. A madcap musical adaptation of Alexander Payne’s pithy film, this cheeky, engrossing production springs to life with a sizzling cast led by the fiery Garrett Long in the title role. Hopped up on paint and pregnant with her fifth child, Ruth lands in prison for endangering her fetus but is “rescued” by a horde of zealous Christians. These "pretty decent people" have decided that she will have her baby—that is, until Ruth is whisked off by a herd of feminists, who have decided that she will have an abortion. And what does Ruth want? Let’s just say it’s green and rhymes with "honey." Director Howard Shalwitz keeps the energy crackling throughout the production, and writers Mark Leydorf (book and lyrics) and Michael Brennan (music) deliver deft material throughout. The songs aren’t particularly memorable, but the outstanding cast hammers them into your head with their superb characterizations. Standouts include Sherri L. Edelen, as batty right-winger Gail, and Annie Golden, who contributes her killer voice as a sagacious Lilith Fair singer. With $10,000 at stake, Ruth yelps, "I’ll never have to work again!" Is pregnancy the new American Dream? At Minetta Lane Theater. 2 hours, with intermission. [Krivohlavek].

Love Money: A Recession Rock Musical
Les Zeux, the group responsible for this piece, writes in the show's program notes, "We're Les Zeux. We are a few friends who pretend to speak French, and we would like to welcome you to our first show. We don't really know what we're doing or where we're going, but we know that we love doing this..." No better description could have been written about this infantile and inane show that claims to be about the recession but is really an excuse for a bunch of young people to have fun and show off. The plot, if that's what it can be called, entails a sadistic CEO, Sarah Foote (Ali Kresch) who is cheating the government and abusing her staff, most especially the loyal and loving Sean Wickens (Lucas Kavner) and the hapless temp, Joe Schmitz (Willie Orbison). Her mother, Brooke Foote (Judith Dry), whom Sarah had tried to kill because of a disagreement over the will Mr. Foote left, is after revenge. And for some reason, Sarah has hired a band to play in her office - which allows for a stream of jokes about whether or not the characters are going to break into songs. Given the quality of the music and lyrics, one often hopes they won't. 1 hour, 35 minutes. Dixon Place. [Simmons]

The 49 Project
What if men suffered from legal injustices and discrimination? And how would that affect relationships between men and women? The 49 Project by Mary Adkins explores these questions by starting with the following premise: due to shifts in population, women control all aspects of the legal system, and men (who now comprise 49% of the population) must fight for parental and other legal rights. It's an interesting hypothetical, and Adkins has created a series of likable characters and very interesting conflicts between them. Activist Nathan (Clayton Apgar) has been fighting for men's rights his entire adult life, and he and his lovestruck intern Christina (Dylan Moore) come up with a unusual plan to keep their cause in the news. Like the premise itself, their publicity stunt feels too implausible for the audience to swallow, but The 49 Project is nevertheless a very interesting mental exercise and a consistently involving drama. At Cherry Lane Studio. 1 hour, 30 minutes. [Furay]

Be the Dog
Dave Eggers is one of the better storytellers of his generation. Because of his talent, Be the Dog, in which author Emily Kaye Libris adapted several of his stories into a 50-minute piece of theatre, is bound to have a lot of appeal. And it does: the four-person cast acts out slight but colorful stories about a pair of friends on vacation together, a guy who's come to visit his suicidal cousin in the hospital, and a pack of dogs who run together in the evenings. The stories are charming, and the cast, all of whom are recent graduates of Boston University (as is Libris), are just as winning. On the other hand, as a piece of theatre, it's a little problematic: Be the Dog tells its stories in fits and starts, interrupting the flow of one story to start on with the next. And the dialogue between the characters was never as evocative as the descriptions which the onlooking actors interject. I was left with the unmistakeable feeling that the Eggers stories are probably better on paper. At Robert Moss Theater. 50 minutes. [Furay]

Jen and Angie
Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie on a desert island together sounds like a Saturday Night Live sketch, doesn't it? In fact, that's basically what the 30-minute long Jen and Angie is: a very funny bit of spoofery. Authors Christina Casa (who also doubles as Angelina) and Laura Buchholz (Jennifer) have put together an extremely zany play full of plane crashes, a catatonic Brad Pitt, and of course, heated exchanges between Jen and Angie. Worth seeing, especially for Casa's extraordinarily loopy Angelina, who can effortlessly entrap men and wild animals alike, and Buchholz's frenetic Jennifer, who is an excellent comic foil. At Actors' Playhouse. 30 minutes. [Furay]

Don't talk to strangers. Sound like advice you learned growing up? Indeed there is a lot of xenophobia in Tim Aumiller's Flight. This two-hander gives us a scenario that is literally arresting and provocative: On the eve of an early winter storm, two strangers find themselves sitting next to each other at Chicago's O'Hare Airport with their flight cancelled, and lots of time to kill. Both characters eventually abandon their small talk and posturing, and reveal shocking life secrets. This dark comedy clocks in at only 50 minutes, but surprisingly delivers an emotional punch. It's rather Pinteresque with its silences and its obsessions with sex. And though the work is too truncated to really flesh out its characters, we still manage to get strong outlines of this make-shift couple. The high-brow Paula (Brandy Burre) immediately distrusts the raffish Hank (Todd Lawson). And she continually tries to cut him down to size by intimidating him with her sophisticated language and manner. When this fails, she is forced to come down off her high horse, and speak to him as just another human being. We soon learn the two have skeletons in their past and are presently facing crises in their family situations. Amid their serious disclosures, there's a lot of game playing and diverting of sensitive questions. And it's frequently difficult to determine whether Paula and Hank are telling the truth, or not. Curiously, the ambiguities contained in the work are what make it compelling to watch. If Flight runs a little too short, it still makes its points. And it surely teaches us how even the most tight-lipped people can reveal themselves when placed in a tight situation. At Cherry Lane Studio. 50 minutes. [Donovan]

Scandalous People: a Sizzling Jazzical
Combining a bit of real history and lots of imagination, this show takes us back to the days of prohibition and segregation by way of Mae West, Dutch Schultz, Duke Ellington and an imaginary Harlem speakeasy called The Do Drop Inn. Myla Churchill's book tells the story of performers Dewey Demarkov (Broadway veteran EuGene Fleming) and his wife Desiree Malinda (Nicole Hill). Their show attracts the attention of the wisecracking Mae West (Jennifer Swiderski), who wants to star in an integrated show, and the infamous gangster Dutch Schultz (Ryan Clardi), who is eager to cash in on the profitable speakeasy scene. Benny Russell supplies the jazzy score, which is brought to life under the musical direction of the celebrated Tommy James, who also plays Ellington onstage. Choreographer Obediah Wright keeps the chorus girls shaking their hips and kicking their shapely legs, while director Fredi Walker-Browne manages to harness all the energy of this production and make it fit into a small-scale Fringe production. Let's hope some enterprising angels see the enormous potential in this diamond in the rough and give it the kind of Big Apple treatment it deserves. At Minetta Lane Theatre .2 hours, with intermission. [Simmons]

Cephalopod: A Play Below Sea Level
What happens when an expectant mother goes from morning sickness to mourning sickness in the birthing room? That question pretty much embodies the painful journey of Mary Davidson (Jessica Cummings) when she delivers a stillborn child in Kyle Warren's new play Cephalopod. Returning to her suburban home with no baby in her arms, she escapes into her basement and takes refuge in a bottle of pills, buttered popcorn jelly beans, childhood games, and imaginary meetings with Princess Diana (Lily Howard). Her husband Patrick (Matthew Naclerio) is little help as he's completely preoccupied with securing tenure as a college professor. A teuthologist (a squid scientist) who lives more in the subterrenean world of sea creatures than in the here-and-now, he's completely inadequate in comforting his traumatized wife. Mary's mother, Evelyn (Emily Zacharias), arrives on the scene, and adds much levity and priceless malapropisms ("rocket surgery") to the bleak situation. Rather than listen to her matronly advice, however, Mary prefers the imaginary presence of Princess Diana, the subject of her childhood adoration. To be sure, imagination is the operative word here. And it is through her imaginary journeys that Mary finds her way back to the surface of reality. This play dives well below the surface of relationships and traditional mores. And it asks some fundamental questions like what happens to an unbaptised baby? (Patrick is a devout Catholic.) Is "limbo" a fossilized tenet of Roman Catholic theology? Is Mary (a Jew who married "out" of her faith) right in refusing to join him at a Catholic ceremony for their stillborn? This play is a portrait of a family's loss, and how the power of imagination brings one woman back to life. At New School for Drama Theater. 1 hour, 50 minutes. [Donovan]

Romeo and Toilet
Anyone apprehensive about seeing a Japanese company's adaptation of the Shakespeare mainstay needn't worry. This physical theater (never degenerating into slapstick) largely without text is a romp combining military precision drills with bathroom humor as the title suggests, all in animé style that links the seemingly unrelated short scenes. To start, an inspector polishes up the troops standing on their heads. The inevitable privy time has two white body suited players as tank and bowl set to receive first a #1, then a #2. Next come two vomiters, whom the bowl (the squatting half of the animate washroom fixtures) magnificently slams with the falling seat (made of arms linked in a wide oval). A later strobe-enhanced interlude is mild compared to the samurai-inspired mayhem that precedes it. The only overt reference to the star-crossed lovers of Verona is an over-the-top weeping fest to accompany a reading, presumably of the death scene. There is little discernable English to be heard apart from a guru's "No Problem" response to various physical overtures by pairs of players. The six compact men of Kaimaku Pennant race company under Yu Murai's direction are well trained and go about their antics with conviction. However their inscrutable facial expressions combined with martial arts ferocity for shouts and swipes make for a puzzling if ultimately entertaining time. At HERE - Mainstage. 1 hour. [Lipfert]

Series 6.2: Paint on Canvas
I thought I was going to see a bunch of actors throwing paint at a canvas. Paintballing gone artistic, or something. But what actors and co-creators Katherine Randle and Rebecca Hackett have actually created is a much more particular performance of art. The piece begins with the performers painting on a canvas on the floor; three mirrors hang above so the audience can see what they are painting. They begin speaking to each other, then separately in a series of monologues. One paints while the other speaks, putting to the canvas an expression of the words, ironically not painted by the person speaking them. In just over half an hour, Rebecca and Katherine’s words have filled the canvas, with manifestations of a young woman who is romantic idealist, ready to take life as it comes, and another who can get hung up on the figures and the test results. It’s often hard to tell what the point really is, past allowing these two artists a platform to tell us what they think about pretty much everything – life, death, art, love, war, sickness – but the piece is so eloquently written that it’s enjoyable to sit through. The painting is a viscerally expressive accompaniment to (and is occasionally more engaging than) the text, poignantly complementing its to-the-point discussion of what it means to be human. At HERE - Mainstage. 35 minutes. [Blumenthal]

ARTIFEX. The Artistic Life of Emperor Nero
This production is a true Fringe rarity-powerful theater with well-trained actors. Multi-talented Davide Ambrogi shows Roman emperor Nero in two stark encounters. First the newly-crowned emperor verbally spars with his mother Agrippina in a captivating scene with Alessandro Di Somma cleverly assuming the wily protector/manipulator to Daniele Grifoni's young Nero. After eliminating this rival, the increasingly confident emperor (Marco Zordan) slings aphorisms back at senior humorist and philosopher Seneca (Chiara Loriga) as if to prefigure the one-time advisor's forced suicide. Music, dance and poetry are the main substance of Nero's sabbatical year in Greece (which the Romans considered as the origin of the arts) before capping his return to Rome with his own mock heroic suicide. Revisionist historians have recast Nero in his self-image as artist (=artifex in Latin) before an adoring public, and this is the main thread of Ambrogi's text. This mostly all-male cast can exchange roles with no loss of believability, although Di Somma's booming voice and commanding presence make his moments as Nero the most memorable. Under Velia Viti's direction the company from Rome managed the English text with aplomb, but unfortunately some of the word play and references got lost. Ambrogi's recorded and live musical accompaniment effectively underpins this telescoped traversal of Nero's life. At Cherry Lane Theatre. 50 minutes. [Lipfert]

Ukrainian Eggs: Terrible Tales of Tragedy and AlleGorey
Cult goth illustrator Edward St. John Gorey comes to life in Riedel Dance Theater's production. But you'll see nothing about those delightful painted Ukrainian Easter eggs. And there are no bad endings in the succession of short scenes, only ironic ones. Choreographer Jonathan Riedel appears to have reworked a Gorey-inspired piece he premiered at the Limón Company a few years previously. There is a natural affinity between dance and illustration since both are silent forms, and Riedel has developed a movement vocabulary that zeros in on changing moods and emotions. The link among the five vignettes and four interludes is Jonathan Fredrickson as "The Nanny", having nothing to do with the typical au pair. Tall and majestic, the Limón dancer glides about with signature goth umbrella and urbane glances. Frequent vaguely period costume changes accommodate flapper socialites, boisterous school kids and unruly families, often with an odd-man-out character for humorous contrast. Most detailed is The Unsightful Nanny with Fredrickson (in Riedel's role in an earlier production) presiding over eight youngsters with energy to spare. Kudos to the company for excellent characterizations and mime. At Robert Moss Theater. 65 minutes. [Lipfert]

Catch a taste of Beijing-style avant-garde with this production by Théâtre du Rêve Expérimental under Chong Wang's direction. He limns modern life with cell phones, a tangle of keyboards and a microwave as props. Unfolding in short scenes and in slow and slower motion, three players show the different relationships possible between man and machine. Danqing Liu is captivated by her cell's display screen while He Gao moves donkey-like bent over by her tangle of keyboards on her back. Anzheng Liang is the link between the two, either with gradually unfolding gesture or at times physically joining them. Video projection at the rear gets supplanted by Liu's video camera trained on the audience in a nod to our contemporary surveillance society. Creatively assorted hip black street wear (large white cuffs for Liang), varied lighting and electro-tech music round out the presentation. Wang's open-ended close is most likely a device to keep the audience involved and give ready discussion material afterward. Although his viewpoint appears to be somewhat pessimistic, this production offers nothing but optimism for the development of alternative theater in China. At New School for Drama Theater. 55 minutes. [Lipfert]

A Long Walk Home
Beautiful dancer, singer, and performer Lauren Marie Albert explores themes of madness and lost love in this abstract performance. Backed up by two (equally lovely) singing handmaidens in white, Lauren plays a love-lost woman struck by "F.A.S." (Foreign Accent Syndrome). They dance, sing, chase strings of shoes, and sit by the fire. Periodically, Albert imagines a meeting with a doctor, each time with a different, purposely terrible accent, stating: "Doctor, I think I've gone mad..." In others' hands, this slightly cliched language could be dicey, but these confident and talented performers keep it interesting and entertaining. Especially memorable is a moment when Albert falls in love with a stool. At Robert Moss Theater. 50 minutes.[Zapol]

Kaddish (or The Key in the Window)
Speaking the text of Allen Ginsberg's poem of the same name, veteran performer Donnie Mather interprets this eulogy to Ginsberg's mother. Naomi Ginsberg died in a sanatorium in New York after a life of mental illness-- and this performance poem is Ginsberg's recollection of her life and his relationship to her. The poem is beautiful, and Mather's precise, contained performance allows the words to be heard in their beauty, fervor and acerbic tone. His performance as Ginsberg's mother is the most memorable- behind a suitcase of pills, her voice coming from a stockinged hand puppet. His steady vocal rhythms are slightly soporific--more characterization and variation could help here. But the few outbursts and the tragic ending are touching. Sophisticated images are timed to project on a window upstage, allowing a lovely counterbalance to the text. At HERE - Williams Theater. 80 minutes. [Zapol]

Union Squared
Imagine a love triangle squared off by a Jewish mother. David Singer's Union Squared is a strange romantic comedy that embraces heterosexualism, bisexualism, lesbian love, and online dating services for the geriatric set. The piece will tug laughs from you, but it plays out more as a sitcom than a genuine drama. All 4 characters--Brad, Shannon, Rachel, and Sophie-- are cliched types: Brad is the sleazy Wall Street executive (Think Mr. Madoff-in-training); Shannon is Brad's mistress/massage-therapist; Rachel is Brad's wife who falls for the massage-therapist; and Sophie is Brad's Jewish mother. Indeed Sophie (Anita Keal) is the best thing about this work. She's your traditional Jewish mother endowed with a New Age mind. In fact, most of the humor in the piece derives from her capacity to call a spade a spade, and a cheat a cheat. Moreover, she holds the purse strings here, and the weight of her purse is quite hefty. Her late-husband left his money in a Swiss bank account under the name of "Sara Lee." And she uses this money (a tidy 27 million) to dominate and manipulate her son, an incorrigible womanizer and nouveau gambler. No sooner does her right hand give him the inheritance, that her left hand snatches it back. The problem with the play is that its plot and characters are hardly credible. Whether it's the boozin' Shannon who fails at AA, or the exercise-fanatic Rachel pedaling away on her stationary bike, all (except Sophie) remain essentially static. True, we are supposed to suspend our disbelief as the house lights go down, and the actors appear (Levi Sochet, Anita Keal, Carlina Ferrari, Annie Meisels). But this love triangle replete with a Jewish mother is just too far-fetched. At Players Theatre. 1 hour, 40 minutes. [Donovan]

Venue Addresses

45 Bleecker - Lafayette Theater, 45 Bleecker (@ Lafayette)
Actors' Playhouse, 100 7th Av S. (Grove/Bleecker)
Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce (Barrow/Bedford)
Cherry Lane Studio, 38 Commerce (Barrow/Bedford)
Cherry Pit, 155 Bank (West/Washington)
Connelly Theater, 220 East 4th (Avs A/B)
CSV Center - Flamboyan, 107 Suffolk (Rivington/Delancey)
CSV Center - Milagro, 107 Suffolk (Rivington/Delancey)
Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie (Rivington/Delancey)
HERE - Mainstage, 145 6th Av (Enter on Dominick, one block S of Spring)
HERE - Williams Theater 145 6th Av (Enter on Dominick, one block S of Spring)
Manhattan Theatre Source, 177 MacDougal (8th St/Waverly Pl)
Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane (6th Av/MacDougal)
New School for Drama, 151 Bank (West/Washington)
Players Loft, 115 MacDougal (S of W3 St)
Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal (S of W3 St)
Robert Moss Theatre, 440 Lafayette, 3rd Floor (Astor Place/ East 4th St.)
Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam (6/7 Avs)

Outstanding Play:
Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party
Devil Boys From Beyond

Outstanding Musical:
Mom - A Rock Concert Musical
Citizen Ruth

Outstanding Solo Show:
Art’s Heart
The Event
The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik: Deep Sea Explorer
Truth Values: One Girl’s Romp Through MIT’s Male Math Maze
Jesus Ride
The Songs of Robert

Outstanding Unique Theatrical Event:
Baby Wants Candy

Outstanding Playwrighting:
Jason Schafer - Notes on the Land of Earthquake & Fire
Laura Schellhardt - The K of D
Mary Adkins - The 49 Project

Outstanding Direction:
Ben West - How Now, Dow Jones
Patrick McNulty- Harold Pinter Pair
Jeremy Dobrish - Dancing with Abandon
Bill Oliver - A History of Cobbling

Outstanding Costume Design:
Lisa Zinni - A Contemporary American's Guide to a Successful Marriage
Luke Brown - The Doctor and the Devils

Outstanding Actor:
Alyson Weaver - La Ronde
Autumn Hurlbert - A Contemporary American's Guide to a Successful Marriage
Ethan Downing - Confirmation
Colin DePaula - Mutti’s After Supper Stories
Ken Barnett - La Ronde

Outstanding Ensemble:
Two on the Aisle, Three in the Van
Ether Steeds
Bargains and Blood (How To Succeed in Home Shopping!)

Outstanding Set Design:
Szu-Feng Chen - The Alchemist of Light

Outstanding Choreography:
Jody Oberfelder - 38 Witnessed Her Death, I Witnessed Her Love: The Lonely Secret of Mary Ann Zielonko (Kitty Genovese Story)
Patricia Norwol - Circuits

1998 Fringe Report
1999 Fringe Report
2000 Fringe Report
2001 Fringe Report
2002 Fringe Report
2003 Fringe Report
2004 Fringe Report
2005 Fringe Report
2006 Fringe Report
2007 Fringe Report
2008 Fringe Report
South Pacific  Revival
South Pacific

In the Heights
In the Heights

Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook

Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide


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