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A CurtainUp Report

2014 New York International Fringe Festival

August 25, 2014 Final Update

For a list of awards, click here.

Jack Herholdt (Photo: Danielle Baker Simon) in <i>Bacchae Redux</i> Janet Prince (Photo: steve ullathorne) in <i>Murder, Margaret and Me</i> David Carl (Photo: Haldane McFall) in <i>Gary Busey's One-Man Hamlet (As performed by David Carl)</i> Adam Harvey (Photo: Adam Harvey) in <i>Don't Panic: It's Only Finnegan's Wake!</i> Scott Joiner (Photo: David Vanderheyden) in <i>The Boston Tea Party Opera</i> Xavier Toby (Photo: Hannah Pascoe) in <i>2014 - When We Were Idiots</i> Thaddeus Shafer (Photo: Jonny Taylor) in <i>Seven Seductions of Taylor Swift</i>

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

A 1940's Comedy of Errors | 2014 - When We Were Idiots | 20/400 – Sketchy As F*ck | Absolutely Filthy | Anthem | Bacchae Redux | The Bloodline of Shadrick Grace | The Boston Tea Party Opera | Burbage: The Man Who Made Shakespeare Famous | Coffee and Biscuit | Don't Panic: It's Only Finnegan's Wake! | Dragon's Breath | Dust Can't Kill Me | Forgetting the Details | Gary Busey's One-Man Hamlet (As performed by David Carl) | Held Momentarily | I'll Say She Is | The Internet – A Complete History (Abridged) | Interview | Jump Man | King of Kong | Kiss Your Brutal Hands | Kunstler | Loveness: I Will Only Love You Once | Marvellous | Murder, Margaret and Me | Olympus Records | The Photo Album | The Practice Child | Seven Seductions of Taylor Swift | Sick City Blues | Skyline, a mid-century musical | SMASHED: The Carrie Nation Story | The Sun Experiment | A Thousand Deaths | Twelfth Night | Vagabond$

EDITOR'S NOTE: Now in its eighteenth year, FringeNYC runs August 8-24, 2014. This year's festival has scheduled over 200 shows at 18 or so venues over its 16 day duration. We will report on a healthy dose of this year's offerings in the reviews below. Information and schedules are available at


Tickets are available:

ONLINE up to 30 minutes before the performance at (24 hours a day, credit cards only, $3 convenience charge applies). TICKETS WILL BE EMAILED AND THEN SCANNED FROM YOUR SMARTPHONE (or from a printout).
IN PERSON at Fringe Central at 114 Norfolk (Rivington/Delancey) (Noon-8PM, cash or credit card, no convenience charge but tickets must be purchased by 8PM the day PRIOR to the day of the performance).

All tickets are $18, but are reduced (only at Fringe Central or at the door) to $13 for kids under 12 to FringeJR events and for seniors. There are also passes: 5 shows for $85, 10 shows for $150 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.


Coffee and Biscuit
Even as TV shows like "Mad Men" regularly debunk the cultural myth of the mid-twentieth century as a golden age for American family life and commerce, the image persists of the nuclear family, happily gathered around the couch in a pleasant suburban home, Beaver and Lucy on the TV and a Chevy in the driveway. Coffee and Biscuit uses puppets, sound, and dance-like movement, alongside more traditional performance elements, in order to take aim at the complex gender dynamics of the time. Much of the play serves to showcase the woman as a puppet, manipulated by both the men in her life as well as by the media and popular culture. While puppets represent most of the play's characters, we see a male "puppeteer" control a human woman, performing on the "stage" of a stony living room more evocative of a prison than a hub of domestic bliss; the strings of her apron steer her and the always-on TV ventriloquizes for her. (Meanwhile, female performers control all the male puppets, suggesting that the woman might not be as powerless in this equation as she appears at first glance.) While the concept is intriguing, the execution comes off as heavy-handed in exposing gender inequality in an era of which rampant gender inequality has become one of the most widely recognizable hallmarks. The show's promotional copy reads with a good deal more humor than is present within the actual play itself, but a bit more levity might be exactly what Coffee and Biscuit needs to overcome the sense of melodrama that weighs it down. At Venue #6. 1 hour, 10 minutes. [Horn]

The Photo Album
Following its premiere last summer at Brooklyn's Brick Theater, The Story Gym is reviving their augmented reality scavenger hunt The Photo Album in this year's Fringe. In the same vein as interactive megahit Sleep No More, this show has no single predetermined experience, but rather allows the audience to dictate their own path. Using a special smartphone or tablet app, visitors scan photographs throughout the space and discover trigger phrases to start conversations with performers mingling within the crowd. Needless to say, anyone averse to the concept of audience participation should stay far away, as you're actively engaged for much of the performance. The large cast deserves praise all around for their ability to smoothly mitigate the awkwardness that can creep up in these interactions (especially when a conversation begins with something like "Japanese go home!"), and for bringing to them a surprisingly genuine sincerity. The characters, points in an inter-generational constellation of stories tracing the history of a Ditmas Park Victorian house, are compelling, but in the short time provided to experience The Photo Album, it's hard to delve deep into their stories (staff eventually started sharing trigger lines to help speed things along). The frame narrative about historical preservation that justifies the venture feels hasty, too. Meanwhile, the space itself presents some challenges. It feels more like a gallery than a house, increasing the sense of artifice. Removing the play from a Brooklyn venue strains the local roots that ground the play within a meaningful social context. Of course, many of these issues are the natural result of adapting the play for the Festival, and are perfectly forgivable. Overall, the Story Gym is onto a very neat concept with The Photo Album, and while the kinks aren't entirely ironed out yet, this stimulating experimental production is sure to be one of the more unique experiences offered this year. At Venue #3. 1 hour, 30 minutes. [Horn]

SMASHED: The Carrie Nation Story
This opera offers a whimsical take on the life of temperance advocate Carrie A. Nation, a somewhat obscure historical figure who, well before the Prohibition era, gained notoriety for her fierce opposition to alcohol's legality (made manifest in her hatchet-wielding attacks on liquor-serving establishments). Blurring surprisingly accurate vignettes from Nation's unusual story with playful gags and elements of audience participation, SMASHED feels tailor-made for a cabaret setting where everyone watching has their own drink in hand. The COW (which features a bar in the theater) proves an ideal venue for this sort of show, but Fringe's scheduling imposes its own limitations. At the Saturday midday performance I attended, the performance failed to elicit a particularly hearty response from an audience more in need of coffee than beer. The show doesn't do anything wrong—the singing is great and the script has plenty of amusing moments—but part of its novelty (and the raison d'être of its producing company, Opera on Tap) lies in the mixing of the high culture of opera with the low culture of the barroom, not to mention the special type of drunk humor that can often be found there. When the theater actually feels more like a theater than a bar, that novelty fails to activate. Moreover, when nobody in the audience is drinking along with the performers, it's hard not to feel unwittingly a part of Ms. Nation's temperance advocacy (which is definitely not the side one wants to ally with). I suspect SMASHED will play better at its upcoming evening performances, though. Creators James Barry and Timothy Braun are clearly onto something, and they have a strong cast at their disposal—particularly Krista Wozniak, who brings a traditional operatic dignity to the eccentric character of Nation. You certainly don't have to be SMASHED to enjoy the show, but a drink or two won't hurt. At Venue #5. 1 hour, 10 minutes. [Horn]

Burbage: The Man Who Made Shakespeare Famous
Richard Burbage's name rings down the ages as the greatest tragedian of his day and leading actor of the Chamberlain's Men (that morphed into the King's Men when King James succeeded Queen Elizabeth in 1603). It was Burbage too who first dramatized the personages Hamlet, Lear, Malvolio, Othello, and Richard III. Little wonder that Nicolas Minella's work is chock full of backstage anecdotes about the peculiar challenges of portraying the then newly-minted Shakespearean characters. The author's conceit is that Burbage (performed by the excellent Neil McGarry) is instructing a young boy on how to survive "the baptism of fire" as an actor on the stage. Fortunately, McGarry's Burbage doesn't lecture ad nauseum to the lad about iambic pentameters or how to speak "plummily" at an audition. Instead he imparts two simple rules to his young protégé: 1) Learn to say, "Yes" and 2) "Never insult a fellow actor." Those who say yes to this show won't regret it. As McGarry breathes life into the historical figure, he allows us to gain a vital perspective on London's theatre world and its major players, playwrights, and moguls. His Burbage riffs on about the impressive literary contributions of Christopher ("Kit") Marlowe, his untimely and violent death, and how it had a major impact on all whose lives revolved around the theatre. There are also anecdotes about the great actors William Alleyn and William Kempe, and the romantic rivalry between Burbage and the Bard, which is encapsulated here in one of the most charming apocryphal tales ever passed down through the ages. The play's fault, if it has one, is that it clocks in at under an hour. Perhap Minella, in collaboration with McGarry, wants to make the play a metaphor for Burbage's pithy epitaph inscribed on his grave: "Exit Burbage." No doubt one regrets McGarry's exit from the stage--and only wishes that there were more. At Venue #18. 50 minutes. [Donovan]

20/400 – Sketchy As F*ck
Everyone knows New York is filled with some real characters, and now 20/400's new sketch show gives you the opportunity to meet a few of them. In just over an hour, writers and performers Lauren Olson, Christian Paluck, and Jana Schmieding run through (by my count) 25 different sketches, monologues, videos, and songs that focus primarily on offbeat individuals and the situations in which they might find themselves. As with most any sketch show, there are always hits and misses, but the fast pace (do the math and it works out to less than three minutes per scene, on average) helps prevent any of the less engrossing scenes from weighing down the show as a whole. When the show falters, it's usually because a scene or character premise gets played out to excess, or because someone crosses that fuzzy line between funny-weird and uncomfortable-weird. There was also the occasional goof, but the performers always took these in stride and managed to make a joke out of them later on. More often than not, the scenes rely on sexual or scatological humor, though there are also some impressions and other scenes that fall outside of these categories. The three performers only appear on stage all together a few times during the show, choosing to devote more time to solo work. But these ensemble scenes were some of the most reliably engaging ones, including one where a woman and her friend talk with her new mail order husband and another where a high stakes military operation is threatened by an uncooperative AI. There's nothing groundbreaking to see here, but if you're looking for some laughs, Sketchy as F*ck makes for a fun night out at the Fringe. At Venue #5. 1 hour, 15 minutes. [Horn]

King of Kong
Two comedians doing an eight character show based on a documentary about a Nintendo video game--and the two people, one a permanent winner, one a permanent loser, fighting for supremacy over it? Sounds like either a disaster or the perfect kind of show for the NYC Fringe, and I'm happy to report King of Kong is the latter. Amber Ruffin and Lauren Van Kurin, both Second City alums, write and star in this fifty minute musical about Billy Mitchell, legendary Donkey Kong high score champion, and Steve Wiebe, the perpetual loser who challenges his dominance. Done wrong, a musical like this could be a mess, but the quality of writing--with lines like "Not even Helen of Troy got this much attention--yes, I just said that!"--goes a very long way, with two solid performances from Ruffin and Kurin to boot. And as someone who frequented the darkened video arcades of the mid to late eighties myself, I was happy to see a show which captures a touch of the strangely uplifting experience of paying quarters in the hope of adding initials to a high score list. The show finishes just before it's about to overstay its welcome, and the quality isn't perfectly even, but on the whole King of Kong is a clever show with a good heart, and it's a perfect example of what the Fringe can produce at its best. At Venue #17. 50 minutes. [Wilson]

I really wanted to like Marvellous, inspired by a Seamus Heaney poem and telling the tale of Verbatim, an orphan raised in an abbey who desires nothing more than to live an interesting, meaningful life about which he can tell stories. When the massive anchor of the flying ship HMS Marvellous gets stuck in the abbey spires and Verbatim hitches a ride, launching himself into a journey with the fish-wielding orphan girl Senza, pirates, cloud gods, magical machines and Dickensian villains, the stage is set for a joyful, magical experience. isn't. The show is unevenly paced and drags, with a strange, depressive tone which weighs down much of the plot, and what promised to be a magical romp turns out to be a slog. The acting doesn't help; Ryan Ward is excellent as Verbatim and Alex Spieth is solid as Senza, but the rest of the cast is pedestrian at best. And despite billing itself as a "family-friendly" show, Marvellous is decidedly not suitable for even six or seven year olds, with dialogue which is too boring for children much of the time and one particularly upsetting scene of violence. There are elements of a good production here, with some nice moments and interesting staging choices (the overhead projector is used to particularly good effect throughout). But on the whole this needed more tightening and better execution, and I'm sorry to say the result isn't particularly marvellous at all. At Venue #8. 1 hour, 25 minutes. [Wilson]

Jump Man
If the Fringe is a good measure of the cultural zeitgeist, video games are officially entering the socially acceptable world, with a number of video game related shows over the past few years. One of the other Fringe shows I reviewed this year (King of Kong) takes good advantage of the increasing mainstream attention; Jump Man mines some of the same ground, though instead of focusing on videogame culture it gets into the videogame itself, somewhat literally. The story focuses on Mario and Luigi, two plumbers from Brooklyn apparently settled into a normal life with Mario's wife Peach and Luigi's sidekick Toad after the defeat of arch-enemy Bowser ten years before. If none of those names have any larger meaning to you, you're probably better off skipping this show, which relies heavily on inside jokes from the Mario video games; if you're also not from New York you might not be the target audience for this show either, since Brooklyn and (somewhat clumsily rendered) Big Apple stereotypes figure strongly in the characters on display. The plot, which focuses on Mario's friends' attempts to get him out of his "normal life" rut, isn't overly surprising either. But I still liked this show for two principal reasons: first, there are several surprisingly good songs here, particularly "Sidekick" and "Used to Be," and second, the acting from the main characters is uniformly excellent-including a memorable turn from Erik DeCicco as a reformed Bowser. Most important is the show's heart, which is clearly in the right place. The music isn't always successful, and the pacing is uneven at times. But a video game show is going to jump from the Fringe eventually, and I wouldn't be surprised if Jump Man turns out to be the one that does it first. At Venue #7. 1 hour, 50 minutes. [Wilson]

A 1940's Comedy of Errors
High-brow and low-brow comedy collide in C.A.G.E.'s A 1940's Comedy of Errors. Adapted and directed by Michael Hagins, it takes Shakespeare's rollicking farce and gives it a cartoonish twist. That might sound rather juvenile and gimmicky. However, it actually works better than one might imagine. The soundtracks from several cartoon shows from the 40s and beyond waft over the stage to punctuate the slapstick in the action and to point up the confusion among the double set of twins. (Remember Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse and their matching servants named Dromio?). One doesn't get, of course, the whole myth here. This retooling remains on the play's surface and doesn't scratch beneath to reveal some of its more serious themes (e.g., woman's subjugation in a patriarchal society or the human condition itself). This cartoon does retain Shakespeare's language, however. So even when one is listening to a tune out of a "Bugs Bunny" or "Road Runner" cartoon, the next scene will ballast it with a familiar line from the Bard that lands, if not with gravitas, with truth. If you take this frolic through Ephesus on its own terms, it delivers. You see Shakespeare's early comedy performed, to borrow from my program's notes, "in living technicolor." But if you want a traditional rendering of his classic, this outing is hardly going to please you with its madcap antics and actors assuming vocal disguises that imitate Daffy Duck, Road Runner, and other popular cartoon characters. This company hits the bull's-eye, though, when it comes to cross-fertilizing the Elizabethan with the avant-garde. Not all the actors have Shakespearean chops, but they surely have their physical comedy in motion here. At Venue #7. 100 minutes with an intermission. [Donovan]

Sick City Blues
At last year's FringeNYC Jake Shore scored an Overall Excellence in Playwriting Award for his Down the Mountain and Across the Stream. So there's interest in his offering this year. Sick City Blues opens mysteriously with a scene of negotiation. Apparently two heavies are setting up a hit, with lots of bristling and a saturation F-bomb approach to language that rivals Mamet or Tarantino. With all the tough talk for the sake of doing fun tough talk, the action can seem to hang on a joke. There are criminals in the mix. Badass gangster Sal may be a loose cannon involved in an art heist. Gavin Starr Kendall as Sal really slings the lingo and makes it work. Gradually hints of what might be going down are revealed. There's a girl and a fake cop, and maybe gangsters or bad cops lurk. Suspense accrues. Through all the cryptic scheming the audience can anticipate events--that may or may not happen according to expectation. The structure is set up as a series of conversations that occur between two characters, sometimes three. In different pairings, story angles are reversed, revealing different perspectives. People behave differently, as people will do when acting the persona they've learned (or faked) in another's presence. We hear one side of phone conversations. A difficulty is that the plotting relies on the audience being able to remember back through conversations where it wasn't clear for awhile who was on the other end of the line. It's challenging to retain and tie together details whose relevance wasn't clearly understood when first heard. But altogether this puzzle is good theater, well performed with good connections between actors. Sick City Blues, well directed and full of smartass talk, violence, fury, and secrets, is well worth seeing. Venue #6. 1 hour, 20 minutes. [Osenlund]

The Practice Child
One hardly goes to a Fringe show expecting "Big Names," spectacular special effects, or glitzy costumes. Talent is the thing here, and tends to manifest itself in diverse stripes. Tyler Stuart's The Practice Child is a noir comedy of a very different stripe. But it is an ideal vehicle for its multi-talented six-member cast (Dylan Travers, Erica DeLoach, Laralu Smith, Tom Ciarleglio, Gary Dooley, and Ron King). It is about a dysfunctional family, and includes witty discourses on everything from sibling rivalry, sperm-bank donation, romantic love, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer. It is a play of many parts that becomes far more than the sum of its parts. Set in a hospital room on the eve of second-born son Bill's (Travers) surgery for a malignant brain tumor, the title is misleadingly simple. It is not only about a mom Shirley (Smith) who had a so-called "practice child" Blil (Ciarleglio), who served as a rough-edged version for Bill. Rather it is about very different human beings who arrive on this planet with innate gifts implanted into their DNA, waiting to bloom, even if it means growing in a test tube environment or the antiseptic room of a hospital ward. All the characters are trying to make a virtue of necessity here. And irony steps in with very heavy feet, and sometimes with the weightless imaginative leap of an Astronaut (King) who possesses a forward-thinking mind and heart. In fact, you will find yourself laughing-and perhaps crying-during the goings-on in the hospital room, where the play is mostly set and unfolds with much poignancy. Those insisting on a happily every after ending won't be completely happy with its denouement. But if you are willing to take the bitter with the sweet, and the injustices of life alongside poetic justice, then this play will win you over. It needs a few more scenes to flesh out its characters and develop its more serious themes and points. But as directed by the author, and performed by a sensitive and intelligent cast, it is quite a promising piece of theater. At Venue #14. 75 minutes. [Donovan]

The Bloodline of Shadrick Grace
The audience is cast as a tour group at the opening of Maya Contreras's Southern story that begins just before the turn of the twentieth century and moves forward into the thirties. The account appears to be about the disposition of a piece of land, an inheritance of Shadrick (Shady) Grace's. But the considerations of inherited land recede somewhat as the tale winds through covetous relatives, Prohibition, moonshine, FDR, Indians, yahoo cops, a nunnery, and various discoveries. Eventually the story veers onto another track as the bloodline angle of the title takes on new meaning. Regrettably, serious acoustical and voice projection issues detract from the cast's truly heartfelt and enthusiastic performance. Rory Adair as the eponymous Shadrick Grace, in particular, urgently needs to speak up, as do others in the cast. (Andrew Harriss in various roles, however, is consistently heard.) Exacerbating the sound problem is a necessary fan that blows a strong draft behind the audience, rendering low, under powered lines virtually inaudible. The story is a good one, however, and under ideal circumstances it would be great to have more charming, acted-out vignettes to tell it. The squeezing of the story's broad scope into a reasonable performance timeframe, however, has involved turning the last part of the show largely into exposition, as Shady learns and discloses important, protracted information through the reading of a lengthy letter. Although it's really hard to hear everything he's saying, we get the gist, partly through interpretive movement by another actor. The tour group concept which begins the show, but is not integrated into the rest of the performance, also wraps it up. Venue #4. 1 hour. [Osenlund]

The Internet – A Complete History (Abridged)
In the spirit of the Reduced Shakespeare Company, Kristyn Pomranz and Katherine Steinberg's play offers a farcical recap of the digital era thus far at a breakneck speed perfect for the attention-deficient generation the internet has created. After a highlight reel of viral video classics, Al Gore (Benjamin Drew Thompson) emerges to chastise an audience member named Steve (Adam Wennick) for inappropriate phone use. It takes a minute to realize this moment is scripted, reminding us that, as exaggerated as the play is, its send-up of the tech-obsessed never veers far from the realm of plausibility. Gore, who is often credited as an inventor of the internet (though, as we learn in an surprisingly informative overview of the web's development, such a title is fraught), vacillates between appreciation and disparagement of technology. Complementing him are the more tech-positive Ingrid (Callie Rose Hanau) and Andrew (Timothy Thompson), whose roles are somewhat ambiguous beyond serving as foils and sidekicks to Gore's character. One drawback to any "history lesson" show is that it easily feels random—it's hard to justify why these characters are giving this presentation—and without a clear purpose, it's natural for things to feel a bit disjointed. But that's more a consequence of the genre rather than this production, and since the performers seem to be having fun, they prove adept at selling even the cheesiest gags, including a musical catalogue of memes to the tune of "We Didn't Start the Fire." The closest thing to a framing device in the show, and one of the cleverest bits in it, is Gore's use of a PowerPoint presentation a la An Inconvenient Truth. Much like the web itself, The Internet. . . can feel a bit all over the place, but it also delivers a good time and a healthy dose of nostalgia. (Who knew how much you missed the screeching symphony of a dial-up modem?) At Venue #10. 1 hour, 20 minutes. [Horn]

A Thousand Deaths
What most of us know about Jack London is probably not an especially good measure of who and what he was — an atheist, socialist and racist with a keen interest in science fiction. All of these blend together in Anthony Pennino's stage "adaptation" of London's early, creepy sci-fi short story, "A Thousand Deaths." I put the description in quotes because the play seems more "inspired by" the story and some elements of London's life, rather than tracking the story per se. Henry (Blake Merriman) was an American sailor who ended up on a lifeboat somewhere in the Phillipine Sea during the Phillipine American War at the very end of the Nineteenth Century. With him was an Irish lackey by the name of O'Brien (Peter Collier). But we meet Henry when he is dead, briefly, at the hands of a mad scientist, Joshua (Sean Hoagland), who is repeatedly killing and then resurrecting Henry in the name of science. This is one of those plays best served by my withholding most of the details about how this came about (or how O'Brien factors into it), so I will just say that Pennino has managed to find several surprisingly interesting layers of story-telling to convey (although they would benefit from a bit more editing and perhaps someone other than the playwright directing) and that all three young men acquit themselves well. Mr. Collier even adds some musical accompaniment and sound effects. At Venue #11. 55 minutes. [Gutman]

Absolutely Filthy
Strains of Schroeder's iconic piano tune clue us in as to who this absolutely filthy homeless, addicted guy on stage must be: Pigpen, all grown up! Brendan Hunt (who wrote the play) is "The Mess," i.e., Pigpen, and he constantly gyrates with a hula hoop, the metaphoric stand-in for his cloud of dirt. There's Lucy, still imperious; Snoopy "That dog was a Nazi"; Sweet Linus, suffering from PTSD, his blankie shrunk into a pocket hankie. Sally has a doctorate in cellular biology. In time the whole crazy crew will show up for a sweet, sad occasion. Director Jeremy Aldridge's attention to detail pays off. The silly, touching show is respectful of Shultz's beloved characters, and the specificity the actors bring to each character is a huge source of fun. Ridiculous and hilarious with cheeky irony and heavy sentimental touchstones, Absolutely Filthy played to a packed house last night, and was met with great joy, raucous laughter, and an absolutely roaring standing ovation. Venue #17. 2 hours with an intermission. [Osenlund]

Noise and voices raised in protest can be heard outside the putative university lecture hall where this play is set. Actually, it's more an assisted lecture presentation than a play per se. The unseen crowd boos Kuntsler, a lawyer who has been invited to speak. Nick Wyman, astonishing as Kuntsler, is totally believable. If I hadn't read this new play by Jeffrey Sweet last year, I would have believed that Wyman was improvising the whole thing on the fly. His words tumble over each other as he rushes to bring dramatic events of the past to life. He expresses his frustration with those in leadership positions who refuse to lead, and he mixes in lawyer jokes. He gets personal. He quotes himself. "Judge: Are you trying to show contempt for this court?" Kuntsler: "No, your honor, I'm trying to hide it." He'll have law student, Kerry (the remarkable Gillian Glasco) play the role opposite him as the judge. Later the quiet, reluctant Kerry will have her say. Kuntsler, who had been a typical lawyer, became an activist when he "put down the pom poms" to "get out on the field and play." He sees himself as moving from law in the abstract to taking on higher goals of humanism and anti-racism as he defends radical Muslims, Freedom Riders, The Chicago 8, Attica uprising prisoners, Wounded Knee Indians, and more... tellingly more. I would have thought this show a bit academic for younger people in the sold out house, something more for people who can remember these events. But no. The audience is into it, captivated from the start by this epic performance about a man who took a bold stand in some of the late 20th century's most high profile show trials. Nick Wyman is a trip. I wish this guy had been my law professor. Venue #18. 90 minutes. [Osenlund]

Weary of the avant–garde? Well, take a look at a more traditionally–themed show that focuses on Francis Scott Key's 200–year–old song "The Star Spangled Banner." Aptly titled Anthem, it takes a slice of Americana that has become our national signature at public events and explores it through "actual letters written during times of war." Four performers portray American soldiers (except for one protest scene in Washington DC focusing on when Americans refused to send their sons to war) and their loved ones, as they express their sentiments about why this song matters to them. Ranging from the most reverential to the disillusioned and angry, there is much diversity in the tone of each original song. The question, however, that stitches together all its strands is: "Why do we sing the anthem?" And when it comes right down to it, it is a question that serious–minded Americans should consider at some point. After all, like it or not, we will inevitably listen to it in live performance or as a recorded song at least several times in any given year. Clearly, the reason it is sung is not because it is easy to sing. In fact, it is notorious for its two–octave range and its tricky turns of phrase that intimidate even virtuosos like Renee Fleming (who memorably sung it at the 2014 Super Bowl). So why, if it is not a blast to sing, do we keep inviting our superstars to perform it and then preserving it for posterity? While Anthem doesn't actually answer this question per se, it addresses the need of Americans to have a national song to help us get through the horrors of war and to heal in its aftermath. Not every American war is represented here, but those that have had the most impact on the American psyche are: The Civil War, both World Wars, the Korean War, Viet Nam, and the War in Afghanistan. Obviously, this show won't appeal to everybody. And its perfect audience is likely to be those in the armed forces, American war veterans, their family members, and history buffs. Of all its musical numbers, the most affecting is "Red, Blue, and Black" that has an artist portray a black soldier expressing his dismay that our flag's colors are red, white, and blue. In his black character's opinion, our flag suggests a visual bias toward the Caucasian race (if only Betsy Ross could return from the grave to declare why she chose our flag's colors!) that carries potential symbolism for those who are racially sensitive. Say what you will, Anthem does more than soft–pedal patriotism. And, unless you can avoid all public events, you really can't escape hearing our anthem sooner or later. The real take–away here is that after experiencing this show, you just might tune more into our anthem's real meaning rather than whether, or not, the singer of the moment hits its high notes and gets the words right. At Venue #13. 70 minutes. [Donovan]

Bacchae Redux
Putting on the Greeks with a contemporary twist is ever challenging. The latest attempt is Jack Herholdt's retelling of Euripides' The Bacchae with his Bacchae Redux. The good news is that the classic is reconceived here with its DNA intact. Strangely enough, sometimes the best way to get to the truth of a myth is to stop being overly reverent and use our own cultural lingo. This saucy adaptation does that, and something more. It gives voices to the The Bacchae, and given their voices, they speak their mind with feminist fervor and conviction. As a chorus, they had numbers in their favor. But now we get to learn what they are up to, and what makes them tick. Unsurprisingly, they do think about their past roles as homemakers and why they rejected them (Who really wants to be Queen of the Laundromat? Or how about running a Five–Star Restaurant in one's own kitchen?) Listening to these women speak out about the potential pitfalls of stepping into their traditional roles makes this production new. What makes it Greek is not only its classically–designed robes (by Jennifer A. Jacob) but that it retains the quintessential events of the original. One doesn't get the heightened language in this version. But the myth's tragic height still towers. What could possibly be worse than the story of a mother who unwittingly kills her only son? Think of Michelangelo's Pieta, and its deeply profound meaning. One witnesses that visual image here in shreds and patches, and its thematics dramatized in a terrifying pathological manner. You need a strong stomach and psyche to absorb this horror story. And, by all means, don't miss Michael Heitzler's "Director's Note" in the program. Heitzler links the ancient Greek festival in the City Dionysia with the one now happening in our own "metropolis." Returning to Bacchae Redux, it captures enough of Euripides' masterpiece to please a classicist, and enough of today's culture and language to please a savvy New Yorker. Author Herholdt is well–cast as the god Dionysus, and Brad Brockman is just as right as the mortal king Pentheus. In fact, the entire cast has landed on their theatrical feet in this update of the Attican play. If you want to reacquaint yourself with this classic that asks thorny questions about law–and–order, the freedom of the spirit, and religion and fanaticism, this retooling will do. At Venue #16. 90 minutes. [Donovan]

Murder, Margaret and Me
As billed in the program it's "the story behind the story" of the Agatha Christie and Margaret Rutherford relationship, and there's much ado about revealing surprising and dark occurrences in Mrs. Rutherford's background mdash; facts Rutherford preferred remain unknown. A modest and circumscribed piece, this FringeNYC entry derives much of its interest from the enormous popularity of Agatha Christie's fascinating Miss Marple character. To Agatha Christie's shock, the indomitable actress Margaret Rutherford was not eager to play the role initially, and she hadn't even read the Miss Marple books. Miss Christie, who at first hadn't really wanted comically inclined Rutherford in the role, was intrigued by the actress's reluctance, and set herself the task of discovering the truth behind Rutherford. British actress Janet Prince, well directed by Stella Duffy, personifies both characters awfully well through posture shifts, alterations in demeanor, and changes in her manner of speaking. Prince brings energy and considerable charm to her roles, and there's never any confusion as to whether you're seeing straight-up yet crafty Agatha or quirky Margaret. Very suitable set and costume design support the performance along with delightful sound design. There is limited seating in the very modest Abrazo Interno at the Clemente, and an extra performance has been added to accommodate the audience for this sold out show. Venue #3. 70 minutes. [Osenlund]

Gary Busey's One-Man Hamlet (As performed by David Carl)
I came for the Hamlet, but Hamlet came with complimentary Gary Busey. I stayed for the shenanigans. David Carl's costume for this one-man riot is not traditional black Hamlet getup, but palm tree Hawaiian shirt and shorts that looks decidedly like Nike Nolte's getup in Down and Out in Beverly Hills. At one point Carl notes that Nolte is sometimes mistaken for Gary Busey. Hamlet's father's ghost is pretty darn scary on the projection screen, which is used to good effect throughout. 'Art' pictures also come up on the screen from time to time, and Carl hawks them: Audience members can commission them for $50. This Hamlet, a wildly exaggerated comedy show, goes for exuberance and soft pedals its moments of dry wit. "Neither a borrower nor a lender be," Polonius advises Laertes. He continues, "Life is like a box of chocolates. . . . You can't handle the truth." And he warns his daughter, Ophelia: "Stay away from Hamlet. He's a Nogoodnik." Hamlet's letter to Ophelia becomes a performance of Buddy Holly's "Everyday" which he accompanies on guitar. The tie in? Gary Busey starred in The Buddy Holly Story (Columbia, 1978). A cute little shadow puppet show is a good choice for showing the Murder of Gonzago. And the Hamlet-Laertes struggle in the grave is so right for media saturated performance, that it's a wonder no one ever thought of this take before. This show's great fun and yet it doesn't shortchange the spirit of the text. (Well, it does, but so what?) Carl knows Hamlet well enough to f*ck with it. He'll speak the subtext of Hamlet and cut to the chase with crazy riffs that start with Shakespeare and take off in all directions, often ending up with — Gary Busey. Oscar–like tributes honor actors Busey played with who have died, and also characters he played who have died, and so forth. Super imaginative and frankly jejeune, this is a great show for Hamlet fans with a few loose screws. Carl's Gary Busey uses the end for a short heartfelt talk to the audience about breaking the cycle of revenge, caring about others, and remembering Gary Busey. Venue #5. 1 hour, 20 minutes. [Osenlund]

Don't Panic: It's Only Finnegan's Wake!
Bogus? Or brilliant? Whether you side with the nay or yeah-sayers when it comes to judging the literary merits of James Joyce's novel Finnegans Wake, there's no doubt that "JoyceGeek" Adam Harvey will help you to "crack its code." In just one hour and change, Harvey not only introduces one to Joyce's final work, he teaches why one should embrace the behemoth. Harvey serves as literary tour guide throughout, and turns out to be quite a charming one. He delivers his performance in casual clothes and barefoot on a minimalist stage. There are only two props at hand: a tall stool and a huge canvas screen, which projects ever-changing excerpts from Finnegans Wake. Harvey has definite stage presence, but establishes in the very first moments that Joyce's masterpiece is the real star here. Harvey tells everybody that the secret to reading the text is not to overthink it. He then invites the audience to dive "right into the middle" of the novel, pointing out that Joyce's famous opus could actually be "mounted on a rolodex" since it has no beginning or end in the traditional narrative sense. In fact, Harvey began at page 414, and shared that the story in question is a version of Aesop's beloved fable, "The Ant and the Grasshopper." It seemed to be a moment of great relief to many. After all, if Joyce had drawn on such a familiar chestnut and incorporated it into his Wake, then why should any reader &mdash or theatergoer &mdash doubt its accessibility? Harvey turned his show into a veritable master class on Wake. He alternates his vocal delivery with a glossing of the opaque text. There's never a dull moment! One gets treated to another Aesop fable ("The Fox and the Grapes"), a Biblical story that references Jacob and Esau, and even prayers that splice their Latin origins with playful English spelling ("in excelsis" morphs into "inexshellsis"). Harvey never plays the superiority card here. In fact, he interrupted his monologue at midpoint to acknowledge, and welcome, a young child who was in the audience. Harvey then neatly segued into a mini-lecture on how children have a natural ability to absorb new ideas and language and don't think twice that 95 per cent of what they hear is beyond their ken. Harvey then challenged everybody to "put themselves in that mindset" again and tap into their "inner child" for all their adventures with Wake. One exits this show edified mdash; and with a bookmark that includes a website that allows you to download the entire text of Joyce's masterpiece. Who could ask for anything more? At Venue #12. 75 minutes. [Donovan]

The Sun Experiment
Shakespeare fans will find this new take on Twelfth Night intriguing. Its advance publicity is spot on when it reads "this reimagining of Twelfth Night entangles three illicit love triangles." What it doesn't figure in is that all three interlocking tales can't possibly be developed satisfactorily in less than 2 hours. However, if you truly go for the Shakespeare and want to see playwright Catherine Yu push the envelope and boundaries of the Bard's original romantic comedy, then this mythopoeic version won't disappoint. Its dominant character Ludwig Wittgenstein (Ben Chase) is plucked right from the pages of history. The "Dramaturgical Note" in the program describes him as "one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th Century," with his claim to fame being Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which investigates the "relationship between language and reality." Within the context of this play, Wittgenstein is portrayed not only as a philosopher with a passion for his discipline, but as an egomaniac and passionate lover. The female characters here stand in his shadow, and except for when they morph into Shakespeare's romantic heroines (think of the plucky Viola/Cesario and the Countess Olivia) seem more like his satellites. Unsurprisingly, Yu exploits the motifs of cross-dressing and lesbian attraction that permeate Twelfth Night and presses it into the paradigm of her own play. In the best dramatic moments here, there is a real marriage of Shakespeare's text and her experimental work. The Sun Experiment, in short, underscores how women are often suppressed in their existing culture and achieve power by eschewing traditional roles and relationships. Yu is definitely a playwright worth watching, as are the young actors (Chase, Julia Watt, and Lauren Currie Lewis) in this cast. Her provocative new play has the air of success but it needs more breathing space for all of its sophisticated levels to shine through. At Venue #16. 1 hour, 45 minutes with intermission. [Donovan]

Dragon's Breath
In this dark comedy, playwright Michael C. O'Day takes on two of the most significant developments to hit the publishing industry in recent history: the advent of digital distribution and the popularization of the young adult paranormal romance novel (think "Twilight"). Author Justine Drake (Lorinda Lisitza) has grand ambitions as she prepares to e-publish her debut novel, Dragon's Breath, such as developing a devoted following and seeing the book eventually published in a print edition. With the help of her agent Byron (Christopher Michael McLamb), she aggressively markets the book at readings and starts to meet some of her greatest fans, like the young social outcast Laura (Hannah Sloat), as well as some of her primary detractors, such as the highly literal critic Rocco (O'Day). As the book becomes a mega-hit, spawning a cult or two in the process, Drake learns that you can't always control how your words will be interpreted, and that sometimes the truth can be even stranger than one's most fantastical ideas. O'Day's play is clever, though overwhelmingly strong on the absurdity at times, and well performed, with Lisitza a strong lead for a solid supporting cast. The play gets off to a bit of a slow start, as the initial scenes follow a strict pattern of alternating scenes in which Justine talks to Byron and then reads for an audience, but the pace eventually improves as the plot thickens. Although the premise is rooted in observations of the current cultural landscape, Dragon's Breath ultimately heightens to such an exaggerated ending that it feels as much a fantasy as the fictional book that gives the play its name. And while O'Day pokes fun at diehard fandoms, his portrayal isn't wholly unsympathetic, either. There's power in fantasy—it's up to us to read responsibly. At Venue #4. 1 hour, 30 minutes. [Horn]

Held Momentarily
If you ride the NYC subway with any regularity, you've heard the announcement that "we are being held momentarily by the train's dispatcher." Sometimes these words are innocuous enough, signaling a few additional moments of travel time, but other times, they can mean the start of a seemingly-endless wait in a subterranean limbo. Plus, you never know when a woman might go into labor. The "stuck on/waiting for a train" show is a Fringe mainstay, and this year, the new musical Held Momentarily, written by Oliver Houser, proves a welcome entry into the category. The musical's upbeat, witty take on everyday annoyances and disappointments is reminiscent of Avenue Q, and the ensemble cast has a similar charm. Within the economical hour-long time slot, the characters' back stories are kept fairly simple, which sometimes encourages cliches. Still, they feel reasonably developed, and the performers—under the direction of Hunter Bird—provide emotional sincerity and realness, particularly Elliot Greer as Liam, a med student struggling with a crisis of confidence. Yael Rizowy was an audience favorite as the pregnant Sam (her facial expressions alone were capable of eliciting strong laughter), while a particularly memorable number is sung by the homeless woman Lilith (Andrea Nevil), and takes the form of a melodic interpretation of other subway announcements such as "If you see something, say something." It's comical, yet unexpectedly poignant when sung by a woman who spends so much time on the train because she has no other option. The show as a whole still has room to continue to develop, but Held Momentarily offers a promising premise with plenty of room to grow after its Fringe run concludes. Venue #13, 1 hour. [Horn]

Skyline, a mid-century musical
Skyline [Book & lyrics Maureen FitzGerald; Music FitzGerald and Taylor Williams] centers around a losing cause and looks at the future of a building and certain personal relationships. It's 1962 and a young crusader aims to save New York's Penn Station. He encounters a copywriter for Skyline Magazine who wants to get her first article published. His cause provides a possible springboard for her. However, her fiancé, an architect, has a stake in the station being demolished. Peter Gosik's (the architect) fine, strong voice is a plus for this musical. A stalwart cast of 9 takes on this 2 hour show with 14 musical numbers (including reprises) and no intermission. So much labor, dedication, and reworking through trial and error go into a musical that we must respect the effort even when we can't fully applaud the result yet, considering it a work in progress. Several concerns need to be re-addressed: At heart, the show's heroine isn't convincingly committed to a cause, a love interest, or even to her own work. The issues vying for attention need more sorting out for philosophies to successfully clash and egos collide. The conflict concerning the loss of irreplaceable buildings vs. "To build something you have to tear something down," isn't the question here. What does it matter when everyone in the audience knows that saving Penn Station is not going to be an option for these characters? So the question for the characters slides into: Which failed Penn Station-saving group will come out on top? As the play changes its tack, it sheds light on various characters' personal baggage related to Penn Station and their sentimentality about their own efforts to save it. Finally, this earnest endeavor wants more consistency and a spark. A spark doesn't happen from a quick fix: The dialogue needs an overhaul for snap and steam, and the show really could use a choreographer. Finally, and a big plus: Skyline has two promising songs with decent tunes - that's par for the course with even the big musicals. Venue #13. 2 hours. [Osenlund]

Dust Can't Kill Me
It's hard to find manna in the desert when the latest dust storm is blinding you! In the new folk musical Dust Can't Kill Me, one encounters an ersatz prophet and Dust Bowl migrants–two sisters, two brothers, a folk singer, and outlaw–whose land and crops have dried up, leaving them essentially without home or livelihood in Kansas. The prophet, posturing as a man of God, exploits their desperation at every twist and turn of their journey. Telling them that he will lead them to a promised land, he ultimately reveals that the louder one speaks about religion, the less of the real thing there tends to be. What's real about Dust Can't Kill Me is its young cast (Michael Ruocco, Lily Shoretz, Alyssa Miller, Nathaniel Janis, Chris Camp, Paul Hinkes, and Jamie Bogyo), who possess sturdy musical chops and that elusive thing called good chemistry. There's no drought of talent in its creative team either. Abigail Carney's book and Elliah Heifetz's music and lyrics are right as peaches and cream, and Jacob Osborne's no-nonsense direction allows the serious American history to surface. Short on choreography, there's only one dance number in the show that is a standout. Except for this theatrical deficiency, it has all the ingredients for a post–Fringe run. It got its stage legs earlier this year at Yale University, and has been gathering steam ever since the local media applauded it. A live folk band on stage ensures that everything keeps humming throughout. While you might go for its historical content and original folk ballads and songs, it also broaches controversial subjects like suicide and homosexuality, and forces you to consider them through the lens of the "Dirty Thirties." Part docu–drama, part ghost story, part romance, part tragedy, it is altogether unsettling (in every sense of the word) to watch, particularly when one surreal "dust devil" shows up in a white suit. But if you want to see a slice of American history dramatized with music that blows away your traditional notion about the Dust Bowl, this is it. At Venue #7. 2 hours, 30 minutes, with intermission. [Donovan]

The Boston Tea Party Opera
Worried about the government looking through your email? Tapping into your cell phone? Or worse? If so, you may well identify with the Sons of Liberty in Boston during the colonial period, who suffered from invasions of privacy via the Writs of Assistance, which all too often gave the British the right to roam as they pleased through colonists' homes and goods. And as history tells, they did gradually reverse this pattern of injustice, and rebelled through the "Boston Tea Party" of December 16th, 1773. Now you can see a mythic version of the famous event, thanks to composer–director Matthew Zachary Johnson. Don't expect the entire story here (quiz to follow the show!) as Johnson just earmarks its pivotal events, invents some quasi–history (the historic women here part with their tea cups and saucers and get right in the British soldiers' faces!), adds contemporary characters (think S.W.AT. team), a multi&ndasj;racial cast, and a solo dancer (Alyssa Sarnoff) who accentuates the goings on with fitting poetic gestures. Yes, this is opera with a conscience. And, yes, the performers inhabiting the historical figures have very big shoes to fill: Chad Cygan/Neal Harrelson step in as Sam Adams (second cousin to President John Adams and able orchestrator of the Boston Tea Party), David J. Baldwin as the orator James Otis, Robert Balonek as Paul Revere, and Michael Bragg as "tea-smuggler" John Hancock whose ship "Liberty" was seized by loyalist Boston Governor Thomas Hutchinson. Ras Dia has the unenviable job of playing this polarizing politician and governor, who as the former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Superior Court, issued the Writs of Resistance in 1761. Little wonder that he becomes a politico caught between Scylla and Charybdis. History aside, there's the acting and singing to watch and listen to. This ensemble can act, and their classically-trained voices (80 per cent of the ensemble members are opera singers) are too crystalline to ignore. Aside from the impressive belting, what gives the opera its power is that it speaks to controversial issues of today. After all, where does one draw the boundary between the government and a citizen's right over his, or her, home and property? Given Johnson's solid book and music, and the cast's strong pipes, this theatrical piece just might create ripples that attract further attention to it. Whereas Johnson's rendering of each historical figure could be more fleshed out at points, no major character here comes across as a mere type or caricature. So if you are seeking something of substance, the Boston Tea Party Opera has the heft of history, and the rising musical talents of Johnson, his creative team, and cast to ground it. At Venue #13. 2 hours, 15 minutes, with intermission. [Donovan]

Olympus Records
Greek mythology and 90's pop/rock bands don't seem an obvious pairing, but Morgan Clarke and Alex Prather's musical Olympus Records imagines five Greek heroes—Ajax (Jacob Thompson), Antigone (Lauren Nicole Davidson), Electra (Emily Afton), Odysseus (Jonathan Grunert), and Philoctetes (Scott Raymond Johnson)—as the members of Sophocles, the music sensation of the 90's. With appearances on MTV and a crazed cadre of fans, they had it all... until they broke up. Now, Odysseus wants to reunite the band, but his siblings and their label won't make it easy. Though the show appeals to classics fans as well as 90's nostalgists, the Greek tragedy angle feels a bit neglected, initially employed as more of a nomenclature than a key source of humor, with some obvious references missed or forsaken. That's a shame, because when the musical fully embraces the absurdity of meshing Greek tragedy with modern popular culture, the results are hilarious, as seen more in the second act. The 90's humor is fun too, with the send up of boy bands especially on point. The score is fairly catchy, though the songs can feel a bit long. They could also be better integrated into adjacent scenes or musical numbers, since the full blackouts after each one slow the show's pace. Admittedly, sound issues occasionally made it difficult to understand the lyrics; I'd probably feel differently if I'd been able to comprehend more. Of course, just because it has room to grow doesn't mean that Olympus Records doesn't have a lot to offer now. Even as a longer Fringe show, it still feels compelling throughout; it features strong performers and musicians; and it's got a solid concept that is ripe for fine tuning. The adage says that Rome wasn't built in a day—I'd say that applies to Greek tragicomedy, too. At Venue #7. 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission. [Horn]

2014 - When We Were Idiots
If you've been near the Delancey/Essex subway station recently, perhaps you've seen a man in a penguin suit leading around a group clad in high-visibility vests. If so, you've become an unwitting participant in Xavier Toby's comedy walking tour, 2014 - When We Were Idiots, where a group of tourists from the year 2114 visit a Colonial Williamsburg–style re-creation of 2014 New York. Toby explains that all passersby are actors, hired at great expense to authentically portray how people lived back then, and the neighborhood becomes a prop to explore how someone from the future might look back on our time with the same "How far we've come!" attitude many of us harbor towards the past. The Australian Toby has done his research, providing a surprising amount of compelling local history alongside the comedy (for example, he points out several often-overlooked features of 250 East Houston, including a monumental rooftop statue of Stalin). His presentation is enhanced by his tremendous ability to make you feel like an insider, as he often breaks character to talk about things that have gone wrong on previous tours. That rapport makes it easier for tour-goers to buy into the participatory elements, which mainly consist of applauding strangers (and in one case on my tour, telling a couple on their first date to "enjoy [their] procreation"). Sure, it's gimmicky, but Toby approaches it with a healthy balance of commitment, ironic detachment, and self-awareness. In a sense, there's something deeply cynical about what he's doing here—he's found a perfect frame for a traditional stand-up routine where he dissects things he finds idiotic—but there's also an unexpectedly optimistic air to the venture as well: although we're generally more pessimistic than ever about the future, things can only get so bad before they'll inevitably get better. Tours start at FringeCENTRAL. 1 hour, 30 minutes. [Horn]

Forgetting the Details
Take a sentimental journey with Filipina-American actress Nicole Maxali as she remembers her "lola" (Filipino Tagalog language for grandmother) and her decline into Alzheimer's. You won't forget it! Maxali has a poignant story to tell, which will inevitably have you near tears and laughter. Maxali is a first-rate storyteller (Dave Chapelle himself has endorsed her!) and obviously has a knack for performing solo and as a comic. In fact, she first put her toe into the form with Identification Please, under the aegis of the well-known comic artist and FX's "Totally Biased" host, W. Kamau Bell. Since then, Maxali has logged stage credits that any emerging solo artist would eye with envy. Maxali, of course, has a natural edge as the daughter of a wannabe actor and musician. Her late father passed on his acting aspirations to her, and her present performance speaks for itself. Forgetting the Details is more than a clichéd recounting of a young American Filipino woman's struggle to achieve autonomy while still being a faithful apo (Tagalog for granddaughter). It taps into the human condition itself. What begins as a lens on "lola" and her disease flowers into something much richer and profound. This is a portrait, not only of an American-Filipino family in crisis, but of an authentic artist. Maxali clearly realizes that she will get a laugh when she shares with the audience that she is being pressured by family to choose between being lola's pseudo-nurse or making her mark as the "first American-Filipino Oscar Award-winning actress." Still, Maxali drives home her real point here: When caught between one's dream and family responsibilities, there's no simple answer. True, Maxali could smooth out some her transitions as she shifts personas from lola to her dad. But this piece, as directed by Paul Stein (of Comedy Central Stage fame) is one solo show that can't be pigeonholed as narcissistic, let alone a vanity production. Maxali may never go down as that first Academy Award-winning actress, but her Forgetting the Details will surely put her on the New York theater map. At Venue #15. 75 minutes. [Donovan]

Seven Seductions of Taylor Swift
Few celebrities in recent memory have attracted as much fascination or criticism in their dating lives as Taylor Swift, who has been associated with an astounding selection of A-list movie stars and musicians, plus a Kennedy to boot. We know her side of the story—her relationships can be charted through a number of her singles from "Dear John" (about John Mayer) to "I Knew You Were Trouble" (about One Direction's Harry Styles)—but what if she were removed from the picture, and we saw her relationships through the eyes of her now-exes? Seven Seductions of Taylor Swift is an exercise in a sort of pop culture–historical fiction, where seven female writers compose a scene for each of Swift's famous flames, all of whom are played by one actor, Thaddeus Shafer. Well-edited videos by Jonny Taylor set the stage for each scene, offering a choice selection of interview, film, and performance clips that help establish a characterization of each man before he appears onstage. The scenes themselves take the form of monologues or conversations, with Swift's presence implied (or mimed). The best is Joanna Bateman's Jake Gyllenhaal vignette, performed without spoken dialogue and advanced through a text message conversation projected onto the back wall of the stage; the writing and spot-on timing combine to hilarious effect. The play's appeal probably isn't particularly broad, nor is it likely to have much staying power. It's a bit show of a particular moment in pop culture—a further fictionalization of stories already fictionalized by the paparazzi and press. But if you're the sort to indulge in such gossip every now and then, Seven Seductions is more fun than a tabloid, and the writing is much better. At Venue #17. 1 hour, 5 minutes. [Horn]

I'll Say She Is
The Marx Brothers' first Broadway show has been resurrected from the dust heap. And there's a whole lot of fun in it! How couldn't there be? After all, notable Trav S. D. (author of No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous) is at the helm, and Noah Diamond adapted the original from Will B. Johnstone's 1923 rehearsal typescript. Trav S. D. points out in his "Director's Note" in the program that the reason that this work is so unfamiliar to the general public is that "unlike his second and third Broadway shows, The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers, I'll Say She Is was never made into a film." Well, Trav S. D., with his crackerjack staging here, is surely doing his part to polish up this forgotten gem. The format is a revue that has a Cinderella-like fairytale imbedded into it (rich girl seeks thrills and gets courted by suitors). In its opening number, "Theatrical Agency," you meet an Agent and the showgirls who strut their stuff to impress him. This segues into the title song, "I'll Say She Is," with the Marx Brothers-Groucho (Noah Diamond), Harpo (Seth Shelden), and Zeppo (Aristotle Stamat)-and by far one of the best numbers in the show. The emotional temperature in the room rises dramatically when Beauty (Melody Jane) steps in and sings "Gimme a Thrill." Her "Prince Charmings" soon enough materialize and the send-up of the original tale gets comically twisted to smithereens. The ensemble is 19 members strong, and has plenty of vim and vaudeville kick. Diamond, Shelden, and Stamat, as the Marx Brothers, are in fine acting fettle here. If you don't find yourself laughing yourself into stitches (there's a Napoleon sketch in Act 2 that includes a brilliant miming of Jacques-Louis David's famous Napoleon portrait, complete with the hand-in-waistcoat gesture), it can only be that you are minus a funny bone. Make no bones about it; this romp through burlesque-style romance is a rib-tickler. While it doesn't have the dramaturgical spine of the later works, it anticipates them and allows you to see the raw early craftsmanship. What might bother some is its uproarious silliness. Yes, it does get pretty ridiculous. But the payoff is experiencing this Marx Brothers' work that you can't ever rent on video. Some musical numbers seemed more rehearsed than others. But, in general, there were no major gaffes, except of the deliciously intentional kind. Leave it to self-described classic comedy geek Trav S. D. to collaborate with Noah Diamond and excavate this "legit" work and turn it into a historic project. If you are a Marx Brothers' fan, this is a must-see. At Venue #13. 2 hours, with 1 intermission. [Donovan]

Kiss Your Brutal Hands
This two-part play, written and performed by Jim Shankman, is for those theatergoers who don't mind diving into the raw depths of suicidally-minded characters. It is about two radically different men: an Orthodox Jew named Izzy who has an office on Park Avenue, and a secular Jew Danny who lives in Tompkins Square Park. Both are in spiritual crisis and trying to come to terms with their life, religion (or lack thereof), and present situation. Except for their Jewishness, they appear to share nothing in common but their humanity and earnest search for God. Each vignette puts you right smack in the midst of their desperate situation (posing the old "to be or not to be" question) and then allows you to journey with the protagonist through the labyrinth of his interior life. Watching this twin piece is roughly the emotional equivalent of eating a broken glass sandwich on Jewish rye. Where it cuts the mustard, however, is in its acting. Shankman is truly a virtuoso when it comes to wrapping his mouth around the English language and his whole self around the American Jewish experience. In short, he doesn't disappoint when it comes to portraying these two middle-aged males who share the dilemma of being American and Jewish. "C'mon, Jesus! Be nice to the Jew boy!" says the suicidal Izzy in his corner office on Park Avenue in Part 1. "Look what the camera did to Marilyn Monroe!" says the paranoid Danny on his bench at Tompkins Square Park in Part 2. Paradoxes are peppered throughout Kiss Your Brutal Hands. I am not sure what Shankman precisely intends to communicate to his audience with his bifurcated play beyond the harsh realities of life at the top and bottom, but anybody going to this offering can't help but be impressed by his ambidextrous turn. He surely gets beneath the skin of both characters and plays them convincingly. Kiss Your Brutal Hands pulls in too many directions, needs more of a throughline in each narrative and is brutally tough to digest, as it portrays suffering that even the best chicken soup couldn't cure. Still, I would give Shankman a Star of David for his excellent acting. At Venue #12. 90 minutes. [Donovan]

Twelfth Night
Check out this musicalized Twelfth Night, and you will find that the Bard is singing in a finger-snapping folk key. It's no accident that Tony Lance, who directs here, chose this play to turn into a musical either. In his Director's Note in the program, he states that "Twelfth Night has always been a musical to me." Lance puts up a strong argument here too. After all, who can argue with him when he points out that even the play's first line sings out with a twang: "If music be the food of love, play on . . ." While you will feast on its catchy folk music and fine singing by the young attractive cast, Lance doesn't ignore that the play at large is about romantic love and how four lovers—Orsino (Andrew Start), Olivia (Lauren Wiley), and the shipwrecked twins Viola (Kate Lydic)and Sebastian (James Soller)—fall in and out of love, before discovering the real thing. The sub-plot kicks in with the comic characters of Maria (Eliza Gilbert), Sir Toby Belch (Ross Hamman), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (M. Rowan Meyer), Count Malvolio (Matt Renskers), and Feste (Adam Kampouris), who are either whipping up some tomfoolery or becoming its victim (think Malvolio). Aside from scoring with its original score (forgive my pun), this update ingeniously uses its props. A large curtain that is draped between two ladders in the opening scene inventively becomes Olivia's cape in Act 1, Scene 5, when she steps from behind its "veil" to meet Viola (in the guise of Cesario) for the first time. Another fine effect is achieved later when Malvolio, ridiculously dressed in boxer shorts and yellow cross-gartered stockings, stands within one of the ladder's steel frames and speaks to the other characters through its steel rungs. It becomes a clear snapshot of Malvolio as social climber, and effectively points up one of the play's conspicuous morals: It doesn't pay to be a pompous over-reacher. Of course, Shakespeare's plays are more than preachy parables. And this outing weighs in with plenty of bawdy stage business. While it sometimes goes over the top with its physical comedy, it generally gets what it is trying to tug from audience members: Big laughs (even if it misses some of the play's psychological subtleties). Taken as a whole, this retooling of the classic gets an "A" for its original American folk music. And it proves something else that is often overlooked: Shakespeare doesn't live by rhetoric alone. At Venue #13. 1 hour, 45 minutes, with intermission. [Donovan]

Loveness: I Will Only Love You Once
Do poets make better playwrights? Well, Craig "muMs" Grant makes quite a persuasive case with his new play Loveness: I Will Only Love You Once. This American poet, actor, and fledgling playwright is known for his turn as Arnold Jackson "Poet" on the HBO show Oz. A poet in real life too, he first gained a reputation as one of the poets on the 1996 Nuyorican Poetry Slam Team and was subsequently featured in the film documentary SlamNation. Switching his poet's hat for a playwright's doesn't seem that much of a stretch for him either. His play's dialogue, like his poetry, has natural street rhythms and cadences. While he is writing prose here, you can almost hear the poetry within the language. Oh, yes! The scenario: It revolves around two lovers, Isabelle (Meridith Nicholaev) and Carlyle (Jinn S. Kim), a Therapist (Kelly Rae), and a Bartender (Marco Greco). We first meet Isabelle and Carlyle on a first date at an upscale restaurant. As they order wine, they discuss their aspirations as artists and their future dreams. From this opening scene, the two decide to have a go at a relationship, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. The Therapist eventually steps in, and helps Isabelle sort out her feelings on her past failed relationships and her present one with Carlyle. Unlike Isabelle, Carlyle is not at home on a therapist's couch. So when he has unresolved issues, he simply breaks through the "fourth wall" and confides his deeply conflicted feelings to the audience. While it might seem out of synch at first, director Jill DeArmon blocks Isabelle's therapy sessions and Carlyle's emotional outpourings to the audience in tandem. And it works like a charm! Just when you think that Isabelle and Carlyle's relationship might go happily ever after, a bartender insinuates himself into the dramatic brew, as do the drugs and pot. It's not long before Isabelle and Carlyle's love, which was earlier blooming, begins to fade out in a hurry. It is riveting, but the one flaw in the piece is with the Therapist character and a non-sequitur that just doesn't gel with the rest of the narrative. Otherwise, the characters are fully realized and the arc of the play moves along just fine. No doubt Grant knows his poetry. And with this new theater piece on the boards, it is safe to say he knows how to put poetry into a play, and make it work. At Venue #17. 90 minutes. [Donovan]

At first this powerful two-hander appears to be an interrogation. Elegantly dressed Atefeh Nouri must be the good cop gently coaxing details from prisoner/inmate Afshin Hashemi about a murder with sexual overtones that he committed shortly after the close of the Algerian revolution (1962). He barely mutters some details before digressing about a wounded crow punctuated by idiotic laughter. The two switch roles halfway through the hour. Now it is director Hashemi speaking with a highly excitable Nouri who used her bomb-making skills she learned during the war to stave off her imminent wedding. Of the two patients, she's the more dangerous, but in her lucid moments she can also eke out perceptive questions that haunt her case worker. Both patients resist being defined solely by their deeds as they seek to humanize their interviewers via the sympathetic inquiry that they are denied. The ensemble from Iran-a first for NY Fringe-made much from Mohammad Rahmanian's script with sharp psychological portraits. Hashemi has frequently performed in the US in the past few years. At Venue #3. 1 hour. [Lipfert]

Two panhandlers learn to work together and strike it rich in show biz is the theme of Rome-based Extra Teatro's fast-moving kids' show. Andrea Trovato is fresh off the boat trying to make it big in New York. Local Jason Goodman knows the ropes but it's as a duo they get discovered and quickly move from acts on the street to radio programs, films, an Oscar and out of sight ratings on YouTube. No time to enjoy success because the cartoon Producer projected onto the back wall keeps saying, I want more, more, more. When he's hauled off for fraud, our duo takes their career-buster event philosophically. Trovato's winning mime and lively demeanor manage to overcome the marvelously unmemorable songs under Arianna De Giorgi's direction. The not-quite-bilingual English-Italian script is a great way to pick up a few words of Italian. But on the values side, it hardly seems advisable to implant in kids the 1980s goal of making the most money, a word that is repeated incessantly during the hour. At Venue #8. 1 hour. [Lipfert]

Venue Addresses

VENUE #1: Teatro SEA at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street (Rivington/Delancey)

VENUE #2: Flamboyan Theatre at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street (Rivington/Delancey)

VENUE #3: Abrazo Interno at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street (Rivington/Delancey)

VENUE #4: Teatro LATEA at the Clemente, 107 Suffolk Street (Rivington/Delancey)

VENUE #5: The Celebration Of Whimsy a.k.a. The C.O.W., 21 Clinton St. (Houston/Stanton)

VENUE #6: Connelly Theater, 220 East 4th Street (Av A/B)

VENUE #7: Theatre 80, 80 St. Marks Place (1st/2nd Avs)

VENUE #8: The Theater at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th Street (at 1st Av)

VENUE #10: The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street (2nd Av/Bowery)

VENUE #11: 64E4 MAINSTAGE, 64 East 4th Street (2 Av/Bowery)

VENUE #12: 64E4 UNDERGROUND, 64 East 4th Street (2 Av/Bowery)

VENUE #13: Sheen Center - THE LORETTO, 18 Bleecker Street (at Elizabeth)

VENUE #14: Sheen Center - THE BLACK BOX, 18 Bleecker Street (at Elizabeth)

VENUE #15: The White Box at 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette St, 3rd Floor (Astor Pl/E 4th St)

VENUE #16: Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios, 440 Lafayette St, 3rd Floor (Astor Pl/E 4th St)

VENUE #17: The Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street (West 3rd St/Bleecker)

VENUE #18: The Steve & Marie Sgouros Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street, 3rd floor (West 3rd St/Bleecker)

Overall Play:
Absolutely Filthy
The Three Faces of Dr. Crippen
This is Where We Live

Overall Musical:
Jump Man: A Mario Musical
King of Kong
Urban Momfare

Janet Prince - Murder Margaret & Me
Stephen Wallem - Bedroom Secrets
Gwendolyn Kelso - Interior: Panic
Brendan Hunt - Absolutely Filthy

Briandaniel Oglesby - Halfway, Nebraska
Catherine Yu - The Sun Experiment
Sara Cooper - Things I Left on Long Island
Daniel McCabe - The Flood
Jacob Marx Rice - Chemistry

Solo Performance:
Gary Busey's Hamlet
Magical Negro Speaks
No Static at All
The Mushroom Cure

Music & Lyrics Composition:
Elliah Helfetz - Dust Can't Kill Me

The List
No One Asked Me
Freaks: A Legend About Growing Up
Vestments of the Gods
The 8th Fold

Ashley Soliman - Fatty Fatty No Friends

Bronwen Carson - April's Fool
Gregory Kowalski - Crave

TheaterMania Audience Favorite:
Absolutely Filthy

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
2009 Fringe Report
2010 Fringe Report
2011 Fringe Report
2012 Fringe Report
2013 Fringe Report

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