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A CurtainUp Report

2000 New York International Fringe Festival

Final Edition - for award winners click here

by Les Gutman and David Lipfert

Finally | Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett | Girobira | Die Ungarische Medea | All's Well That Ends Well | Cuban Operator Please... | See Bob Run | Chronicles of Hell | Murders at Argos | Herr Schultze & Herr Schroeder | Opportunities of a Night | Ha!Hamlet | Waiting for Mr. Yeates: Maud Gonne in Exile | Teaching Shakespeare: A Parody | Muerte | Cruces | Snag | Diary of a Madman | Artaud Le Momo
Shakespeare's Stoerwork | Menu du jour - Dish of the Day | Habitos Oscuros | Dream/Play | Now the Day is Over | Play a la Turka | I Didn't Ask for Bare-Chested Men Singing Doo-Wop | Delicious Biscuit | Synchronized Swimming - the dry version | Velvet Ropes | HipHopera: WestEndOpera | The Curtain of Light | WANTED: X-Cheerleaders 

For the fourth year, New York diverts its attention from the end of August heat by creating some heat of its own. Downtown (Fringe's northernmost venue is on East 9th Street, and this year it extends all the way south to near City Hall), twenty venues host 175 productions (representing 17 states and 12 countries) over a period of twelve days. The festival runs from August 16-29, from noon to midnight. Further information, schedules and reservations are available by phoning 420-8877 or 1-888-FRINGENYC, on the web at: or or in person at Fringe Central, 196 Stanton Street (Ridge/Attorney) from Noon until 8 PM. Tickets are also available at the door at each venue, 15 minutes prior to the show. Prices: $12, reduced to $7 for kids 12 and under to FringeJR events, seniors and residents of zip code 10002. There are also passes: 5 shows for $55, 10 shows for $100 and the "Lunatic Pass," which entitles you to attend as many shows as possible for $350. 

Each year, we try to make some "sense" of Fringe, identifying trends, fads and relationships. This, of course, is inherently anti-Fringe. Fringe ought, its promoters would suggest, to defy rationalization. We try anyway. 

[Ed. Note: The author is indicated at the end of each capsule review by bracketed initials. The address of a venue is provided in its first instance only.] 

Stephen Belber is one of the talented writer-actors in this past season's The Laramie Project, but he's also an impressive playwright in his own right. We begin this year's Fringe coverage (no irony intended) with his one-person play, Finally. Like Laramie, it uses multiple voices to recount and illuminate a singular horrific event which holds within its confines a much bigger story. Also similarly, its exudes a sense of humor that lubricates the unpleasant telling. A semi-professional football player impregnates his coach's daughter, whom he later marries. He also brutally murders the coach. There's much here about love and hate, respect and violence and reaping the fields we sow. Katie Firth portrays all four characters whose perspectives we hear: the player, the coach, the daughter and, of all things, the family dog. The material is rich throughout; Firth's performances as the latter two are by far the more appealing. 1 hour, 15 minutes. At WOW, 59-61 East 4th St., 4th Flr. (Bowery/2nd). [LG] 

The full title of this show, pricelessly developed and performed by three Chicagoans, is The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett As Found In An Envelope (partially burned) In A Dustbin In Paris Labeled "Never to be performed. Never. Ever. EVER! Or I'll Sue! I'LL SUE FROM THE GRAVE!". There are seven plays (one of which they've lost), so the performance consists of six plays plus a lot of discussion of threatened litigation between these gentlemen (Messrs. Schneider, Allen and Thompson -- they seem disinclined to use their first name) and Mr. Beckett, as well as some collateral litigation between Beckett and Dame Barbara Cartland. They are "Table Talk" which involves a man who must hold up one end of a table on which rests a talking brain in a glass jar; "Not Me" which takes place mostly in the dark; a play they claim Beckett wrote as an old man, "If," in which the rocking-chair-bound character seems to know only word and for which much credit is due to the musical group "Bread"; a play Beckett is said to have penned at age 7 ("Happy Happy Bunny Visits Sad Sad Owl"); an untitled piece they call "fragment (oddly found on a balled up piece of paper seemingly written through dictation)"; and "Foot Falls Flatly" which they tell us is the best authenticated play in the bunch even though it is dated 3 years after Beckett's death. Suffice it to say you will laugh just as loud whether you love or hate Beckett. 1.5 hours. At Surf Reality, 172 Allen St. (Stanton/Rivington). [LG] 

Girabera is an improvisation-based movement piece that hails from Bilbao, performed outdoors in the courtyard of what used to be P.S. 64, now a cultural center and soon, apparently, to be a commercial development. Advance material promised an atmosphere created of fire, water and sand, but only the water (splashed out of a large garbage can for a few minutes) materialized. Despite some handsome music to listen to, a beautiful night and the absence of any words that would require familiarity with the Basque language to appreciate, the overall effect was pretty underwhelming. 55 minutes. At Charas/El Bohio, 605 East 9th Street (Avs. B/C). [LG] 

The title Die Ungarische Medea is ironic, because there are a more than a few modern twists to this adaptation of the Medea legend.  Playwright Árpad Göncz (former President of Hungary) sees Medea's predicament as a spiritual quest.  In this monologue between swigs of vodka Mada (Sabine Giesse) plays out various scenarios of meeting her soon-to-be ex-husband.  He is leaving her for a young blonde and taking their son with him.  She contemplates sending a cache of love letters from her husband to her as a wedding present to the new bride.  Telephone calls continually interrupt her musings and rantings.  Her son will never speak to her again.  An old flame tries unsuccessfully to restart their relationship.  Finally a policeman (director Thomas Dentler) unceremoniously announces that her son has just died in a traffic accident.  Downing a massive, final dose of sleeping pills with a full glass of straight vodka for good measure, she remarks, "I should have done this yesterday".  For this modern "Hungarian Medea" only an extreme solution will do -- but definitely not for the faint of heart.  Giesse hits the full spectrum of emotions in her portrayal.  Under Dentler's direction, she shows Mada as vulnerable yet defiant.  Abrupt mood changes and frequent movement about the Armando Perez playing area hold the audience's attention.  The premiere audience was emphatic in its approval.  Correction to the Fringe guide: running time is 45 minutes. At Charas/El Bohio. [DL]

Fringe Al Fresco this year has expanded to five locations for its special brand of out-door theater, weather permitting.  The Nighthouse Company does the honors for Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well.  Under David Gaard's direction, the young players commandeer the semicircular steps and overlook for this story of young love and deception.  While the original text is used, costumes are Lower East Side street wear except for a stray medieval pilgrim's cloak.  There is no backstage, so the actors are constantly in view as they prepare for their next scene or change costumes.  Look for amusing sidebar-type business that Gaard has cooked up to accompany the main action.  Allison Quinn (Helena), Demos Tsilikoudis (Bertram) and Robert Steffen anchor the comedy; David Sochet (Lavatch) in clown guise delivers some of the Bard's wittiest remarks.  Supporting cast include Randi Helle (Countess of Rossillion), Jeremy Brena (Dumain the Older) and Trish Balbert (Widow of Florence).  A versatile trio of musicians -- Slade Decker, Gome Sarig and Donna Stearns -- doubles as soldiers, sailors and courtiers.  Running time is about two hours. At Henry Street Settlement Amphitheater, 466 Grand Street (@Pitt). [DL] 

Adrian Rodriguez paints a very personal picture of the Cuban exile community in Cuban Operator Please... In a series of five monologues Abel (Omar Hernandez) describes the tormented relationship with Father (José Antonio), who is in the hospital about to die. Father emigrated from Cuba, where fear was his survival tactic, but the transition to life in the U.S. has left him taciturn and unable to show emotion.  Only when he plays baseball does his joie de vivre reappear.  Abel has inherited Father's melancholy, and his emotions remain bottled up until they come out as angry bursts, especially when brother Juan chides him for not coming to the hospital on the answering machine.  All this while Father has been sitting in his rocker, listening to everything his son has said.  Breaks in Abel's speeches allow Father to tell his side of the story in Cuban-accented Spanish.  In a touching portrayal, José Antonio shares his feelings of frustration but also his love for his family, for whom he slaves long hours in an embroidery factory in New Jersey.  Mother (Mercy Valladares) meanwhile gets to play telephone roulette, repeatedly dialing to get one of the scarce free lines to Cuba as she yells into the receiver, "Cuban operator, please."  Arian Blanco's direction clarifies the relationship between son and father and creates an intimacy between them and the audience -- an enthusiastic one at this premiere performance.  Omar Hernandez does a good job as Abel, but the honors go to José Antonio for his finely researched portrayal of aging Father. 45 minutes. At Charas/El Bohio. [DL]

Daniel MacIvor, whose Never Swim Alone dazzled at last year's Fringe Festival (returning off-off-Broadway where we reviewed it and now playing off-Broadway at Soho Playhouse), is represented this year by See Bob Run. While it lacks the unusual structure of the previous entry (it sports only a solo performer), MacIvor uses the same short blackout scenes to tell his story, another one that begins quite innocently and builds to a crescendo of emotion and recalled memories. Bob is not quite what we at first expect. For starters, Bob is a she, as in Roberta. We quickly learn this young woman is hitchhiking -- many of MacIvor's scenes find Bob talking to the invisible driver who has picked her up. MacIvor has done a fine job of character development, learning not only the specific reason she is running away (headed east, to the water) but also the psychological arc that she is following. Sophia Martin, who plays Bob, is an exceptional young Australian now working in America. She vividly negotiates Bob's fear and uncertainty while remaining spunkily naive as well as quite charming. Just over an hour. At WOW. [LG] 
Editor's Note: This show re-opened during the 2001 season at Red Room, KGB, 85 E. 4th St. --539-7866 -- through 3/01/01

A festival of black and red, Theater et al's Chronicles of Hell is a rare staging of Belgian playwright Michel de Ghelderode's controversial story of the death of a local bishop. It's filled with the usual collection of Catholic issues -- right vs. wrong, Rome vs. everything, etc. -- even a resurrection. But this company, whose version of Strindberg's Secrets of the Yellow Room at last year's Fringe Festival was a winner, gets carried away with the Gothic-ness of it all, and the result is a campy mess with few ideas other than how to sustain its chosen gimmick. It's adapted, designed and directed by Brian Rogers, so we ought to lay the blame for this at his feet, rather than on the game ensemble that effects it. When the papal nuncio says "[w]e are in the abyss," he knows whereof he speaks. The good news is it only lasts 60 minutes, not the 75 promised in the Guide. At St. Mark's Studio Theatre, 94 St. Mark's Place (1/A). [LG]

The Murders at Argos is a modern dress version of the familiar Electra/Orestia tale with the characters' psychological motivations spelled out.  David Foley's contemporary language draws intermittent chuckles, but casting and Samuel Buggein's direction are key to this production.  Orestes (T.W. Leshner) is a strapping undergrad that avenges his co-ed sisters Electra (Mistelle Comeau) and Chrysothemis (Jennifer Gembs).  So far so good, but Clytemnestra (Susan Rutledge) as a snooty society lady and Aegisthus (James A. Sturtevant) as playboy tippler are harder to take.  Best are Fred Burrell (Agamemnon) and the Old Woman of Julia McLaughlin, who shows yet again that she is one of the best character actresses in the business.  The three Furies are wild. 2 hours, 15 minutes. At Charas/ El Bohio. [DL]

Comedy duo Herr Schultze & Herr Schroeder entertain royally as only two middle-aged, gray-suited slightly idiotic business types could do.  Christian Kloempken and Andras Wiegels and Wall Street Theater bring a Laugh In-type spirit to the US after touring extensively throughout Europe.  Expect superb acrobatics, mime, juggling and impromptu sound effects.  An unfortunate volunteer gets roped in to participate in "The Ultimate Act", too breathtakingly amazing to reveal here.  The kids will like this one, too.  Correction to the Fringe guide: running time is 45 minutes. At Charas/ El Bohio. [DL]

Ed. note: David informs us German theater companies (by law?) have to put on a show that is at least 90 minutes with one obligatory intermission.  Both of the German companies he's seen 
listed their running times as 90 minutes but have performed for only the more Fringe typical 45-50 minutes. 

The past meets the present in the bedroom politics of Opportunities of a Night. Writing in 18th century France, playwright Crébillon Fils begins his late-night colloquium between a man (Chris Gunning) in a dressing gown and a woman (Mary O'Hagan) en déshabillé in her boudoir, so where can it end but in bed?  The two have complementary aims, he to prove his manhood, she to be seduced.  No less important is her acute need for intimate details about her lady friends.  The play is also a dissection of the Enlightenment and the fashion for pseudo-rationality.  Director Florence Blondeau obtains finely nuanced portrayals from the two actors in this production from Nouvelle Expérience based in Rennes, France. 1.5 hours. At Henry Street Settlement. [DL]

If there's one thing no Fringe Festival will ever be without, it is the sub-genre I would call "Fucking With the Bard". And we've reviewed our share. But Markus Zohner Theater Compagnie's two hander Ha!Hamlet is in a class by itself. Compressing but not reïnventing the story of the Prince of Denmark, Zohner and his colleague, Patrizia Barbuiani, entertain us with an extravagant physical interpretation that goes well beyond a point where Shakespeare would have feared to tread. Both are brilliant physical comedians who work together (sometimes silently, sometimes with abundant self-generated sound effects and sometimes with words -- in any language that seems handy, it seems) with the precision of a swiss clock. (They are from Lugano.) Without taking anything away from Barbuiani's fine work, Zohner is sensational: seemingly in charge of every involuntary muscle in his body, whether it is the one controlling his eyeballs (which disappear when he plays The Ghost and appear frighteningly askew as Gertrude approaches death), the shape of his face or the configuration of the long fingers on his remarkably expressive hands. Their rendition of "Gonzago's Murder" and of the confusion of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are by far my most memorable ever. This production included two things that are unusual at fringe: an intermission and (at the performance I attended) a standing ovation. 2 hours. At University Settlement, 184 Eldridge (Rivington/Delancey). [LG]

Waiting for Mr. Yeates: Maud Gonne in Exile is set just as the poet is about to rejoin the activist in Normandy and accompany her to her adopted country, Ireland, after twelve years in exile.  Their relationship -- very long-term and mostly platonic -- encompassed the glories of Celtic culture including mysticism and poetry.  Helen Calthorpe offers a masterful portrayal of Maud Gonne, at once stately and passionate.  Director Gyavira Lasana evokes Gonne's indomitable spirit via lively movement.  His lighting design, including a golden glow to represent the "Celtic twilight" of Irish mythology, is unusually varied.  Lasana also authored the well-researched text.  This is clearly a subject close to his heart, because he is a poet in his own right.  A remarkable performance and an important story superbly told. 55 minutes. At St. Mark's Studio Theatre [DL]

In Teaching Shakespeare: A Parody, Keir Cutler appears to be following Anna Russell, who got the funniest texts imaginable merely by quoting from the most deadly serious sources.  Cutler probably didn't need to delve much into literature on Shakespeare to find inflated pronouncements like: "Departure from pattern is character!", which he delivers with mock gravitas.  The audience is his college class -- maybe the last one for a while due to their devastatingly honest evaluations of his teaching abilities.  In between elucidating each variant of iambic pentameter, he pleads for more charitable ratings.  Whether inspired teacher or mere "Bardoliter"/frustrated actor is up for grabs as Cutler glibly slides between Hamlet and King Lear, then doubling back to Macbeth.  While his Canadian brand of humor starts out almost too subtly for American audiences, by the end he has everyone laughing heartily. 50 minutes. At Charas/El Bohio.  [DL]

Muerte is a fine example of Latin America street theater.  In this stunning piece set amid a ring of crosses, Me xihc co Teatro evokes not only Death -- central to Mexican culture -- but also life and hope.  So many men have lost their lives trying to cross into the US after being abandoned by unscrupulous coyotes that only wanted their money.  The women left behind in Mexico are left to mourn not only these men but also their children that never reach adolescence.  Using poetry by Jaime Sabines, Juan Rulfo, María Morett, Violeta Parra and Carlo Bernal, the players recount their sorrows that Fate has dealt them.  Precision timing for interjecting musical selections by Pablo Flores and others heightens the players' impact.  The most magical moment comes as three men begin a traditional dance (pre-Hispanic choreography by Koatl Ilhuicatl) and their long shadows dance in tandem across the Charas/El Bohio courtyard walls in Alvaro Hegewisch's lighting scheme.  At the center of the presentation is María Morett, a powerhouse of a performer -- dramatic and touching and with a superb voice.  The other players divide their time between the bare cobblestone courtyard and the ledges outside first-floor windows at Charas/El Bohio cultural center.  Toward the end a glisteningly white angel (Alvaro Hegewisch) slowly descends from the roof four stories above to grant solace to the tortured archetypal characters.  Even if you don't understand Spanish, you will feel the impact of this powerful spectacle and be bowled over by the visual images. One hour and 15 minutes under the stars at Charas/El Bohio courtyard.  [DL]

Cruces utilizes many of the same elements as Me xihc co Teatro's other Fringe production, Muerte, but the result is rather mechanical.  Poetry, mime, acrobatics and dance combine to tell the story of lost souls seeking deliverance.  Co-directors María Morett and Alvaro Hegewisch dip into pre-Columbian culture for some of their images, but there is a bit of the ever-popular lucha libre and even a nod to Frida Kahlo in two angels with antler wings that descend on cables anchored from the Charas/El Bohio roof four stories above.  In Spanish language cruz (cross) refers to a key Christian emblem and also the burden of pain and suffering that humans carry in this life.  A confrontation between eternally dammed Judas Chaman (Dagoberto Gama) weighted down by a massive burlap sack and bloody Christ of the Street (Alvaro Hegewisch) lugging a wood for his cross brings the two concepts together.  From a pool of water is born a nude Hope figure, who is ceremoniously wrapped in a white sheet and carried off.  Two women suspended high above the ground scurry across the facade, De La Guarda-style.  Although there is much to enjoy on the visual side, this show lacks the emotional cohesion of the more-successful Muerte in spite of the performers' theatricality.  1 hour, 15 minutes. At Charas/El Bohio courtyard.  [DL]

Starting at the Sydney Festival, and garnering raves at last summer's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Snag arrives in New York not only with a pedigree but with a finely-tuned script and a practiced solo performer as well. An advertising executive, Lloyd (Nicholas Papademetriou) thought he had packaged his home life as well as the marketing campaign for a brand-name product until he discovered his wife was having an affair. As he hunkers down for the tribulations of a divorce, he searches for solace from people as diverse a co-worker and his dentist. He ends up in a lot of places, none more curious than a group for men trying to reclaim their masculinity. The play's best moments are his impersonations of the men he meets there: the vegan Buddhist group leader (priceless), a hardcore Aussie named Wayne and his dentist, Morris Goldman. Plenty of "real" issues bubbling just below the surface here, but this time it's all just good fun. 1 hour, 10 minutes. At St. Mark's Studio Theatre. [LG]

Diary of a Madman is a fine new dramatization of the famous Gogol short story, performed by Daniel Fergus Tamulonis, Cheryl Blaylock and John Finch with Bunraku puppets. With Tamulonis representing the central character (as narrator), we learn of Poprischin's saga. A middle-aged civil servant, he falls head over heels for the daughter of the Director of his Department, and his mind takes matters in its own hands. After some wonderful encounters involving two dogs that speak and write, he realizes the impediments his station will have on his designs. Not to worry: reading there is a dispute as to the heir to the Spanish throne, he imagines himself the King of Spain, a notion of which he's not about to be disabused. It's a poignant and bittersweet story, made overwhelmingly compelling by the wonderful puppets designed by the play's director (and co-adaptor), Richard Termine. This project emanates from the National Puppetry Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, and for puppet lovers who can't wait for next month's Puppet Festival, not to be missed. 45 minutes. At Rod Rodgers Studio, 62 East 4th Street (Bowery/2nd). N.B. Try to sit as close to the center as possible! [LG]

For anyone reading these reviews in order, kindly don't read anything into the similarities between Artaud Le Momo and Diary of a Madman. It's true Artaud was a madman, and it's true (at least here) that he too fancied himself a monarch (Tiberius Caesar, who ruled Rome at the time of Jesus), but it's really there that the similarities end. We're treated here to a fine performance by Louis Vuolo in the title role. His Artaud conveys the man's poisoned mind and drug and illness ravaged body persuasively, avoiding the sort of exaggeration that would be tempting. The play takes place in the asylum at Rodez, France, and also features a doctor (Andrew Dawson) and a nurse (Jocelyn Druyan), both of whom could use some of the electroshock therapy they seem anxious to visit on Artaud. Druyan, too, is quite convincing in the sleazy role she's been assigned. There's a lot of provocation -- sexual and otherwise -- all around, as well as the looming arrival of Artaud's mother to take him home, the significance of which is only briefly observed. I have no idea how much of this is true, but I do know of at least two other plays that take Artaud's asylum stays as their subject. I'm not sure this one adds much, and I haven't even mentioned the peyote dream sequences. A good staging of a fairly meaningless play. 55 minutes. At Collective: Unconscious, 145 Ludlow Street (Stanton/Rivington). [LG]

Shakespeare's Stoerwork (The Irritation Factor) may show the most unusual survival job of all, testing new drugs.  A one-in-a-million reaction to a placebo -- or so says the doctor in charge -- has Shakespearean actor Leopoldo (Thomas Franke) keeping very near to his bathroom facilities for the almost continuous call of nature during the previous 22 hours.  This couldn't have happened at a worse time, for our Leopoldo is just is about to perform his breakthrough role as Richard III.  Franke gives off fiendish looks as he describes unscrupulous doctors and incompetent colleagues.  He dashes about in cape and crown, ready to go onstage but for this temporary inconvenience.  During one of Leopoldo's stays in a hospital for a clinical trial, he arrived without his scripts he hoped to memorize.  No problem for this motivated thespian, who instead memorized the inserts in his test medicines.  Now as abandoned as Richard III, he rails at his condition: "My kingdom for an antidote!"  In his hands he holds the magic pill from the drug company that will let him take his place in the annals of Shakespeare greats.  One slip and it's all down the toilet. This is one of the best solo performances in this year's Fringe, and Martin Schnick's direction brings out Franke's raw theatrical energy.  A nominal-cost English translation will ensure that you don't miss any of Martin Rubin's German text, rich in irony both about the medical industry and the theater.  The Shakespeare portions are in English in this production by Art off! 1 hour. At WOW Cafe. [DL]

Menu du jour - Dish of the Day is a slightly offbeat monologue about food and people, all told with polished mime.  Samuel Sommer brings his ironic Swiss humor to Fringe to talk about, of all things, the Swiss-designed fiberglass cows soon to leave Manhattan streets.  After commenting on a few other topics using the past few days' blaring New York Post headlines, he arrives at his main theme, a romp through the culinary landscape.  He does the honors starting with an aperitif of peculiar people at the bar, but them moves quickly to his main dish, spaghetti.  With his body Sommer impersonates the pasta strands as they gradually begin to soften and finally reach al dente stage.  After a few more courses, he offers the audience the chance to choose the dessert.  At this performance, he mimed whipping up crêpe batter, which he then poured onto the griddle.  Due to an overly energetic flip, these poor crêpes got stuck on the ceiling.  Sommer's expressive eyes and subtle body language combine for a charming show. 1 hour. At WOW Cafe.  [DL]

Teatro Company pokes fun at the Chilean establishment with their delightful Habitos Oscuros -- the title a Spanish word play meaning "dark (nuns') habits".  Inside the Convent of the Humiliated Redeemers are coke-snorting sisters that pen bodice rippers on the side.  The arrival of an egregious sinner in the guise of pop singer Yolanda (Lorena Arriagada) occasions outlandish displays of hospitality replete with plentiful stash.  The only problem is that Jolanda wants to go straight, an impossible goal among these perverted religious.  A subplot has curiously elegant Marquesa de Patagonia (José Miguel De La Cruz) in a vain attempt to relocate her daughter Virginia, who has escaped abroad.  Mother Superior Ramona (Paula Leoncini) makes an unexpected inspection visit, but luckily no one seems disposed toward anything but enjoyment of life, and all ends happily. As in most Latin American theater it is the subtext that is key.  Until recently there has been no way to effectively criticize the powers that be in Chilean society, and some areas still remain off limits.  This piece, developed by Matias O'Donnell with Frenesi company members, represents a small beginning in this regard.  Director O'Donnell shows his sure sense of comedy to keep the action lively without descending into the ridiculous.  He makes an effective use of choreographed movement for the sisters: Ximena Rodriguez, Macarena Darrigrandi, Javiera Miranda and Erika Solar.  Throughout the evening, talented Pablo Araya does some nifty improvisations on the bass.  1 hour, 20 minutes. At Charas/El Bohio [DL]

Conceived and directed by Anna Zastrow, Dream/Play is inspired by August Strindberg's A Dreamplay.  Zastrow uses physical theater to express the complexity of relationships between men and women that per Strindberg are nearly impossible to resolve in this world.  Dance interludes relieve philosophical meditation, and solo and duo moments alternate with group scenes in a nice balance.  The young players of Loka Maer theater deliver the enigmatic text with strong, clear voices.  The production is well-rehearsed as evidenced by the excellent coordination among the energetic actors.  Lucrecia Briceno's atmospheric lighting design is one of the most interesting in this year's Fringe. 1 hour, 15 minutes. At Charas/El Bohio [DL]

Have you ever daydreamed about more pleasant environs while jammed on the subway during rush hour? A stunning piece of theater from Toronto, Now the Day is Over, does. It also presents this reviewer with a challenge: to describe it without sending a lot of people running for the hills: (1) it's poetic, (2) it relies heavily on eccentric physical interpretation and (3) it is "sourced" in Virginia Woolf's difficult novel, The Waves (one of those books you've read, if at all, because you had a particularly mean English professor). There. I've said it and I hope I haven't scared you off yet? It's garnered very positive reviews north of the border but had I read them before I seeing the show, they would have frightened me (e.g., a "delicate balancing act between the oblique and the visceral".) But for all its meditative intellect, this is one of the most interesting and original shows I've seen this year (conjuring up for me in several respects the superb Contact at Lincoln Center). It also has by far the most impressive original score (by Patric Caird) of any show I've seen this year. The thoughts of The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit (Erik Kever Ryle) flourishes as he rides home from his mundane office job. Alas, he's really a poet. He comes in contact with three women (Melinda Little, Siobhan Power and Sarah Weatherwax); his imagination propels him foreward and backward in their lives as well as his own. All four performances are engaging and sharp, and Allyson McMackon, responsible for both the adaptation and direction of this (in her own words) "infusion of beauty and imagination into the everyday," has provided us a firmly-rooted but exotic gem. 55 minutes. At St. Mark's Studio Theatre. [LG]

Yesim Ozsoy Gulan's <Play a la Turka> is a humorous representation of the upheaval in performing arts that occurred when modern Turkey was established in 1923.  In the theater, Shakespeare replaced the familiar stories told with shadow puppets.  Gulan puts old and new together onstage, but they cannot talk to one another.  Storyteller Meddah (Mehmet Sinan) can speak only Turkish, but the two Translators (Jerilyn Sackler/Leila J. Babson) can't find his lines.  Decked out in bright colors, shadow puppets Karagoz (Ugur Ugural) and Hacivat (Amir Arison) can only talk to each other and move in jerky fashion.  On the modern side, a young couple (Ali Nakhai/Andromache George) reads Romeo and Juliet aloud.  Master of Ceremonies Pisekar (Robert Kiernan) in Ottoman dress tries in vain to bring order to the proceedings.  Muses and belly dancers compete for attention while a pair of Gossiping Women (Adile Istarki/Francesca Luppolo) take note of all.  Gulan, who has researched Turkish entertainment history, knows that it is well nigh impossible to revive the old forms, but the past is not entirely forgot either.  The sensitive coexistence of old and new is happily resolved when all the players join for an upbeat finale.  There was a tentativeness during this opening night performance, but the comedy should come into more focus during the current run.  Gulan's direction could be improved by incorporating greater movement on stage and more by-play among the characters.  Robert Kiernan is unfortunately too weak for the key role of Pisekar.  Ani Pertan's costumes are delightful, but the rest of the production perhaps suffers from Fringe technical constraints.  Throughout the play an amusing video by Genco Gulan and Mevlut Akkaya introduces each of the characters in turn as they incongruously roam along Manhattan streets and rooftops. 1 hour. At Charas/El Bohio [DL]

I Didn't Ask for Bare-Chested Men Singing Doo-Wop gains its name from the sentiment of Abigail (Robin Poley), the woman at the center of this poor excuse for a play. Well, I didn't ask for this either, but it's the kind of production that feeds one's worst fears of what Fringe could be. There's not much point in relating details of its pointless plot or frighteningly clumsy staging. Two of the performers, Ms. Poley and James A. Walsh, do work far above what this show deserves and they rightfully should be commended. And yes, there are indeed three brave souls who take their shirts off and sing doo-wop. 65 minutes. At Charas/El Bohio. [LG] 

Delicious Biscuit - give him a minute he'll do it again brings together smart artists from several disciplines, people whose work has been seen downtown in experimental theater companies like the Ontological Theatre and The Builder's Association as well as in various dance venues. The result here, written and directed by Holly Twining, is a suite of scenes -- at once charming, sardonic and just simply funny -- that read as a roomful of playful paintings suddenly set in motion (and infused with enough juicy metaphors to seed a second edition of Elyse Sommer's Metaphors Dictionary). Great work by Kelly Aucoin, Carolyn Hall, Jesse Hawley, Jeff Morey, Sasha Soreff, Holly Twining (in performance as well!) and especially Akiko Maruyama. Tony Torn is seen on videotape during the interludes between scenes. Sit back, relax, enjoy. 45 minutes. At Charas/El Bohio. [LG]

Ursus & Nadeschkin are liars.  Big time.  Before they start their show, they go around the audience shaking everyone's hand and saying their good-byes because they have to zip out to JFK immediately at the end.  The funny thing is that everyone believes them.  Synchronized Swimming - the dry version refers to where they met.  Tryouts for the Swiss national team were scheduled, only there wasn't any water in the pool.  It's a preposterous story, but again everyone believes them -- or sort of.  It's hard to look Nadeschkin without laughing.  Her signature yellow overalls, vacant look and Medusa-like mop of blonde-highlighted hair belie a sharp tongue.  Ursus is more composed, but he loses it the moment she begins verbal sparring.  She throws a temper tantrum but then relents.  Still, whatever they say, people believe.  Their act has undergone some modifications since they were at Fringe in an abbreviated run two years ago.  (Even back then they probably lied about when they would come.)  There is still some ironic juggling with balls seemingly dangling in the air.  The strand of three oversized confetti that Ursus pulls from his jacket is the same, too.  Best of all, people still laugh from start to finish with these magnificent liars.  1 hour, 20 minutes. At The Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street (2nd/Bowery). [DL]

Two ordinary guys are at a contemporary art museum trying their best to puzzle the "art" and the labels out.  They conclude that if it's behind the Velvet Ropes, it's art.  Too bad that Joshua Scher skitters over the surface of what is a great theme.  His play is composed of brief vaudeville-like scenes in which the pair comment on what they see and don't see in each painting followed by blackouts.  (Matt Urban's choice of klezmer William Tell Overture was a good match.)  The choppiness soon becomes tiring and the gags get stale.  It's too bad that Scher didn't stick to the topic, because there is a lot of humor to mine there.  In this case, name dropping (any of the Abstract Impressionists would do) could have gotten some knowing laughs.  Some turgid art modern criticism or intermittent alarm screeches would have been on the mark, too.  Better gift shop and floor plan jokes would have helped keep the museum theme alive when interest begins to flag toward the end of the long 70 minutes.  The basketball sequences are mostly non-sequiturs, and Scher's malapropisms aren't quite funny enough.  Maybe we could have been spared a smelly fart or two.  Matt August's direction mostly makes up for these shortcomings by clarifying the movement between art works and milking this particular kind of humor.  Successfully arranging and rearranging the velvet ropes at the end per the script is probably beyond anyone's directorial skills.  As Everyone and Everybody, Royden Mills and Jonathan Uffelman achieved good rhythm in their rapid-fire exchanges.  Three non-speaking actors in stocking-over-the-head á la Met Costume Institute disguise completed the cast.  Velvet Ropes is part of a five-play series co-sponsored by Fringe and the Drama League Directors Project.  At Schaeberle Studio Theater/Pace University, 41 Park Row (across from City Hall). [DL]

HipHopera: WestEndOpera is about youth culture, but there is little in common with the revolutionary movements of 1968 or the Vietnam War protests in America when young people united to propose radical changes to society.  Apart from two dramatic cases, the characters did not have any of the personal crises or idealism that would draw in a sympathetic audience.  Close to two dozen teenagers are holed up in an abandoned building, trying their best to hold out until their home away from home is torn down.  Christmas and sentimental holiday cheer come and go, but the inevitable happens anyway.  Meanwhile Serap still faces an arranged marriage in a country (Turkey) she does not know, while Sarah will be back living with the father that abused her.  Otherwise the maximum the others might endure are curfew and a few dress rules, give or take a few things that would have happened wherever they were living.  The phrase "hip hop" in German refers to youth culture in general and has none of the US socio-economic implications.  What is missing is any edge in the show's concept, a group of kids at the mall in 2040 recalling what happened to a similar bunch in 1999.  Division into two argumentative factions comes off as artificial.  An artistic team of seven under Ulrich Glaess created this musical in partnership with a cast of unemployed young performers.  Onstage are several well-trained, rather spectacular dancers and a singer of note.  The mixture of American-inspired, European-modified pop music is pleasant and the choreography achieves many high points.  Costuming and lighting are well-conceived.  Missing is a sense of purpose for this band of youth.  Maybe reconciliation in the group between traditional enemies like Turks and Kurds or playing out gender issues would have helped.  Resolving Muslim-Christian disharmony, shown in a negative and superficial way in this show, could be an interesting avenue to explore.  HipHopera has enjoyed particular success in Germany. 2 hours. At Henry Street Settlement.  [DL]

The history of the silver screen, The Curtain of Light, is the topic of Chris Ajemian's new show about the nature of movies.  A trio of couples represent three ages of cinema: pioneer Georges Méliès plus associate in 1895, an actor and actress out for fame in the first talkies and a present-day pair.  In short scenes developed by Ajemian with the cast different eras intermix to tell this story with humor.  Remarkably, the crutch of projections is avoided in favor of wordless movement sections that explore the time/space warp experience that is cinema.  Designer Craig Grigg uses the simplest of furniture -- chairs and an aluminum door frame; still to come are more interesting costumes and lighting.  In this capable cast Bryan Richards stands out for his spontaneity and character projection.  Ajemian and Lella Howland might consider toning down her in-the-face Southern character.  A version of this show was presented this past June in the Connecticut International Festival of Arts & Ideas. 1 hour, 30 minues. At Context, 28 Avenue A ((2/3).  [DL]

Women may have achieved liberation but consciousness raising is still off in the future.  That is the sad message of Kim Irwin's WANTED: X-Cheerleaders.  Ten alumnae cheerleaders and a marching band of two revel in Jody Oberfelder's revisionist routines, but it is Irwin's Redbook-inspired text that disturbs.  Maybe the perfect flaky biscuit doesn't have to be the aim of every maturing female, but the need to develop a matchless repertory of sexual positions robs women of their independence just as effectively.  Advance publicity promised an in-depth look at the psychological side of cheerleading, but Irwin's examination is superficial.  Irwin herself is quite a zany type, while the remainder are disappointingly normal for a parody.  The show begins with snide video interviews with aging North Carolina ex-cheerleaders.  The audience at this performance got the message and snickered accordingly.  Why did cheerleading die?  Irwin proposes feminism/lesbianism, but distrust of institutions in the aftermath of the Vietnam War protests and societal divisions caused by the ethnic movement may be closer to the mark.  You've still got a long way to go, baby. 55 minutes. At Context.  [DL]
Winners of Fringe 2000 Overall Excellence Awards
[as awarded by the Festival organizers] 

C.V.R. (Charlie Victor Romeo)
Girl Under Grain

Synchronized swimming - the dry version
The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett As Found in an Envelope (partially burned) In A Dustbin in Paris Labelled: "Never to be Performed. Never. Ever. EVER! Or I'll Sue! I'LL SUE FROM THE GRAVE!!!

Solo Show
Todd Robbins' Carnival Knowledge
Teaching Shakespeare: A Parody

Tiny Ninja Theater Presents MACBETH

Emma Griffin - Stage Door
Erica Schmidt - As You Like It

Music Direction
Andy Cohen - The City Wears A Slouch Hat

As If About to Fall

Sophia Martin - See Bob Run
Thomas Franke - Shakespeare's Stoerwork
Pam Sabaugh - Woman In Animal Kingdom

Stephen Belber - Finally
Christina Gorman - DNA

Ensemble Performance
Pictures Of Oscar
Why Mudflaps?

Sound Design
Jamie Mereness & Kevin Reilly - C.V.R. (Charlie Victor Romeo)

Set Design
Margaret K. McCarty - To Sirloin With Love: A Meat Opera
Alex Dawson - W C

Costume Design
Erin Marcel - Super Eros

Audience Favorite
All's Well That Ends Well
Menstruation, Manipulation, Mutilation; Herstory

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