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EDITOR'S NOTE: This is FringeNYC's 5th year, and the two-edged question is, does that mean the downtown festival has started to grow up? It's certainly getting bigger -- this year there are 198 different shows presented over 15 days at 20 venues, translating into about 1200 performances -- and it's getting more media attention and audiences than ever before. It can even boast a Broadway transfer (previews for Urinetown, which began its life at Fringe, will compete with this year's Fringe). A quick look at this year's Fringe offerings suggests that its higher profile has not altered its mission. There are plenty of shows with titles and descriptions suggesting they are Fringe-worthy. These include multiple shows about contemporary events (the aftermath of the Columbine shootings for one), and also a gaggle of shows taking odd looks at the works of old masters.

Many people do their show-picking on the fly, but readers are advised to consider making reservations for popular shows that don't want to miss. The festival runs from August 10-26, with starting times 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.

As we see the shows, this page will be updated. Check back often. The last name of the author of each capsule review is indicated at the end of the review in brackets. The address of a venue is provided in its first instance only.

A CurtainUp Report
2001 New York International Fringe Festival

by Les Gutman, David Lipfert and David Lohrey

Updated: August 23, 2001
Check back for updates which will be added most every day during Fringe 2001.

La Ultima Puerta | Si la gente quiere comer carne... | Deep in the Jeeps of Georgia | Desmond or Abraham and Frances | La Fábrica | Teaching Detroit | Loader #26 | Leaf in the Mailbox | Often I Find that I am Naked | One Drives While the Other Screams | Dear Laura (art installation) | Kautsch | Life's Call | I'm Bangin' in the Kitchen or...Hi Honey, I'm Home! | Tarnish | Chocolate in Heat: Growing Up Arab in America | Never Live Long in Cages | The Post Office | Nikolai Gogol’s The Nose | A Touch of the Poe | Man at Work | Feast | School for Salomés | Snow Queen | Scarpette Rosse | Jim Carroll's The Basketball Diaries | SIC. | Doing Justice | 21 Dog Years: Doing Time @ | The Adding Machine | In the Loneliness of the Cotton Field | L'Hiver Sous La Table | Biography's Top Ten People of the Millenium Sing Their Favorite Kurt Weill Songs | Worry Days | Row of Tents |

Nineteenth-century poet Salomé Ureña’s tragic life is on view in Isaac Polanco’s La Ultima Puerta at Red Room. In spite of ill health and frequent, painful absences by her husband, Ureña produced celebrated nationalist poetry and founded an institute for young women’s higher education. We see her in her final days, with a wracking asthma cough. Two visions posing as visitors remind her of the two greatest trials of her life. Resentful and condescending Domingo Corrupcion represents the Establishment that she challenged in her works and words; an adults-only segment has a French female libertine flaunting her affair with Ureña’s husband Francisco while he was studying in Paris. Letters to Francisco reveal her deep feelings, which sometimes appeared in her poetry. Sol Crespo shows off Polanco’s extended, finely-drawn portraits with the aid of slight costume and hair adjustments. Especially fine is what must be the most challenging character—bossy Corrupcion, but Ureña’s strength of character eludes her. Some of this may be because Polcanco as director relies too heavily on literalism—especially the coughing sequences—to convey Ureña’s personality. Those unfamiliar with Ureña’s writings might also feel shortchanged that Polanco as playwright gives more space to biography than literary achievements. Rie Ono’s lighting design is a model of what can be accomplished under "Fringe" conditions. Teatro Artificios presented La Ultima Puerta in a brief run at Red Room in June. (Performed entirely in Spanish, but detailed English plot summary available.) At Red Room, 85 East 4th Street (2nd/Bowery). 1 hour. [Lipfert]

The title of Si la gente quiere comer carne, le damos carne a comer. If The People Want To Eat Meat, Let Them Eat Meat. The Remarkable Story of My Brother comes from the ever-quotable Fidel Castro in one of his more ironic moments. Antonio Sacre’s thoughts are far away from wanting to support the Cuban Revolution or bringing it down. In what may be his most personal monologue to date, he is thinking about his brother Henry’s scrapes with the law and with fate. This is about life in the fast lane, but it has a happy ending; otherwise Sacre might not tell it. One thing led to another for Henry, in spite of his caring, mixed-heritage Cuban-Irish family, each member of which Sacre illustrates with appropriate accent and Magic-marker illustration on a large whiteboard at the back. Henry’s small-time misdeeds turned into a large-time drug-running conviction, the first that his "friends" couldn’t somehow undo. Now Henry trains for the next triathalon, and hopefully stays out of trouble. At times Sacre’s rapid-fire delivery takes precedence over communicating a glut of details about his family, but even that begins to be funny. Also he is no artist, and his incessant committing yet another stick figure to represent a member of his extended family turns annoying after a while. In the end it is Sacre’s basic humanity that engages the audience rather than the story. Director Brian Mendes adds movement and variety to Sacre’s already animated delivery. (A note on language: each new section of the monologue begins in Spanish, which Sacre translates and then continues in English.) At Red Room. 1 hour, 5 minutes. [Lipfert]

Beneath the "redneck" culture in the rural Deep South -- we're along the border between Alabama and Georgia here -- there's an ugliness that's almost incomprehensible to much of the rest of the world. Usually, when we hear about it, it's wrapped in Confederate flags and Ku Klux Klan robes. Alex Draper's Deep in the Jeeps of Georgia sidesteps these familiar markers and takes us instead to the breeding grounds of hatred and disrespect for human life where a group of popular local teens glorify this mindset, and even wrap it in religious terms. Their emblems include guns, jeeps, booze and proudly misogynistic sex. It's a harrowing, offensive portrait of what, in program notes, Dawson calls "relentless inhumanity". Jane Hardy ably guides a talented cast that brings Dawson's trenchant but awful story to the stage convincingly. It's one of those plays that will show you things you don't want to see. But you should. At Red Room. 1 hour. [Gutman]

That scandalous circumstances often give rise to subject matter for plays cannot be gainsaid. That purports to be the inspiration for Desmond or Abraham and Frances. In the early 20th Century, Philadelphia let developers build houses on landfill. By the 1980's, many of these houses were sinking so precariously, familes who had lived in this manufactured neighborhood for several generations were forced to move out. Worse still, some of the houses remain occupied. While this might be the grist for a playwright's mill, this one fails to live up to any such potential. It strives for art preciously, but delivers nothing of substance. It's a theater-cliché ridden mess that tries to mix a family story with a presentation of facts (mostly by having Abraham (Jessica Pagan) read newspaper articles into a microphone, sometimes while the other two characters are trying to deliver either the play's skimpy dialogue or some other presentational mishmash). The staging, moreover, is unnecessarily dense. Sorry, but this one seems destined for the landfill itself. At Paradise, 64 East 4th Street (2nd/Bowery). 45 minutes. [Gutman]

In Fringe 2000 Adrian Rodriguez centered his Cuban Operator Please on his father's difficult personality, the product of post-Revolution emigration from Cuba and an exploitative work situation in a factory in New Jersey. Now in La Fábrica he shows what it is like on the inside of this archetypal factory. Emilio (David I. Maldonado), Francisco (Xavier Domingo) and Ramón (José Antonio) have one way or another made it from Cuba to New Jersey. These Cubans are serious and hardworking-the opposite of the more familiar Miami rabble-rousers. Their jobs are mindless but they pay the rent, and in Ramón's case support a family. Each is conflicted and frustrated, but Ramón has the additional burden of an acute lung cancer diagnosis. Tensions explode at the job, and company manager Jimmy (John C. Cunningham) fires Emilio. Rodriguez frames this moment with glimpses at their situations in Cuba before exile and an epilogue of each getting up in the morning. There is a long tradition of dramas about the working-class, but the successful ones embody a social philosophy plus show the characters' humanity. Neither point is a strong one in La Fábrica. There might be a good play here, but more dramatically logical connection is needed between the brief moments in Cuba and the culmination in New Jersey. Arian Blanco's direction is only rudimentary, and he robs the key factory scene of effectiveness by placing it all the way upstage. Lighting design is token even by Fringe standards. José Antonio is appropriately driven, but as his younger co-worker Maldonado is opaque. Playing a variety of women foils for the men, Mercy Valladares fails to create complete characterizations except as a domineering police interrogator. Xavier Domingo's subtlety seemed out of place among Rodriguez's strong, clear-cut characters. Thorough professional, Domingo was the only one to effectively communicate that the setting was a cold winter's day in the steamy, un-air-conditioned theater. (Performed mostly in Spanish with plot summary in English.) At Paradise. 1 hour. [Lipfert]

In Teaching Detroit, Keir Cutler is still playing the prof at this year's Fringe, albeit a more desperate one. The up-and-coming literature instructor has lost the tenure track he had in Teaching Shakespeare: A Parody. Now he is at a lowly community college before an unresponsive class, and the topic of the day is his unpublished novel Detroit. It is a sad affair-almost as sad as the prof's personal life-so it's no wonder that nobody has bought the xeroxed text. As he begins reading segments for them (and us), Cutler offers his deprecating commentary on life in Detroit, where everything costs only $5. Even if you know that things have improved substantially and/or were never that bad, it's still funny. Guns, drugs, SROs, and cheap sex are evenly distributed on a post-nuclear-holocaust landscape. The three main characters slosh their way through a text so turgid that it finally becomes amusing. Much hectoring and a temper tantrum later, class is dismissed, having covered the worst novel ever written. Cutler is at his funniest when he leers and gesticulates at the assembled company, but there are too many dull moments when theatrical tension lags in spite of the hilarious text. Also to blame was an unresponsive audience, maybe done in by the airless space. At Downtown Variety Lounge at Present Company, 196-198 Stanton Street (Attorney/Ridge). 1 hour. [Lipfert]

Al Deeks (Keith Stevens) is just implementing company policy in the Damco warehouse: equipment must be rotated. Buddy (Derek Straat) is not about to knuckle under so easily-he wants HIS loader, #26, the one he keeps in tip-top shape. Co-worker and prime annoyance Guy (Brett Christensen) does a bang-up job at mediating, twisting the discussion just before things get too hot. He knows everyone's hot button and can run intellectual rings around them. He should, because he was a phil/poly sci double major and is vastly overqualified to be operating a lifter. To Buddy, he says he can't work there without him and it's better at Damco than in jail. Deeks gets the full treatment, and to a "let's work for the company" line, Guy calls him a Commie. Red in the face, Deeks yells about his twelve years in the Army reserves. Finally it is clear that Guy is only postponing the inevitable. Buddy trashes Deeks's office/cage, and Deeks calls Security to throw him out. Roberto Marinas has produced a clever script that is a howl from start to finish. Brett Christensen is first-rate at showing his character's dorky persona plus quick mind. Keith Stevens is fine as the supervisor, but Derek Straat is energetic but opaque as an actor. Director Vijay Matthews effectively underlines the rapid mood changes and comic absurdities. At a running time of 35 minutes, Loader #26 is a better bet than some of the long-winded entries in Fringe 2001. At Cino Theater at Theater For the New City, 155 First Avenue (9/10 Streets). 35 minutes. [Lipfert]

A Montreal Fringe award winner from a young company called Untimely Ripped, Leaf in the Mailbox is a humorous, surprising tale about the elusive nature of things like young love and respect. The script, rich in dialogue, is appealing. Ernest (Elan Zafir, also the playwright) lives with his aging Bubby (Amy Marvaso, heard but not seen), has a smug, spoiled girlfriend, Allison (Amy Noël) and a pot-smoking, backgammon-playing, internet matchmaking (and Penelope Cruz)-obsessed buddy, Brandon (Andrew Farrar, also the director). A new neighbor girl, Sally (Larah Bross), appears, and befriends his Bubby, coming over often to play the piano for her. Ernest also has a recurring dream, and a particularly unpleasant memory, both of which have to do with playing the piano. The staging may be a bit clumsy, and the play may have a few weak spots (to name a couple, a parlor game the four onstage actors play doesn't make a lot of sense, and neither does that leaf in the mailbox -- Sally put it there), but it's a strong entry that reveals quite a bit of talent. Performances are solid, Zafir's warmly inccocent one especially so, and the production makes good and clever use of a wide variety of music. At Experimental Theater at Henry Street Settlement, 466 Grand Street (@ Pitt). 1 hour. [Gutman]
[N.B. The Henry Street Settlement may seem at the fringe of the Fringe, but it's quite accessible -- a few blocks walk from the F train at either Delancey/Essex or East Broadway. For those desiring less exercise, the 14th Street bus (M14) passes directly in front of the complex.]

There's no one naked in Fiona Sprott's Often I Find that I am Naked, but Jezebel (Jacqueline Linke) exposes a lot about herself to us. She's been dining out on stories about the many men in her life (all portrayed by Keith Agius), and how she has (or hasn't) dealt with them. Now we get a chance to hear about her many and varied steps and missteps on the road (presumably, eventually) to true love. (She's not quite there yet.) In the large, very nice Harry De Jur Playhouse at the Henry Street Settlement, with production values far exceeding Fringe standards and a cast of seasoned actors, this stylishly staged Australian production (which has made the rounds of that country as well as stops in Edinburgh, Dublin and London) may well be the least Fringe-y offering in this year's Festival. As Jezebel relates her experiences, bubbling with humor and irony, Agius arrives and departs to help her dramatize them. At various points, her unspoken thoughts are projected on a screen set in the curtain at the back of the stage, to good (and mostly comic) effect. There's nothing monumental being disclosed here, but Linke acquits herself with aplomb (she received a Best Actress award at the Edinburgh Fringe), and Agius dexterously handles an array of skills ranging from doltishness to savoir faire, from making love to acting like a dog in heat (the show's funniest scene). There's effective lighting from Moyra D'Arcy, and good musical accompaniment onstage from Ian Moorhead. At Harry De Jur Playhouse at Henry Street Settlement. 1 hour, 20 minutes. [Gutman]

Polly (Jeslyn Kelly) and Loren (Joshua Spafford) are at each others throats for five scenes set in five identical motel rooms. They are on the road between Chicago and LA to attend a taping of the One In Six Show that could make either one rich and famous. Their relationship is contentious, and they mostly regurgitate pop psychology to each other in annoying monologues. It is bad enough that Off-Broadway is filled with this sort of thing; Fringe hopefully aims for something fresher. David Todd probably intended One Drives While The Other Screams as a sort of mystery, but spattered blood, a menacing knife and a phone that never rings don't quite make it there. Todd's direction is monochromatic. It doesn't help that for the whole show Kelly wears the same rolled up jeans, blue sports bra under white t-shirt (sometimes covered by a short-sleeve Superman shirt). Spafford, the more interesting of the two, does a bit better by his anonymous costumes. At Cabaret Theater at Theater for the New City. One excruciating hour. [Lipfert]

A better bet would be Dear Laura, an art installation in the basement of Angel Orensanz Foundation. Venezuelan theater and TV director Ibrahim Guerra has created an interactive setting about Laura, an imaginary schoolteacher in small-town Maryland in the early 1950s. Everything is told via letters. At the first dresser is her suicide note to Cliff, a Black Korean-"conflict" vet. Pregnant with his child, she sees death as the only way out of a relationship that would never be sanctioned by Eisenhower-era society at large. Going back a few months in time, letters on a retro desk and Laura's bed reveal her mother's traditional Roman Catholicism spiked with inter-racial hatred. Guerra has created a thought-provoking, potent mix that speaks to important social themes. Also on view is an amusing video by Xavier Domingo, in the cast of La Fábrica at this year's Fringe. The visit is free and open through August 25th from 3 PM to 7 PM. At Angel Orensanz Foundation, 172 Norfolk Street (Houston/Stanton). [Lipfert]

Three women share a large one-room apartment. Should they live communally, or erect walls out of the striking yellow bifold screens they've been provided? Where should the black leatherette couch (Kautsch?) go? Should one of the bifold panels be used as a tabletop? A coffee table? And where should the yellow cubes that serve as seating be placed? Most important, can there be a meeting of the minds concerning the placement of the television, and will they ever come to the point they can all sit together and watch it? These are the sorts of issues wrestled with in Kautsch, a Swiss offering that assays the interplay of personalities that make up the phenomenon we call group living. Here we have an attractively-staged dance and movement piece (though the Fringe program guide doesn't note this) that, thanks to the appealing efforts of the three performers, maintains our attention, entertains us and causes us to ponder human nature and interpersonal dynamics. At Harry De Jur Playhouse. 1 hour, 10 minutes. [Gutman]

When the great experimental directors of our theater (LeCompte, Foreman, Akalaitis et al) execute their signature work onstage, perhaps a warning ought to be placed in the playbill to the effect: "Don't try this at home!" For what their imitators often fail to grasp is that what makes the techniques of avant garde theater work is that they are employed in the service of a script, and not the other way around. Telling a story remains the director's goal, and there must be a certain intellect in the unconventional choices that are made. This explains the principal defect in theater et al's production of Arthur Schnitzler's Life's Call (Der Ruf Des Lebens). With actors catapulting from wall to wall, declaiming lines (frequently into microphones for effect) with maximum histrionics and minimum meaning, other times speaking inaudibly (frequently on top of one another), it's difficult to assess the worth of this new translation by Ryan Suda and Greg Vargo. For that matter, it's not possible to say if Schnitzler's play, a tale of psychosexual angst and the like focusing on a woman named Marie (Dacyl Acevedo), hasn't been performed in the United States for 75 years for good reason, but it's fair to say, on the basis of this production, it might be another 75 years before we see it again. At Paradise. 1 hour, 15 minutes. [Gutman]

As we sit in the studio audience (we are told) of a 50's television show, C.C. Seymour introduces us to the world of Myrtle Willoughby, thrust into housewifery after World War II but destined for something else. Well, Seymour is indeed "something else," impressively taking us on a quick but wild ride. She portrays the endearing squeaky-voiced Willoughby (an affectation, it turns out) as well as everyone else in this short piece, and as if that's not enough, gives us the sound effects too. The recipe for I'm Bangin' in the Kitchen or...Hi Honey, I'm Home!? One part "Nick at Night," one part Stomp and a dash of An American in Paris for spice. Oh so silly, but fun. At Kraine Theater, 85 East 4th Street (2nd/Bowery). 25 minutes. [Gutman]

It's inevitable that, on the heels of Fringe's success story musical, Urinetown, come a host of scrappy new musicals with eyes fixed firmly on the Rialto. The Fringe program guide listing for Tarnish announces it "defies categorization....A vital, new, original musical, which the stage has not been privy to since the days of Cole Porter." So much for the hype. The reality is, despite a few quite good songs and a cast including several singers with the chops to deliver them (most notably, Melanie Penn, Serena Southam and Aaron Berk), this is pretty much a clumsy bust. Scott Mebus wrote the book as well as music and lyrics, and also directed. Mary (Ms. Penn) was an "accident" her parents (Ms. Southam and James Gilchrist) had when young and unmarried. A doctor's suggestion she might have some sort of developmental disability causes the parents to label her "special". When at age 16 they tell her they are sending her to a "retard" school, she runs away to the city where she meets a surprisingly nice guy named Hollow (Mr. Berk). There's not much of a point to the rest of what happens (Mebus desperately needs a book writer to rethink his flat-footed script), and while there are points in the first act that have some promise, the second act is a virtual disaster. While Mebus has attracted a number of good singers to this project, most of them are not talented dancers (Kouta Otsuka sticks out as a major exception) and there is a lot of (very pedestrian) choreography here. I suppose the stage was privy to musicals in need of this much work during the days of Cole Porter but.... At Harry De Jur Playhouse. 2 hours, 15 minutes with 1 intermission. [Gutman]

Don't let its unfortunate title, Chocolate in Heat: Growing Up Arab in America keep you from one of the best written and best acted shows in this year's New York International Fringe Festival. Betty Shamieh tells the potent story of Aishah in five monologue segments-three for her and two for Piter Fatouche-with interlocking characters, Naguib Mahfouz-style. And like the Egyptian Nobel prizewinner, she draws the audience into the lives of the various members of the Arab community in America with imagination and sensitivity. Shamieh frequently inflects her speech with a light drawl to further emphasize the Tennessee Williams-like detached theatricality of the script, also by Shamieh. "If I danced in space, my footprints would be the stars," says young Arab-American Aishah, trying to dream past life's scars. Uncle Lotfi's corner grocery was where as a young girl she learned how to gain power over men via sex, in this case getting chocolate she couldn't otherwise afford. Later she became more victim than manipulator while a member of the Red Jazz Dance Company. In Darmen Scranton's direction, she intersperses dance movements throughout to make her points. In his first segment Fatouche is more direct, speaking as a fictional Jordanian prince attracted to Aishah during her college days. He recounts some of the same incidents that we heard earlier, but from a masculine perspective. The stories open a world that is as attractive as it is unpleasant, one that makes you hope for more from gifted writer and performer Betty Shamieh and also from talented raconteur Piter Fatouche. At Cararet Theater at Theater for the New City-Cabaret Theater. One hour. [Lipfert]

Take a classic text, add strobe light, portable window fan and spooky voiceovers and you have instant theater. This is what Travis Chamberlain would have us believe. Produced by The Collection Agency, Never Live Long in Cages is his adaptation of Act IV of John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, complete with cast from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Webster play is a sinister drama about a noble woman (Kate Middleton as the Duchess) imprisoned by her brother as punishment for taking a lover. In this final act Bosola (James Amler) acts as spy for brother Ferdinand (voiceover by Chamberlain and Karen Lynn Sault), confidant, torturer, assassin and finally joins the ranks of the self-tortured. The title comes from a line spoke by the Duchess, "Robins and nightingales never live long in cages," a reference to her captivity. Chamberlain's take on it is to have the action in virtual darkness, presumably because this is a "dark" play. Amplified voices and music (electronics by Adam Gerdts and Margaret Norwood and Middleton warming up on the violin) break the sound barrier. If this is what theater majors at big universities are learning, it's a sad affair. While Middleton appears to have the makings of a fine classic actress, it is hard to imagine what stage careers the others might hope for. Amler's stolid face and voice capture little of his character, Middleton's companion Michelle Ries is simply incompetent and four madmen (Josh Bloch, Robert Harrington, Mathew Kinney, Scott Michener) maybe would make good rejects from Blue Man Group. At Cino Theater at Theater For the New City. 1 hour. [Lipfert]

The most poignant entry in Fringe 2001 must be The Post Office, written by Bengali poet Rabindranath Thakur around 1910. A young boy, Amal, has an unnamed illness that makes direct sunlight lethal. Obedient to his stepfather, he nevertheless yearns for the day he can see the outside world. He solves his dilemma by staying by his open window, where everyone from the village passes. His innocence and sincerity disarm the stern Headman and charm the hurried Ice Cream Seller into describing the road to the mountains. Others stop to converse and wish him well. He imagines that the King has built the Post Office in view from his window just to deliver a reply to Amal's letter. In fact King has sent his elegantly-dressed King's Physician, who comes just as the boy breathes his last. In spite of Amal's seeming insignificance, his life has touched all that knew him and made them appreciate even their own difficulties. Six young Indian-style dancers in white and red costumes offer a dance epilogue. Director Saleque Khan and Charonik Ensemble have turned this into a simple, but effective production-a small bed and some props. Asian acting styles are different from Western models, but there is no mistaking the spiritual message of The Post Office. Most amazing are the four child actors that share the role of Amal, the longest in the show. Their mastery of the script, concentration and believability are extraordinary. At Theater One-Ninety Six at Present Company. 1 hour, 15 minutes. [Lipfert]

Nikolai Gogol’s The Nose is not an obvious choice for live theatre. Stylistically, it has its charms, to be sure, but fails ultimately to create for the audience the sense that something has come into full flower. The Overcoat Theatre has done its best to provide in the place of drama something akin to Russian atmosphere. Ice cold vodka is served, along with green apples and buns. A live band consisting of two rather dashing fellows provide musical accompaniment. The final touch is a series of atmospheric black and white slides projected on the back walls of the tiny playing space. These provide illustrations of pre-revolutionary Russia, but have nothing per se to do with the story. Gogol’s eccentric writing style includes quick cuts, narrative digressions, flights of satiric fancy. These odd twists and turns make for reading pleasure, but it is not at all certain they help the lone actor as he reads the story word for word to the audience. H. R. Britton looks the part, rather Gogolian in attire, with dark features, and a Russian seediness. Nonetheless, his entire dramatic repertory is used up within five minutes, leaving little room to maneuver over the long haul. His success at capturing the various characters’ postures and voices can be reduced finally to three movements and an equal number of modulations. He talks quickly—thankfully—but cannot always be understood, and this is a real loss, for each of Gogol’s words needs articulation. Director Alison Broda has Mr. Britton sit out numerous musical interludes, taking a chair upstage in the slide projector’s light. Besides offering the actor time to catch his breath, this choice does not always seem effective. But the real question here is the choice of material, which on the face of it lacks dramatic content (think of "The Tell-Tale Heart" without a murder) and this cannot be made up for with atmospherics and green apples. At Paradise. 1 hour, 5 minutes. [Lohrey]

Dressed in black jeans, a black shirt, and a white scarf, Kevin Mitchell Martin begins his one-man turn based on the life and works of Edgar Allan Poe by reading Baudelaire in English translation with a French accent. When Martin makes the transition to Poe, he affects an equally authentic Southern accent that he maintains throughout the course of his 80-minute monologue. Martin is nothing if not thorough. This, combined with Bina Sharif’s precise direction, makes for a heightened theatrical experience. Throughout Martin’s portrayal of the disturbed American author’s life, one cannot help but become aware of performer’s taxing concentration. From his first appearance as he sits still on stage as the audience takes its seats, to that last haunting gaze, Martin’s depiction succeeds in communicating the sense of longing and despair long associated with Poe. Martin draws liberally from published sources, offering readings from Poe’s letters, as well as powerful recitations of Poe’s best-known poems and tales. Martin, finally, offers a performance that conveys, if not explains, the essence of Poe’s haunted and haunting soul. Much of this is attributable to Martin’s uncanny resemblance to Poe, including a regal bearing that captures Poe’s effort to conceal inner wounds. The only disappointment in A Touch of the Poe lies in this viewer’s desire to see Poe’s despair placed in the wider context of America’s impending national catastrophe. At the Downtown Variety Lounge at Present Company. 1 hour, 15 minutes. [Lohrey]

Every once in a while at Fringe there is a show that emphasizes there is a big world outside of New York, one that is eminently practical and full of life's big and small events. Craig Menteer's Man at Work is such a show. In the best of four sections each related to old-fashioned work, he tells about life on a Great Plains grain farm from a nine-year-old's point of view. Thomas McGrath's epic poem Letter to an Imaginary Friend is the text, and Menteer conveys the feisty kid's yearning to be part of the adult's world. Harvesting and threshing, taking the grain to market by night, dealing with a labor insurrection all become high drama in Menteer's highly physical approach. He uses an empty oil barrel, black with a red middle section, to represent various tools and activities but also as a noisemaker to dramatize particular moments of the narration. Under Harry Gadbow's direction, it's a riveting tale that is worth listening to. Unfortunately Gadbow's touch did not bring the other parts effectively to life. Neither Genesis, the Biblical creation story told with a Safeway cart, and Phallacy, about a hammer with a life of its own, made its points to the audience. Knots, in which Menteer demonstrates with a sturdy rope how to tie various and sundry knots, seemed pointless. Menteer's delivery and timing might work in other settings, but here he seemed out of sorts. The subject is not the problem: one of Anna Russell's most hilarious routines was about the sound mechanics of a bagpipe, all lifted from Encyclopaedia Britannica. At Cabaret Theater at Theater for the New City. 1 hour. [Lipfert]

There are several things that make Scott Seraydarian's Feast, described as an "interactive cinematic House musical experience," particularly appealing. For starters, it's fun. It's also sufficiently far "out of the box" that it makes you remember what Fringe ought to be about more often. Although it has some of the typical elements of other "interactive" shows like The Donkey Show (it's also set at a club), De La Guarda and the granddaddy of the genre, Tony and Tina's Wedding, it goes off in its own unique direction, making a point that can't possibly be lost on its audience and integrating film into theater in a way in which, surprisingly, few shows (even at Fringe) do. We are at a club as a guy named Dreamer (Seraydarian) is setting off on a journey of sorts to find, well, his dream. His friends are all there wish him a bon voyage and, as with many of us, they are of different minds as to how he should live his life. A baker's dozen of them are divided into camps described in terms of the various elements: air, water, fire and earth, and the theme is that life is a feast, and the menu includes various foods for the soul. (We can almost hear Auntie Mame reminding us "life's a banquet, and most suckers are starving to death".) They sing, they dance (and try to get us to join them), they tell stories and, ultimately, they come together and bring us right along with them. An energetic, talented bunch all. With a little fine-tuning, Feast could have a post-Fringe life of its own. At Theater One-Nine-Six at Present Company. 55 minutes. [Gutman]

We've become accustomed to thinking of the theater as art, but Yelena Gluzman, the principal creator of School for Salome's, would like for us to set that notion aside and think of her work as a science project. Science (I was forced to memorize in 8th grade) is "the orderly arrangement of the known facts in our environment gained by observation and experimentation". After Wilde's Salomé premiered in Paris, a market developed for Salomés on the American Vaudeville circuit, so much so that a school opened to train budding veil-bearers. Splicing together material from a variety of sources (ranging from classic texts to emails from friends), Gluzman creates a whole that is, on one level, a rumination on the confounding nature of power, control, urges, needs, wants and so on, and on another, a surprisingly apt parable about what Danny Hoch has called "committing the act of theater". Within the anarchy, one will discover lots of entertainment, some genuinely funny stuff, a bit of nudity, gunshots, dancing women, wrestling, a buffet, a man who seems to think he is running things and, heaven forbid, a point. Don't finish your Fringing without it. At Cino Theater at Theater For the New City. 1 hour, 15 minutes. [Gutman]

Macduffie/Jones Performance group's version of the Snow Queen tells Hans Christian Anderson's cautionary and redemptive tale using dance and mime. Gerta (Emily Gayeski) and Kay (Noel MacDuffie) must learn life's lessons before their idyllic childhood friendship can become mature joy. First the siren Snow Queen (Angela Jones) masked as a chaste bride in floor-length white veil appears to Kay to entice him away on a prolonged love fest. Gerta meanwhile is so plagued by doubts that she is easy prey for the wry Sorceress (Robert Hermann a/k/a Dolly Rand) in drag. In short order Gerta sees through the easy glamour that the flashy women (Flowers) possesses, and the Sorceress and a mean Prince (Santiago Solis) and Princess (Antonia Ferraro) insult and exploit her. All is not lost, because both Gerta and Kay search relentlessly for each other. Reunited, they reclaim their memories of happiness, but on a new level. In a story like this one, the romantic leads turn out to be the dullest compared to the character roles. Not in this case, because choreographers Angela Jones and Noel MacDuffie use vibrant movements to make Gerta and Kay the true centerpieces of the action. Gayeski easily suggests Gerta's developing personality that can accommodate both innocence and decisiveness. Even though Kay has been sexually initiated and then some by the Snow Queen, MacDuffie can reveal Kay's playful side with ball throwing as his signature image. I suspect that statuesque Jones would stand out in any production, and here as Snow Queen she towers above her young prey. The lone actor, Robert Hermann, really needs broader movements to make an effective contrast to the dancers in the large Henry De Jur Playhouse. Gerta's costumes range from a ruffled blue dress to more exotic garb, Kay sports a blue shirt under plaid cut-off overalls. The piece has the benefit of John LaSala's outstanding score, which uses acoustic solo instruments against an electronic background. LaSala differentiates the playful beginning and conclusion with dreamy sequences for the Snow Queen scenes and brassier touches during Gerta's encounters with Sorceress. Choreography by MacDuffie and Jones is entirely connected to LaSala's score. For these performances at New York International Fringe Festival, two scenes that included aerial movement became terrestrial with no loss to the presentation. At Harry De Jur Playhouse at Henry Street Settlement. 1 hour. [Lipfert]

Teatro Cortile makes its US debut with Tiziana Lucattini's Scarpette Rosse (Little Red Shoes), about two street kids wavering between sweet fantasy and harsh truth. Favilla (Monika Trettel) and Mammadera (Valentina Emeri) enter stealthily so the "theys" don't notice, so the death squads don't kill them. Mammadera's grip on reality is tenuous at best: she first describes her mother's funeral, and then she has come for a chat. Favilla can't see a thing, and her reality check is almost enough to split up the two friends. When Mammadera pulls a pair of bright red pumps from her worn shoulder bag, Favilla finally believes her and begins to trade in some of her own gloomy reality for Mammadera's hope. Maybe they will get out of there alive and travel to Mammadera's beloved South, where everything is easy. Although images of and discussions about street children in Brazil and elsewhere are common on Italian TV, Americans rarely see this side of human life on TV much less in the theater. Lucattini is vague about how these two girls ended up on the street; her focus is more on how they cope. More specifically, their dreams can represent a courageous way to confront their bruising everyday reality. Director Andreas Robatscher emphasizes the contrast between the two characters. Trettel's comes from the broader Italian comic tradition with hints at a Neapolitan accent, while Emeri uses a more classic style informed by the somewhat exaggerated manner of Italian children's theater. (At the opening performance some of Emeri's words got lost, possibly due to a miscalculation of the Kraine Theater space.) Costumes are color-coordinated hand-me-downs. Although the show is entirely in Italian, the group accommodates the American audiences with a detailed plot summary. At The Kraine. 1 hour. [Lipfert]

Pascal Ulli inhabits the body of diarist Jim Carroll about as thoroughly as we could hope for. With Ulli onstage alone Jim Carroll's The Basketball Diaries takes us along on Carroll's journey from twelve year old prep school basketball player to prostitute, from his days as his "Pepsi Cola" days -- as early seemingly manageable heroin habits are known -- to the struggles, internal and external, of a full-fledged junkie who does a stint at Riker's Island. It's a compelling if not pretty portrait, more personal than the film, and makes surprisingly good theater, thanks in large part to the boyish faced Ulli's efforts. At St. Marks Theater, 94 St. Marks Place (Av A/1 Av). 1 hour, 5 minutes. [Gutman]

Sic McGraw (Nick Boraine, also the playwright) got his nickname because, as a child, he was masterful at acting sick so he wouldn't have to go to school. By the time he was grown, Sic had developed a new talent: dying. He became famous for doing it onstage, over and over again. We can see why. Boraine opens his show with Sic's tour-de-force, the final scene from Hamlet. Playing all the roles himself, he gets to die four times! (It's also a masterpiece of black comedy as performed by Boraine.) Later, he will add the death of Polonius to the mix and, for good measure, chat it up with poor Yorick, his skull represented by a balloon that serves as Boraine's chief prop and source of sound effects. Trouble is, Sic gets sick for real, and is going to die. As a pesky investigative TV reporter reveals, he may be a great faker but he's lousy at the real thing. Exceptionally well-staged (by Charmaine Weir-Smith), and with terrific lighting (especially by Fringe standards), it's a very good introduction to this South African actor and company. The script for SIC. has some weak spots in the middle (mostly relating to the circumstances of McGraw's impending mortality and his visits to his doctor) and a few leaps of logic, but Boraine's overall performance makes the piece quite worthwhile. He brings us all of the characters (even a late-in-life visit from U2's Bono) seamlessly. At the Red Room. 1 hour, 5 minutes. [Gutman]

To prepare this monologue, Adina Taubman interviewed numerous students, parents and teachers and community members that were touched by the tragic events at Columbine High School. In the style of a video documentary, she offers fifty-five sound-bite-length portrayals of these individuals that witnessed history in Littleton, Colorado. Doing Justice is a breakneck presentation that doesn't exploit the principal strength of live theater, which is to create characters that the audience can identify with. Or maybe that was her point, that the whole experience is blurred by the inarticulateness of the participants. Taubman moves from spot to spot for each segment but makes sparing use of props and clothing changes. Voice and gesture are her tools for differentiating the various interviewees. Unfortunately for her this was an extremely homogenous suburb, and most of the people she represents must have sounded alike. Only a few individuals stand out, notably a Chinese waitress. Unlike film, theater enables liberties to make dramatic points, but Director Beth Manspeizer's concept seems hemmed in by Taubman's taped images and sounds. Perhaps in further development of the piece the people of Columbine can come to life on stage. At The Ontological, 131 East 10th Street (2/3 Avs). 1 hour. [Lipfert]

Corporate America and the New Economy meet their match in Mike Daisey's 21 Dog Years: Doing Time @, currently on view at New York International Fringe Festival. The show has everything going for it: a catchy title, hilarious script (Daisey), energetic performance (also Daisey), and effective direction (JM Gregory). Depending on how you look at it, almost everything is funny at Daisey's former place of employment. He talks about the wacky wrinkles of Amazon corporate culture and foibles of management. It's management by the numbers all the way, a quantitative productivity mindset gone mad. But there's a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for those that stick it out. It's called Options, as in stock options. As we all know now, dot-com stocks are basically worthless paper based on projected sales growth that has yet to translate into earnings, with Amazon a prime example. When you started at the company determines how much you are worth, and for some that means bucks. Daisey succumbed to temptation and circulated a printout that showed what his hermetic manager's stock options were worth and those for everyone else in his department. Bad move. He was ostracized and finally left, we can presume to follow the call of show biz. In any case, he has lived to laugh about it, share his funny times with packed houses and garner vigorous applause wherever he goes. It's a fair bet that nobody at has been too offended by his shows, otherwise they would have sued. Or maybe it is a rare sense of humor that flourishes far away from the "Eastern Establishment". This run at Fringe has long sold out, but be sure to catch him next round. At Recital Hall at Henry Street Settlement. 2 hours. [Lipfert]

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a broad. You know, the kind of dame who’d take a grapefruit in the face. I thought, they just don’t make ‘em like that anymore, until I saw Cynthia Carrol’s Mrs. Zero in The Adding Machine. When Ms Carrol started singing them Elmer Rice blues, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Her monologue, one of the greatest in America theatre, is nothing less than an incantation of resentment, and when delivered correctly, it is a battering ram to the human heart. Ms Carrol delivers the goods, and then some. She has the look. She has the accent (1920s Brooklyn) down cold. It’s enough to make James Cagney cry. The monologue is crucial, because from it all else follows. We must hear Mrs. Zero’s bone-chilling words through Mr. Zero’s ears in order to understand his desperation. Paul Marcarelli listens, brilliantly. His hunched shoulders, his rolling eyes tell the whole story. The performance belongs in the Smithsonian, along with the rest of the show, on film, in a permanent installation dedicated to American work, domestic or otherwise, and other forms of tyranny. The superb ensemble of five carry the entire show, originally written for three times their number. Jessamyn Blakeslee, Joshua Dickens, and Dan da Silva give it their all, each delivering memorable performances, often in multiple roles. Jonathan Silver has cast and directed with care, but it is his adaptation that is especially noteworthy. Silver has taken the original multiple act work, turning it into a workable intermission-less 90-minutes, without sacrificing the eccentricities of Rice’s expressionistic masterpiece. This is no small achievement, for the original had always opened vigorously, only then to suffocate under the weight of its bloated second act. As presented, the final scene’s eloquent cynicism leaves a mark. Kudos to Mr. Silver for selecting a work that dares to be pessimistic. Kudos to the entire company. At The 14th St. Y Theatre, 344 East 14th Street (1/2 Avs). 1 hour, 30 minutes. [Lohrey]

The mystique of Bernard-Marie Koltès has yet to make its way to the US from France, and this is a pity. At its best-and In the Loneliness of the Cotton Field certainly qualifies-his writing is taut, restless and intensely masculine. Koltès delves into the male psyche to discover instincts that Rousseau's Enlightenment-era social contract theory failed to extinguish. The Client (Philippe Sauriat in a tux) crosses paths with the Dealer (Adrian Witzke in street gang clothes) on a dark street. It is the ultimate symbiosis: buyer and seller, an unnamed need meets gratification potential. Or is it about more? They move in a circle while throwing off revealing clues to their underlying motivations. Perhaps this was not a chance meeting at all. Jean Brassard, director in conjunction with the actors, fully displays the violence Koltès sees as innate in male comradeship. Witzke repeatedly thrashes Sauriat to the ground, but the latter quickly gets up again, undaunted. Later, they reverse roles after Client channels his adrenaline rush to pick fight over flight. Even though Dealer now experiences the brunt of society's cruelty via its representative, he can still play with Client's fear of the unknown. Brassard tellingly accentuates the sexually-charged nature of this encounter with a tense tango for the two, but the relief from physical pain is short-lived. The ending scene is as mysterious as the beginning one with Client lying in bed under a white sheet and Dealer perched on a swing. Both Sauriat and Witzke offer strong portrayals that exploit Koltès's multi-level text, which Brassard effectively translates into brute intensity. Lucrecia Briceno's lighting design was far above the norm at this year's New York International Fringe Festival. At Mazer Theater, 197 East Broadway (@Jefferson). 1 hour, 20 minutes. [Lipfert]

Roland Topor's whimsical, surreal comedy L'Hiver Sous La Table (Winter Under the Table) is currently on view in a sparkling production at Mazer Theater. The setting is winter and Dragomir (Marco Aponte), newly arrived in Paris, has found a unique room to rent at chez Florence (Debora Kahn). He is one happy camper under her table, discreetly curtained off. There he plies his trade as shoemaker, but not too late-after all there are neighbors. Florence not only collects rent money, she gets help with her translations courtesy of her live-in native speaker of the unnamed Eastern European language right beneath where she is typing. Dragomir willingly assists, but he is adamant that the word "tdrum" has no French equivalent. Florence is not above flirting with her tenant, and she provocatively inserts her crossed legs into his space. An odd seduction scene ensues when she crawls into Dragomir's abode under the pretext of looking for an irreplaceable button from her mostly unbuttoned blouse. Florence's friend Raymonde (Delphine Godin) is horrified at this living arrangement. Raymonde is more than intrigued by Dragomir's extroverted, accordion-playing brother Gritzka (Christophe Samuel), who arrives to share the sous-table quarters. Florence's publisher Marc (Nicolas Rossier) turns limp when he realizes that two unseen denizens have overheard his unsubtle declarations to her. The brothers move out, but Florence has indeed made an indelible impression on Dragomir. As soon as he makes it big as a shoe designer back home in his country, he returns to marry her. In Kahn and Aponte, director Benoît Champion has two superb leads. Aponte has a naturally comic face that expresses Dragomir's frog/prince character. Samuel's personal style tends more toward slapstick, somewhat out of sync with Topor's sly humor. Godin and Rossier find their best moments when the emotional temperature rises. This is one of the more interesting sets (designer Jean-Charles Gobillot) at the New York International Fringe Festival this year. Best is the Dragomir's angular table, complete with several changes of curtains. This show is in French, but there is a detailed English plot summary in the program and a narrator prefaces each of the fourteen scenes with suitably elliptical commentary, all in English. The principal weakness in this production is accordionist Ted Reichman's choice of rather melancholy Ukranian-Jewish melodies for the intervals between scenes and throughout the evening. Hungarian or possibly Bulgarian music might have kept the mood less serious in this eminently droll comedy. At Mazer Theater. 2 hours. [Lipfert]

There are not any songwriters included in A&E's Biography series' list of the top ten people of the millenium, but then again, even those who made the cut can't agree who should be included. What they can agree on, it would seem, is to sing the songs of Kurt Weill. And so they do. It would also seem that Alec Duffy, who concocted and directs Biography's Top Ten People of the Millenium Sing Their Favorite Kurt Weill Songs is a man for whom any excuse to stage a collection of Weill's masterpieces will suffice. So while his setup is clever, and funny, don't expect anything particularly monumental here. The four top ten-er's who show up, Galileo (Ching Gonzales), Copernicus (Tom Ford), Einstein (Amy Laird Webb) and Marx (Arthur Aulisi) -- they rank 7 through 10 -- chat, argue, embarrass themselves and of course sing. Galileo hates Columbus, Copernicus hates Darwin, but since Einstein is played by a woman, Marx puts the moves (clumsily) on her/him. The whole shebang is run, more or less, by a narrator (Webb), on videotape, who adds to the slightly insane fun. At Collective Unconscious, 145 Ludlow Street (Stanton/Rivington). 45 minutes, even though the Fringe program guide says 1 hour, 15 minutes. [Gutman]

Filled with surprising and thoughtful twists and turns, Worry Days is one of the better written and acted shows I've seen in this year's Fringe Festival. Unfortunately, it is also the most poorly attended. An older white woman (Carol Clarke) is on the train with a young black man (Shawn Shepard, who also wrote and directed). She sees he has been shot, and it quickly becomes apparent he will die since he is refusing medical attention. Soon after, we will learn that her husband also died of a gunshot wound, as a part of a robbery that she witnessed and that now, four years later, she is unprepared to face her own impending death from cancer. But this is the easy stuff. The play's greater punch unfolds as we must consider how we care about other people, and the underlying reasons why. It's an urban fable of sorts, cynical in undertone, and just the kind of work by young Avariciousness playwrights we keep saying need more of but somehow don't support when it is around. As I write this, there are three remaining performances of Worry Days. Take a deep breath and go be impressed. At St. Marks Theater. 45 minutes. [Gutman]

Nicholas Papademetriou was terrific in his solo work, Snag, at last year's Fringe. He's back from his home in Australia with another actor onstage, Jennifer Vuletic, and this time they are both great. Alana Valentine's Row of Tents concerns itself with "life in your modern Australian campground," the kind of place to which couples repair for a bit of rest and relaxation from the workaday world. Its close quarters, however, turn it into a sort of breeding ground for marital discontent and sexual exploration. This is just what happens to Sebastian and his wife. He finds himself chatting up a lesbian, who gives him advice on turning on his woman -- it backfires; the wife befriends a gay man, who convinces her to leave the hubby behind. (All four parts are played by the two actors, the quick changes handled flawlessly thanks to some cagey direction by Sarah Carradine. The lovers of the respective queers never make it onstage.) It's even more complicated because the dykes can't stand the homo's and vice versa. It's all breeze and fun, and naturally everyone ends up in happily-ever-after-land. At St Mark's Theater. 1 hour, 10 minutes. [Gutman]

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