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2006 New York International Fringe Festival

Final update.
For a list of awards (marked by ), click here.

Shows included in the Fringe Encore program are marked by . More information is here.

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

Americana Absurdum | Ana 3/11 | Backstage at Da Fonky B | Band Geeks | The Best of The 24 Hour Plays | The Bicycle Men | Billy The Mime | Blue Balls | Breeze Off the River | The City That Cried Wolf | Confessions | contra-tiempo | Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather | Danny Boy | The Deepest Play Ever: The Catharsis of Pathos | Diving Normal | Don't Ask | Faded | Faust NYC | Garbage Boy | Grace Falls | How the West Was Spun | Hugging the Shoulder | I Come in Peace | The Infliction of Cruelty | If You See Something, Say Something | LULU | Moral Values: A Grand Farce or Me No Likey the Homo Touch-Touch | Never Swim Alone | Odd Man Out | The Olsen Terror | Open House | The Penguin Tango | Picking Up The Baby | Piggy 1.5 | Rapunzel | Reservoir Bitches | Return of the Wayward Son | Romancing the Terrorist: Tajiki Nights! | Rum & Coke | Sakura no gotoku, Like a cherry tree | Sax and Dixon: This Plane is Definitely Crashing | The Secret Ruths of House Island | Site-Seeing | SubURBAN Stories | The Tell-Tale Heart | A Time To Be Born | Tuesdays & Sundays | The XXXoticka Review

EDITOR'S NOTE: It's Fringe's 10th anniversary! Running August 11-27, this year's festival has scheduled 216 shows at 21 venues. We will report on a healthy dose of this year's offerings in the reviews below.

Many people do their show-picking on the fly, but readers are advised to consider making reservations for popular shows they don't want to miss. What shows are those? We don't like to predict. Further information, schedules and reservations prior to the show day are available by phoning 212-279-4488 or 1-888-FRINGENYC (9AM-7PM); on the web at: (also prior to the day of performance) or in person at Fringe Central, 27 Mercer Street (Grand/Howard). Day-of-performance tickets are available (cash only) at the door at each venue, 15 minutes prior to the show. Prices: $15, reduced (only at Fringe Central or at the door) to $10 for kids 12 and under to FringeJR events and for seniors. There are also passes: 5 shows for $65, 10 shows for $110 and the "Lunatic Pass," which entitles you to attend as many shows as possible, for $500.

A complete list of venues (with addresses) can be found at the end of this page or by clicking here.
The last name of the author of each capsule review is indicated at the end of the review in brackets.


Billy the Mime
A truly dynamic performer, Billy the Mime takes the stage for his self-titled show and doesn't let you off the hook for a second. Much like his feature in the film The Aristocrats, his solo show challenges his audience to let their hair down and laugh at the despicable. In 5-10 minute long vignettes with titles such as "JFK, Jr. We Hardly Knew Ye," "Close to Her, Karen Carpenter," and "Terry Schiavo, Adieu," Billy deftly maneuvers his way through some of America's rockiest social landscape. Laughs are plentiful in each piece, but he doesn't shy away from the tragic either, presenting a rich and complex perspective on each subject explored. In the piece "Van Gogh's Starry Night," we follow the painter from his tumultuous youth through his more formidable years as a bonafide nutter, slicing off his ear after an argument with Gaugin and offering it to a prostitute, thrashing about in a straight-jacket, and finally putting a bullet in his head, giving his last work one final stroke before acquiescing to death. One would expect the lights to fade and the next bit to begin, but Billy reminds us to lighten up as the stage stays lit and he slides across it as a dead Van Gogh. Leave it to Billy to explore the dark corners of social taboo and challenge the sacred with intelligent irreverence. He skillfully portrays that which can't be said and should be considered. At Players Theatre. 1 hour, 10 minutes. [Winchester]

Picking Up The Baby
Gretchen (Caroline Luft) wants a baby, and she's ready to take on motherhood and the adoption process. She's even ready to adopt a black baby. But as she speeds down the road to meet him and the real mother, her zealous enthusiasm burns away to reveal doubt about whether she's able to face the complex race relations that will undoubtedly go along with it. The support of her brother Nick (Rob Cameron) is essential to her journey, but difficulties in his own interracial relationship arise when he takes a stand for her choice to adopt this child. Marla (Chandra Thomas) just wants the best for her baby and gives him her final guidance before handing him over to Gretchen. But surprisingly, Marla never undergoes pangs to keep him. Though everything wraps up a bit too tidily, the exploration of community and individuality is playful and engaging. Rife with meaty themes, excellent direction, and strong performances from the 4 person cast, this production challenges the viewer to embrace love in a messy world where the backdrop is usually grey. At Flea Theatre. 50 minutes. [Winchester]

Piggy 1.5
Sketch comedy is not a genre for the faint of heart or easily affronted. That being said, knocking society's presuppositions and hang-ups should be at least a tad freeing. In Piggy 1.5, tasteless jokes fall flat with no solid form or game to back them up. There are, however, points that are creatively engaging when performers David Commander, Cary Curran, Tim Kelly, and Kevin Pfluger weave film & puppetry through the live show in new and interesting ways. A sketch about a drive-through stalker is a puppet show innovatively performed and filmed onstage, complete with different camera angles and sets and would be spectacular if cleaned up. Another scenario involves a burn-victim's-only strip club where two seriously scarred guys lament their fate, and one finally works up the courage to talk to his mangled dream dancer. She's onscreen, and as he approaches her, walking behind the screen, he appears on camera. The attempt to integrate the live action and video is appreciated, but adding these elements requires even greater clarity, focus, and fusion not present in this production. But if you're up for anarchy for the sake of anarchy, and can use "experimental" and "messy" interchangeably, you'll get a kick out of this underground happening. At Henry Street Settlement-Recital Hall. 45 minutes. [ Winchester]

I Come in Peace
Hats off to Dean Obeidallah for taking head on post-9/11 prejudice against Arab-Americans. Normally he's a stand-up comedian trying to make it big in the establishment world. Here he offers a routine that is more one-man-bio-show than slick routine. Touching on his mixed background, he recounts growing up in New Jersey where his Palestinian father (since deceased) was an object of comic relief. But there are two opposites that figure prominently in his life now -- his Italian mother that calls him repeatedly during the show to gauge if he's famous yet, and Tariq, his Arab gigolo friend who plays on his identity ambivalence. Obeidallah is a world away from the current batch of Palestinian comics, poets and rappers. They're more convincing than him even when he's on his soapbox (literally) about negative stereotypes embedded in Hollywood and mass media. Director Negin Farsad allows him a leisurely pace. At Flea Theater. 1 hour. [Lipfert]

Return of the Wayward Son
Brian Fraley offers a graphic look at hustlers and johns, but unfortunately there's more depiction than real theater. We see the trajectory of Jimmy (Max Ferguson) as he stumbles onto the world of male prostitution on New York's ritzy East Side. Through a combination of naiveté and lack of engagement he manages to survive pettiness and selfishness in his customers and co-workers. Only the insistence of a family crisis back home breaks the mood, and by the end of the two-hour show and [Attention: plot spoiler coming...] an episode of lethal violence, Jimmy seems ready to leave it all behind. As director, Fraley largely restricts the audience to observer status and never allows a look below the hard-edged surface to the tortured psychology of the seven onstage characters. The lone true theatrical moment, a final meeting between Jimmy and one of his johns (Tim Moore), showed searing emotional penetration combined with engaging humor that was largely lacking elsewhere. This venue worked against Fraley's direction for muddling his too-frequent simultaneous dialogue in different parts of the set. But even worse was Fraley's disregard for the audience at the sides of this in-the-round space. At Henry Street Settlement - Experimental. 2 hours. [Lipfert]

Ana 3/11
Spain's version of America's 9/11 happened in Madrid in March 2004, a clear retaliation for Spanish participation in the US-led war on Iraq. Although the right-wing government then in place attempted to blame Basque groups, the electorate was not fooled and voted heavily in favor of the current center-left regime. Author Paloma Pedrero skips the political side of events to focus on the personal side of the tragedy: a man by the name of Angel has died. His lover Ana (KK Moggie) bangs her telephone on the floor when he doesn't answer her repeated calls and desperate messages. Wife Ana (Cristina LoCastro) receives the bad news of Angel's death at a hospital/morgue along with confirmation of his infidelity, even speaking to the other Ana on Angel's mysteriously intact cellphone. Pedrero adds Angel's mother Ana (miscast Joy Seligsohn) and Irina (Ingrid Kullberg-Bendz), a Romanian mother whose son is among the over two thousand injured that day but still alive. Although Anjali Vashi's direction doesn't improve Moggie's one-note hysteria, LoCastro's emotionally devastated but resolute character (aided by Anne Lommel's spot on middle-class madrileño suit and leather boots) is just right. At Actors' Playhouse. 50 minutes. [Lipfert]

Danny Boy
The idea of a show about a person coming to terms with a disability may sound a little wearing. (Let me guess: they're going to discover that they need to love themselves before being able to sustain a relationship.) The fact that Danny Boy manages to make this journey so delightful is a testament to the playwright (Marc Goldsmith), director (Christopher Goodrich) and cast. This may be a message play, but it's a very funny one. The story revolves around Danny (Stephen Jutras), a four-foot tall, thirty-something New Yorker in search of a girlfriend. Danny's friends and family are loving -- almost smotheringly so, in fact -- but don't ever seem to let him acknowledge his dwarfism. Which leads to quite a few complications for Danny. The cast includes a hilariously lazy best friend Gabe (Troy Hall) and Danny's caricature of a controlling Jewish mother (Joan Poust). Best of all, there's Danny's would-be girlfriend, Allison (Sarah Schoenberg) who seems bland at first but soon reveals a surprising fetish. Danny's Boy isn't a play with a lot of subtlety (see: the telegraphed message and Danny's ultimate self-realization), but it's certainly one with a great deal of humor and heart. At Classic Stage Company. 2 hours with brief intermission. [Furay]

Sakura no gotoku, Like a cherry tree
This all-women cast bravely takes on the tumultuous history of Japan in the 1860s, dramatizing the rise of the Shinsengumi, one of many revolutionary groups formed to protect the country from foreign powers. Frustration ensues because of the broken translation and static staging, but the spirit of the piece remains impacting. Yamanami (Mariko Tokunaga), a chancellor of this growing powerful faction, has begun having serious doubts about sub-leader Hijikata's (Kaoru Oura) intents. This rift draws him closer to his fellow soldier and friend Okita (Kazuki Aoi), and one night they go to the red light district in a neighboring town where they meet a geisha named Akesato (Kaede Mutsuki). Yamanami and Akesato instantly connect, but he is unaware that she is the younger sister of the first man he murdered, and she is out for avenge his death. When the Shinsengumi raid a meeting of the Emperor's group, Yamanami descents. That night, Akesato is going to kill Yamanami at last, but her respect for him dispels her need for revenge on him. In the days to come, the Shinsengumi grows stronger, and many men die by the strict rules of the group. Unable to stand for Hijikata's bloodthirsty leadership, Yamanami finally leaves, knowing full well that it means death. But he chooses to stand proudly for a peaceful death rather than a warring life. With great commitment this amazing group of women aims to bring the "Japanese spirit" to the New York stage, and the social resonance is palpable. At Connelly Theater. 2 hours. [Winchester]

Hugging the Shoulder
Hugging the Shoulder is the story of a desperate young man's attempts to save his heroin-addicted brother. It's intense, painful, and ultimately fairly moving. But it's certainly a difficult play to sit through. To rescue his brother, Jeremy (Brian Floyd), Derek (Sam Dingman) has kidnapped him and stuffed him in a van in order to drive him around the country. The theory is, they'll keep driving until Jeremy is clean. A great deal of shouts, curses and painful memories ensue. It's a very disjointed piece, more concerned with pain and loss than clarity or likeability. The action in the van is alternated with flashbacks of Jeremy's descent into addiction, and his soul-killing effects on girlfriend Christy (Jane Petrov) as well as Derek. And you wonder how long you have to watch these characters destroying themselves, and how a play so dark could possibly end well. But the undeniably heart-wrenching ending does a great deal to justify the painful hour before it. Hugging the Shoulder isn't a happy play, but it's certainly a powerful one. At Henry Street Settlement - Experimental. 90 minutes. [Furay]

The Penguin Tango
There's never a dull moment at Bremen zoo's penguin colony. Odd couple Steve Hayes and Lowell Williams preside over a raucous bunch of black-and-white inhabitants popping in and out from white plastic doors. Fidelity is the word, but hooking up with the perfect mate is elusive. Most of all for two male penguins that neither steamy females nor electroshock treatments can separate. Based on facts and observations at several zoos, Stephen Svoboda's script has clever avian repartee. But ultimately it gets bogged down first in anti-communist dialectics that have absolutely no resonance here in the US and then the latest political correctness fad, gay politics. In Svoboda's direction, the players have great timing down to the second, but no one except Hayes even attempts to move like a penguin. Michiko Kitayama's costumes hardly qualify as penguin-looking either. Other details grate, like the foreign accents that are all of the generic Russian variety irrespective of stated locale. And the venue combines seating where no one is quite facing the stage and the lowest ceiling in Off-Broadway. While everything is too cute down to the happily-ever-after close, best to leave the kids home for this one. At Actors' Playhouse. 1 hour, 45 minutes. [Lipfert]

Bring your dancing shoes to this salsa showcase straight from LA. Because you'll surely want to join the 12 performers onstage at the end. Anna María Alvarez presents the ins and outs of this form in energized fashion. A novice guy gets concise advice: it's not about shaking your ass, it's about pulling and pushing and turning. And then the magic starts. Couple after couple show off, each in their own style. Long-legged Alvarez is a force to be reckoned with, even within the guy-always-leads rule. Then you begin to understand the political dimensions of salsa. Sure the men always turn the women, but the push-pull momentum keeps them equal. And the group dynamic easily morphs into empowerment. The voiceover says: in democracy, liberty is a chimera. Fantasy is a good word for the state of political liberty since 9/11, but via dance this group emphasizes that fighting back is still an option. Segments with couples naturally take precedence, but all male groupings show Alvarez's razor-sharp ideas the best. High flyer Cristian Armas contributes nice comic capers. Lighting (Damon Krometis) adds fluidity to the piece. Composer César Alvarez keeps performers and audience in high spirits. Not to be missed is Omar Rodriquez Diaz's animated dance video Al Alba Ache salsa intro. At Dance New Amsterdam. 45 minutes. [Lipfert]

Romancing the Terrorist: Tajiki Nights!
It's 100% improbable and all the funnier for it. On a lark the US President hightails it to Dushanbe (intentionally mispronounced by the actors?) to speak to Tajikistan's newest warlord-leader. Was it the call of the wild, a true peacemaking gesture or did he (Marshall York) have a hunch that he could get it on with the Tajik bad boy (Mike Mosallam)? But there's also a part that's not so unbelievable. While the two guys are presumably romping, the staff unleashes the Air Force on the Central Asian country (in a Washington about face, for once they seem to know where it is). And while Tajikistan is turned into Lebanon, the President's wife as wannabe kids' author frets mainly about her literary career. But -- surprise of all -- the Pres comes clean during a national debate, to his personal relief and everyone else's consternation. Writers/directors Negin Fardad and Michael Wallach blithely offer up NY Post/NY Sun-type caricatures of Muslims/Asians/"terrorists" that pass for informed commentary in some quarters. All in a joke? Or is the audience being subliminally sold on the next fake war in distant lands? We can live without the sequel, thanks. At Players Theatre. 1 hour, 40 minutes. [Lipfert]

Don't Ask
The opening moment of Bill Quigley's play, in which an Army private, Bobby McNeill (Daniel Dugan), is having sex with his sergeant, Charles Dunham (Tom Flynn), seems to confirm what the title suggests: that this is to be a play about the government's policy towards gays in the military. Soon, we will discover that Quigley is actually focused on a different set of headlines -- those involving prisoner abuse in Iraq. Dunham is investigating what a group of his soldiers did to some Iraqi prisoners, and when, after the screwing is done, the small talk turns to that event and Bobby's involvement, the sergeant starts to ask questions that Bobby is sure he doesn't want to ask. Before they are finished, Bobby will be doing most of the screwing. Quigley's play targets several ideas, and hits them forcefully. But he really only has about 40 minutes worth of subject matter in an 80 minute play, and redundancy sets in. Dugan's committed whirlwind of a performance withstands all impediments, and the young, hitherto essentially unknown actor will hopefully get an award from the Fringe gods in recognition. (Yes, he's that good.) Quigley could enhance the depth of his examination of Bobby's pathology, and give Flynn more than one or two notes to play, and we'd have a truly spectacular work. At Henry Street - Experimental. 80 minutes. [Gutman]

Moral Values: A Grand Farce or Me No Likey the Homo Touch-Touch
This piece of outer limits Americana opens with a presidential address and a premise: A new law requires that all American families welcome a married gay into the house. Ian McWethy's delightful mess of a play sprawls between fear of gays and dancing, government intervention, and a stuffed animal with the voice of reason. There are priceless exchanges between this family's hostile daughter (Maria McConville) and clueless son (Roger Lirtsman). Other inspired moments involve a Spanish Balushi-esque mailman and an assortment of humorous bits by Richardson Jones. The important father role may be a bit overheated, but there's a show-stopping phone menu option sketch featuring Carrie McCrossen and Isaac Oliver. Rounded out with good sound FX and a big dance finale, this kind of exuberant pseudo-political carrying on is a big part of what a fringe festival is for. At Village Theatre. 80 minutes. [Osenlund]

How the West Was Spun
The engaging Telly Cardaci spins a mean lasso. Unfortuately his script and timing need work and the piece sure needs more differentiation between the storyteller -- Telly -- and the character he plays -- Will Rogers. Further, several rope tricks are marred by lack of space. My companion for the show, who is first cousin once removed to Will Rogers, concurs that despite a rip-roaring effect at the end, this plays like your little brother making up a show in the back yard. While the disarming actor's heart is in the right place, his performance isn't. At Village Theatre. 45 minutes. [Osenlund]

The Secret Ruths of House Island
A bittersweet reverie, to the end of which I was loath to come, this production sensitively explores the worlds of 3 aging women living out their last years in a retirement home. Utilizing the considerable physical talents of actors Alissa Mortenson, Claytie Mason, and Annalisa Derr, The Nebunele Theatre Company creates a stylistic and intimate living portrait, based on interviews with 7 women residents of Island House. These interviews are woven together into an engaging if sometimes overly repetitive auditory backdrop for scenes from their young adulthood in the 1940s. Wisdom, strength, and regret are deeply furrowed on the exquisitely masked faces that they don intermittently throughout the show, playing engagingly with the distinctions of age. The overall sense is of lives refracted, time bending so that the rich past appears recurrently in a dull and empty present. Being stranded with one's thoughts and hemmed in by someone else's time appears as a bleak, albeit common, experience of America's elderly, and begs the question, "What is a dignified life and how should it draw to a close?" This group's stunning depiction gives one pause to consider the alternatives. At Dance New Amsterdam. 1 hour. [Winchester]

If You See Something, Say Something
Elna Baker sweeps you up into her whirlwind of optimism like an abandoned car in a prairie storm and shows you how thrilling it is to always be a little shaken up. Adhering to the rules of her Mormon faith, she says no to a few things in life (i.e. cocktails, spliffs, mocha frappachinos, sexy nightgowns used in the field, etc.), but she wholeheartedly says yes to everything else. Over the course of this one woman show, she disarmingly details her experiences in New York, from her first love with an athiest to her fortune cookie/vagina halloween costume conceived of for a Mormon mixer. (Only one was actually intended. I'll let you guess which one.) More like a series of vignettes than a unified whole, the flow snags briefly here and there, but Elna's ebullience carries one through the transitions, and the momentum never suffers greatly. This girl's got wit, wiles, and a wonderful commitment to giving all of herself, from the sound of things, in life, and most definitely onstage. At Manhattan Children's Theatre. 45 minutes. [Winchester]

Reservoir Bitches
Based on Tarantino's ultra cool movie, Reservoir Dogs (1992) about a heist gone bad, Reservoir Bitches translates the story for the stage and moves it into a feminine milieu, launching a woman talk free-for-all. This twisted homage fires on all cylinders, but it's best if you're familiar with the film so the parody can work for you. After the show an actor remarked on how many people who come to the play haven't seen the movie. Laura McGhee's cute spoof is sharp and jam packed with girl clichés played for laughs. Tough boss Jo wears a pink blouse with silver sequins and Ms Blonde is "walking around like a f***ing stereotype." After her ear is removed to the strains of "Steel Wheels," the Cop cries, "Can you do me a favor? Can you get my earring?" Video segments capture outdoor action scenes and cool slo-mo. It's a good time-- a foxy mix of violence, sensitivity, advice on sale prices, and fashionable black gangster suits. At DR2 Theatre. 70 minutes [Osenlund]

Blue Balls
In the gay community coming of age often takes on the specificity of coming out. In theater its most often manifest is as a one-man (or one-woman) show. Michael Tester's Blue Balls is the playwright-performer's attempt to dramatize his fraught experience as an openly gay man within the ranks of the NYPD. Unfortunately, too much is revealed via narrative -- one gets the sense that the piece was first imagined as a monologue and then fleshed out. As such, it commits the cardinal sin in drama, it tells where it should show. (Example: As Tester's career as a cop takes a turn for the worse he simply announces that he became a "bad cop" rather than allow the audience to discover it on its own.) While I want to root for Tester's triumph, this piece suffers from lack of detachment and focus. At 75 minutes, Balls promises to parse Tester's tenure as a man in blue, but it begins all too early with the lad being traumatized over dodgeball and Cub Scouts. In fact, the first twenty minutes could have been cleaved without a loss to the play's central premise. While Tester is a likeable foil, all too often he trivializes significant historical moments, including the Stonewall Rebellion, for an easy joke. The hardworking cast of four portrays a myriad of roles; most noteworthy are Alexandra Bosquet, a terrific ham when required, and Vincent Ortega who is as limber as Gumby. Note to Tester: whether or not one's material is memoir or fiction, there's no call to utter, "You can't make this shit up" a half-dozen times. "The Blue Wall Of Silence" is compelling material, here it's criminally underserved. At Flea Theater. 75 minutes. [Weinstein]

SubURBAN Stories
The odd capitalization in the title of SubURBAN Stories is important. These aren't generally stories about suburbia. According to the program note, author/director Tom Conklin conducted interviews with a number of real people to discover the dark underbelly of suburban life, but ended up with something more intense than expected. SubURBAN Stories is a series of reminiscences on the urban experiences that have led each of the six characters to live outside the city. The play is ultimately a discussion on unresolved racial tensions and an argument for the need to discuss what's under the surface. The piece is staged more like a reading than a play -- the actors carry scripts, for instance, and mostly sit in a row when they're not talking. And the separation of the play into eight "movements" doesn't add much, either. But the accomplished performances and honest, personal storytelling of each character make the play seem as polished and affecting as it needs to be. SubURBAN Stories is a thought-provoker, and an enjoyable one at that. At Center for Architecture. 80 minutes. [Furay]

Rapunzel is just as sweet, appealing and predictable as you might expect from a musical retelling of a children's classic. It sets out to entertain the kids, and certainly manages to do that. On the other hand, neither the music, nor the production values, nor the storytelling is particularly memorable, so this retelling isn't quite as enjoyable for the parents as it is for the kids. Rapunzel is staged as a fairy tale within a modern setting (think The Princess Bride). A vivacious babysitter (Jenn Wehrung) tells her charges the story as it comes to life before our eyes. The babysitter is perfectly willing to adapt the story as she and the children see fit: for example, the kids, who are quite sick of princes, decide the hero should be an artist, instead. This gimmick isn't overused quite as often as it could be, and it adds a bit of freshness and modernity to the story. The songs (by director Karen Rousso, also responsible for the book) are more disappointing, as they don't tend to add either vibrance or humor. That said, the cast (particularly Wehrung, the iron-voiced D'Jamin Bartlett as the witch, and Raum-Aron and Katy Apostolico as the two children) are uniformly appealing and dedicated. And it's intimate and cheerful enough so that even during its most saccharine moments, Rapunzel is more charming than cloying. At Children's Museum of Manhattan. 90 Minutes. [Furay]

Odd Man Out
John Holleman and Company bring a collection of astonishingly good masks along with five versatile performers to Odd Man Out, a collection of ten quite varied short pieces that range from "odd" to "out". Some are performed in mime, while others are "talkies". The former are the best of the lot, as are the more high energy work in two sections (both of which are reprised in the second act) called "Slickers" and "Maroons". A few of the works are a bit too sluggishly staged for my taste, but the whole reminds us how truly insightful mask work can be. I'd say something specific about the actors here, but they are so successfully hidden under mask that they are not distinguishable individually. They are, for the record, John Devine, John Early, Trish Moalla, Wesley Paine and Andrew Swanson. At Classic Stage. 90 minutes. [Gutman]

Diving Normal
At first it looks like a standard twenty-something drama about negotiating new relationships. But its believable, mundane, funny dialogue soon reveals its undertow. Ashlin Halfnight's complex play has its melodrama with phone calls and found mail, but gets intense as info is uncovered, events unfold, and a "special" person understands what a bright, normal guy misses. Halfnight doesn't offer a pat solution to tie it up neatly. Solid acting in challenging roles (Eliza Baldi, Josh Heine, Jayd McCarty) and good direction (Mary Catherine Burke), not to mention cool music between scenes, converge to make this a heavy contender for Electric Pear Productions. At Access Theater. 90 minutes [Osenlund]

Open House
Partial Comfort Productions offers a comedy of manners about two absurd (but not absurdist) families with conflicting ideas about politics, family values and outdoor decoration. A neighbor takes issue with the "Uncle Sam side show next door." Along the way ideas about what's important surface. "Sometimes the best thing in life that you can be -- is attractive" represents the view shared by a father with the neighbor's son. Outdoor and indoor problems get off the wall and out of hand. The tween daughter with a crush on the boy next door has an imaginary friend clone of him. Bess Rous has landed an acting plum with this unusual role of a precocious yet challenged girl, and she runs with it. An outstanding performance. In fact all the actors are wonderful, although writer Ross Maxwell needs to move the action along. Open House takes its sweet time getting to where its going. It already has lost its intermission and it could stand to lose a half hour of dialogue. Still, it's well done. At Access Theater. 1 hour 45 minutes. [Osenlund]

The Bicycle Men
Nonsense Francais from some alternative semi-Gallic universe. Four middle aged men cavort in a truly unique musical featuring deja vu puppet shows and songs like a Nihilist lullaby, a fake breast song, and a fish fry song -- the usual. Music and lyrics by Michael Nutter include the popular-with-the audience lyric, "I'm in a musical but I'm hetero. Ya gotta know that I'm straight." Episodic and what used to be called risque, this clever, tuneful collaboration by guys with big time comedy credits has a sudden denouement that's actually a bit of a let down. Still, it's a veteran Fringe attraction with a big draw. At The Village Theatre. 65 minutes. [Osenlund]

The Olsen Terror
There's something supremely theatrical about a large man with considerable gravitas singing Mary Kate and Ashley songs and doing a monkey dance. "The Man" fills the audience in: "I'm giving a little presentation on Kafka and I'm turning into the Olsen twins." Chris Wells is in masterful control of his material, which includes a Kafka collection, TV, Play Station, newspaper, website, and most importantly, the Olsen Internet chat room -- none are actually on the stage. Jeremy Bass is in the performing space providing lovely guitar music, vocal backup, perfectly timed support, collaboration, and decoration. The Man accesses the chat room: "strangers communicating about the lives of people they don't know." He describes the scope of the junior entrepreneurs' enterprises and sings about the twins: "Everything's a lie and nothing's what it seems and we're little girls about whom everybody dreams." In this sophisticated presentation Chris Wells enjoys referring to television as a metaphor-free media that doesn't require critical thought and he deconstructs his own show-in-progress. Original and inimitable. At Flea Theater. 75 minutes. [Osenlund]

Corleone: The Shakespearean Godfather
"Luca Brasi with the fishes sleeps." Bottom line is, it works. It can be Shakespearean. Godfather I has the necessary elements -- the sweep, the power, the whole Robert Warshow Gangster As Tragic Hero thing. It not only works, David Mann's mix of Shakespeare and gangsters is a perfect fit. A Richard III Salazzo is no stretch at all. Scenes that can't adequately be conveyed on stage in the allotted time are narrated, a la Shakespeare, like the horse head scene and the hospital scenes. Substitute knives and swords for guns -- Vito is knifed in the fruit buying episode, and Fredo still cries, " Papa, papa! " The show is economical and strategically blocked and staged. Exact postures and costumes vividly recall the film. The audience finds satisfaction in recognizing trademark gestures. After Michael pulls off his restaurant kills, he drops the knife and immediately puts his hands up and walks out just as Michael aka Al Pacino does. Who can top "Pray, query not about my business, Kay "? This has it all, Shakespeare, the Duke of Queens, the Lords of Brooklyn, New Jersey and Upstate, and the Corleone family. Writer, director Mann has done a bang up job. I just loved it to death. At Players Theatre. 75 minutes. [Osenlund]

A Time To Be Born
A good 1940s-era New York musical, even a formulaic one, will seldom go wrong when it's well-performed and well-produced. Unfortunately, Lemon Tree Productions' A Time To Be Born seems to have forgotten about the second part of the equation. The performance I saw was a comedy of technical errors throughout, from a sound system which veered wildly from too soft to eardrum-shakingly loud to a light post which fell and broke to a window seat which always seemed right on the verge of wobbling off stage (not a pleasant prospect for the women in heels who had to stand on it as the plot demanded). Add to that a host of missed lighting cues and occasional music mistiming and you have a sloppy show which clearly needed at minimum another week of rehearsal. The musical itself (based on the book of the same name by Dawn Powell) is mostly forgettable, with a couple of decent songs and a rather obvious plot -- the characters are interesting but underdeveloped, and at times their behavior is both bewildering and contradictory. This is all a pity, as the cast itself is (with a few exceptions) pretty good, particularly Christy Morton in the lead role of Vicky. But the performances aren't enough to overcome the unprofessional, high-schoolish presentation; there's just no excuse for a show this unprepared to make it to stage. At Lucille Lortel Theatre. 2 hours with intermission. [Wilson].

The Deepest Play Ever: The Catharsis of Pathos
Floating somewhere between grammar school pageant and "look how smart I am" referential humor, Deepest Play ends up as less than the sum of its parts. Those parts are occasionally fun, but it's the long stretches of byzantine storytelling, conveyed with a healthy dose of over-the-top, winking acting and overblown writing, that scuttles the show. Some of the songs are appealingly presented, and there are a few performances (most notably Boo Killebrew) that rise above the fray. In a stroke of timeliness, the script is heavily reliant on Mother Courage, and the playbill also acknowledges sources as varied as Shakespeare and Sarah Kane, Marlowe and Chuck Mee. (It should be noted that the Zombie genre is also quite fully represented, and the play is set in the post-apocalyptic future.) The producing organization is CollaborationTown, a company formed by a group of recent BU graduates. Their project seems like the sort of thing that grows out of an impromptu reunion after the keg runs dry. At Village Theatre. 1 hour, 45 minutes. [Gutman]

This adaptation of Phaedra starts promisingly, with symbolic mime supported by music as an effective way to introduce the ill-fated characters famously introduced on ancient Greek amphitheatres. However, while the script is generally effective in this production by X-plormentals, a theatre collective "devoted to exploring the creative potential and possibilities of merging different theatre and performing traditions," the production sinks quickly in its inept mixture of styles and particularly unfortunate cross-dressing casting of both Oenone, Phaedra's nanny and Theramenes, King Theseus's right hand man and mentor to his son. The former adds to the counter-productive gender-bending several absurdly mimed asides to the audience that totally undermine the tone and mood of the production, rendering at times a camp version of Kabuki; the latter again misses the mark, undermining the intended guiding hand of the character. Both contribute such cartooned performances and outrageous upstaging that the production feels like a workshop for a musical of a graphic novel or a historical segment of Sesame Street. Even the costumes are a disappointment, looking obviously like generic robes run through the sewing machine last week for a junior high pageant. The valiant survivors of this stylistic mess include an impressive Paul Pryce as Theseus, a touching David Beck as his son Hippolytus, and a remarkably affecting Susie Abraham as Aricia, a banished princess. At Cherry Lane. 1 hour, 45 minutes. [Bradley]

Grace Falls
This mythical musical offers some rather nice music by Daeil Cha, although his script suffers from confusion and weak development. Two young women, the comely but strangely mute Arariah and the vocal and decidedly more distressed Orfeo, run for their lives with their friend Balthazar following a tragic attack on their village by an evil killer. Their respect for ancestors is paramount, so they stop for ritualistic prayers. When they encounter Demanon, a sprite, different from them but sympathetic and helpful, they ironically are led to the evil Cassius, his monstrous hunchback master who may merely be misunderstood. The songs are consistently entertaining and are usefully inflected with both jazz and hip-hop rhythms, although the overall style is inconsistent, leading to a hodge-podge that ranges from fairy tale to Cole Porter and Asian mime. Especially impressive are Chad Lindsey as Balthazar who is appealing in looks and movement and displays a mellow, attractive leading man voice and Joseph Yeargain, whose charming narrator, although on stage far too little, conveys great stage presence and an attractive sense of mischief. While the scene transitions are ragged and the script often is incomprehensible, the imagination and genuineness of the performances and the buoyancy of the music keep this fragile fantasy afloat. At Village Theatre. 2 hours with intermission. [Bradley]

If you are familiar with the films The Front Page or the distaff variation His Girl Friday, consider Faded a contemporary tabloid variation on the latter. This journalistic potboiler is decidedly positioned in the yellow journalism area led by the National Enquirer. Lolita Lacey, once a high-profile television reporter, now works for a dubious but widely-sold rag and has come upon a compromising photograph of a certain glamorous U.S. president and the quintessentially famous Hollywood blonde that she thinks will return her worn reporter's star upward. The highly melodramatic plot includes not only seamy tabloid scandals, but also a background of office sex, professional deceit, and an assortment of criminal and unethical behavior. We learn quickly in Robert Dominguez's facile but overburdened script that "only masochistic morons get into journalism." The extremely strong cast is particularly blessed with Angie Krisitic as Lolita and Michael Perri as Mickey, a crusty informant who holds the crucial photo which can restart Lolita's career and put Mickey on Easy Street for his pending retirement. Also effective are Belange Rodriguez playing a scandal sheet variation on Eve Harrington, the would-be star who fawns over the one she would like to replace, Amneris Morales as a wronged Mafia moll Carlos Molina, Carlos Molina as an especially low-life editor, and John Cannatella as a young waiter who himself finds a surprising path to opportunity. The script, although often engaging, needs either a simplification of its twisting plot if it means to be taken seriously, or an intensification and consistency of style if it is to work as a parody. At present, the hybrid being performed is too long and unfocused. At Players Theatre. 1 hour, 45 minutes. [Bradley]

Tuesdays & Sundays
This extraordinary play for two, apparently drawn from history, concerns two teens on the edge of adulthood who were tragically drawn together in rural Canada in 1887. It most deservedly has won awards in both Canada (A Top Ten Production, 2001) and here in New York (FringeNYC excellence award for overall production, 2003). This tender and engrossing, although ultimately tragic, tale of love is so beautifully written and performed as to leave its audience utterly transfixed. When I realized that the gifted performers, Daniel Arnold and Medina Hahn, also are the playwrights, I was even more astonished. Their story actually plays like a perfect dramatic reading of a short story. Their minimalist but highly inventive writing involves highly imaginative and even thrilling interweaving of narration and dialogue via echo and harmony, and effective narrative depiction of secondary characters as well as achingly touching portrayals of the troubled teens at the center. This nearly modern-day couple, while more formal and restrained compared to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, features more passion and vocal variety from its subtle cast of two than is usually rendered from most dramas involving much larger casts and production costs. This production of Tuesdays & Sundays is a true theatrical event and warrants repeated bookings. Bravo! At Classic Stage Company. 50 minutes. [Bradley]

Garbage Boy
We begin Garbage Boy in media res. As the audience finds its seats, writer-performer Christopher Millis pounds on the keys of his black portable Royal. The play formally opens as Millis reads from his typewritten copy, suffusing memory with MFK Fisher-like sensuality. While extolling a handful of European cities, comparing London, Paris, and Rome to fine meals, his mother remarks, "Listen to what comes out of his mouth." And indeed, attention must be paid. Wary as I am of one-man plays, Millis has fashioned an intimate fireside chat. Set festooned like a junkyard or upended life, he dissects Yaddo, the rarified writer's colony, juxtaposing its privilege with his humble origins as the son of a blue-collar worker, yes -- a garbage man. Poet Millis' gift is to distill a moment -- to find harsh beauty even in acts of violence. His journey, eluding and disarming his family's self-identification as "White Trash," is a tête-à-tête you won't soon forget. Listen in. At Flea Theater.75 minutes. [Weinstein]

Backstage at Da Fonky B
Writer, director, co-musical collaborator (with Darlyne Cain) and star Aleya "The Genie" Miller is into multi-tasking. In her tell all chronicle of life on the seedy side, Miller, an attractive Princeton graduate with great gams and a decent voice, more memorably, however, demonstrates her considerable talent for evading dramatic credibility. She plays a New Orleans stripper named Brownie Glendale who is eager to tell "my side of the story" to nerdy bespectacled reporter Nathan James (R. Patrick Alberty), after he has gained access to her dressing room in bedraggled drag. It's quite a convoluted story and digressive enough to encourage him to take off his wig and get out of those high heels. This, while he listens with the rest of us to Brownie's bumpy and grinding narrative in two acts in which she drags us through her dull days as a lounge singer in an airport motel to waitress and onward, with the help of an ex lap dancer Lolli Fedicci (Nedra Ne'Quan), to fame as a head-liner/entrepreneur of burlesque. Brownie and Lolli's back up consists of two ad hoc dancers (Miho Sato and Sancha Durham) who get to shimmy and shake their respective rumps amongst tassels and feathers when Brownie's narrative tends toward the melodramatic, that inevitably includes the men in their lives, domestic violence, drugs, sex, and murder. As this show proves, you don't have to see it to disbelieve it. At DR2. 1 hour, 30 minutes with intermission. [Saltzman]

The XXXoticka Review
Writer and star Carmen Barika, fresh from her European tour of Jerome Savary's On Recherche Josephine, has taken time off to showcase herself in her own show subtitled "A Bohemian Tragedy... in Burlesque". Under the sympathetic direction of Aixa Kendrick, this loopy quasi-operatic burlesque alludes rather shamelessly to the pathetic story of La Boheme. It rather courageously indulges in high brow musical motifs, even as it wallows in the grossest sort of low brow titillation. Therein hangs its allure. Having escaped the devastation of hurricane Katrina by floating to safety on "inflatable tits," New Orleans stripper XXXotica finds refuge with Sigmond (Darryl Harris), a poor writer looking for a story. As told from petite and perky XXXotica's point of view, as she performs her extremely xxx act, her amusingly integrated narrative rests on her being exploited as a porno star by the opportunistic Sigmond. Waving a huge black phallus, XXXotica elicits quite a few laughs during her serio-comic erotic act that hilariously claims to show us the sexual relationship between Egypt and Africa (no fooling). She also earns our empathy as she sings some highfalutin' arias between her coughing spells. There is also a melancholy poet (Hannibal) on the sidelines who recites some lyrical drivel and a burlesque Heckler (Dominic Marcus) who does just that. As expected, things don't go well for her and she dies after being abducted by an alien. Sigmond finds her too late but realizes how much he loved her. "Let me finish the story," he says. Spare us, we say. At DR2. 1 hour, 30 minutes. [Saltzman]

The City That Cried Wolf
Call it nursery noir, but when Jack B. Nimble (Adam LaFaci) steps out of the darkness and says, "It was a dark city. It was a dangerous city," you better believe it. All hell breaks loose when this cynical gumshoe visits councilman Humpty Dumpty ("He was a big egg with a thin shell") and quickly discovers rampant political chicanery and corruption in the city ("This is my town!") where Goldilocks can be found drunk at the bar at the Club Hey Diddle Diddle, and femme fatale Bo Beep is suspected of two-timing her husband, while roving packs of big bad wolves go around blowing down houses. And how is Mother Goose, the chief of police involved in all of this? It's more than the twin cops named Grimm can handle. A black market stakeout ends in tragedy for Jack and Jill who have been assigned to the vice squad. Written with an audaciously adult wit by Brook Reeves, the plot employs the most popular story book characters to weave (or is it waddle?) their way through a maze of double crosses including one across Jack's nose a la Jack Nicholson. Director Daniel Barnes has the right handle on this quirky and quack-y lark (yes, there is Dr. Quack and Mama Lurkey) that was workshopped last year by the Gateway Acting Company, an educational outreach program affiliated with the Miniature Theatre of Chester, Massachusetts [recently renamed Chester Theater]. Unfortunately the young and eager company is not quite up to the task. But it would be a treat to see this cleverly conceived conceit performed by actors more experienced in performing story-book theater. At the Classic Stage Company. 1 hour, 20 minutes. [Saltzman]

The Tell-Tale Heart
Taking Edgar Allan Poe's short, great Gothic horror story and musicalizing it sounded like a terrific idea. Like many/most efforts at giving the genre a musical life, Danny Ashkenasi's Tell-Tale Heart instead sticks a stake in it. Dubbing it a "musicabre," Ashkenasi -- who not only adapted Poe's text and wrote the music but also is the show's lone actor -- manages to diminish rather than enhance what he started with. The music comes in the form of three onstage cellos, who not only play Ashkenasi's music, but -- most effectively -- add sound effects. That music conveys a sense of technical proficiency, but not of thoughtful connection to the material. Much of the text has been transformed into songs, which rely far too heavily on an uninteresting operatic recitative style. It's also far too loud, forcing the actor to practically scream to be heard. Combined with Ashkenasi's nominal acting abilities on display here, the result is inert. At Cherry Lane - Studio. 35 minutes. [Gutman]

Faust NYC
The production note for Faust NYC says "we are basically just a bunch of kids from Jersey (and a few other places) who have day jobs and love theater," and if you go into this production with a similar attitude you'll warm up to it much more quickly. You needn't worry that you'll be hit with a production from out of left field, either; despite a few multimedia segments and some modern rap music for scene transitions, Marlowe's classic tale of temptation and damnation doesn't get much of a modern overhaul here... which in a way is part of the problem. Everyone is very, very earnest, from Shawn Harrison's continually-on-the-edge-of-amazement take on the doomed Faustus to Joshua Goldfond's (who also directs) righteously angry old man who attempts, unsuccessfully, to pull Faustus back from the abyss -- and as a result, even when it appears that the direction seems to be calling for a tongue-in-cheek sensibility, everyone is so damned (pardon the pun) reverential that the moment ends up being confused instead. (Reginald S. Burch is the only actor who doesn't suffer from this problem, and his Mephistopheles is surprisingly engaging, if not totally polished.) The interminable pauses between lines don't help matters, and the nearly two hour running time without intermission could have been cut down considerably if a number of these gaps had been properly expunged (the pace generally feels more like that of an under-directed college production than a edgy theater piece). The Faust story always has some elemental power no matter how it's treated, and there are moments where the production taps into this power -- and the multimedia segments actually work fairly well, especially during Lucifer's display of the Seven Deadly Sins to Faustus. But ultimately, one wishes the show spent less time on deferential but lifeless line readings and more about feeling the building tension of Faustus's impending fate. At Actors Playhouse. 1 hour, 45 minutes. [Wilson].

Described by its creator as an exploration of "how we define and create home, boundaries, and alliances," Site-Seeing began in a theatrical clown class in San Francisco. We first see a line of bored actors lined up awaiting an audition, yet in their underwear. Apparently we are seeing the "real people," prior to the acquisition of any theatrical character. One by one, they leave the line to sell themselves to their theatrical judges. As they re-emerge, again one by one, we see them in bits of costume that suggest arrivals to a new area who are staking out territory. Much of their behavior is eccentric and sometimes even absurd. As in life, some are good at reaching out and communicating, while others struggle, or resist society and isolate themselves. These exchanges are often humorous, and are frequently perplexing as well. Curiously, this troupe of nine is mostly female, and its three lone male members get relatively little to do. Unfortunately, in its current state, while all the performances are winning, the work feels more like an class exercise than a show ready for an audience and would benefit from a more apparent dramatic line rather than relying primarily on playful indulgences. At Linhart Theatre, 1 hour, 15 minutes. [Bradley]

Band Geeks
For anyone who ever cared about organized high school activities, Band Geeks is a show that may bring back assorted memories. Pitting the "geeks" who populate the school's mostly maligned marching band against the football jocks whose games they are required to support, writers Becky Eldridge and Amy Petersen create a musical world not far removed in spirit from Grease; again, outsider teens struggle to be accepted by the in-crowd. Most characters are deliberate cartoons, and the band members include an ever-smiling Mennonite lass, a buxom and very pregnant girl who gives birth during band practice, a perpetually horny guy, a quintessential nerd with wide-rim glasses, and an insecure orphan lad devoted to his grandma. Also much featured are the band's solicitous faculty chaperone, Mrs. Love, and its frustrated but determined director, Mr. Bradford, both of whom nurture and protect their charges with fervor. Unlike Grease, the adult characters are as interesting as the kids, especially those two mentioned. As Mrs. Love, Ed Jones delivers the most charming drag character seen in years; the same actor, as the ill-fated grandma, presents us a particularly touching approach to alternative casting. Equally affecting is Joseph Cranford as Joey, the determined but shaken orphan whose grandma keeps him focused in his leading duties as drum major. The songs are mostly fun, although the script, which could easily be family fare, unfortunately too often moves into the vulgar to be appropriate for children, at least those kids in the custody of adults. At Lortel Theatre. 1 hour, 30 minutes. [Bradley]

Breeze Off the River
While a more helpful title for this fluid and issue-packed play would be welcome, its penetrating and witty script and simple yet sharp production deserve considerable praise for putting a fresh spin on the familiar topic of the world's inability to deal with same-sex couples, or more particularly, parenting by such folks. Here we find an accidental odd couple who have nothing in common with Neil Simon's iconic Felix and Oscar other than a practical need to have a home in the absence of a former or hoped-for partner. Sean is a successful career waiter who at the gym finds a good sparring partner in Eric, a willing house-husband who sacrificed a lucrative career in finance for his wife's acting ambitions. While Sean's conservative manner makes his gay orientation a surprise for straight Eric, the two nevertheless quickly develop a strong platonic rapport; when Eric's wife selfishly and suddenly deserts both her husband and eight-year-old son, Eric turns to Sean in seeking a refuge for himself and especially for his troubled son E.J. Personality and lifestyle clashes predictably ensue, as well as a Thomas Hardy inspired deus ex machina plot twist which leads to soul searching and legal battles. The script is absolutely engrossing, and the performances are strong, particularly Kyle Baxter and Jon Crefeld as Sean and Eric respectively. Amazingly, the script is also by Mr. Baxter, whose authorship is barely detectable in the humble program notes. Added to the dramatic fodder is an examination of the classic Good Samaritan who believes "this is what I am supposed to be doing." The play is further helped by an excellent supporting cast and spot-on direction by Deloss Brown, although some of the actors were having projection trouble with dead spots in the challenging CSC stage which seats its audience on three sides. At Classic Stage Company. 2 hours, 10 minutes with intermission. [Bradley]

Americana Absurdum
The earliest (1997) of the dramatic alumni that have been brought back for this 10th FringeNYC, this pair of one-act plays begins with "Vomit & Roses," a satirical amalgam of the culture of high school proms and family funeral homes. Patriotic hymns that frame the piece underscore the Americana aspect, and a recording of Johnny Cash singing "I've been Everywhere, Man" seems a tribute to both pioneering and adventurousness. Characters introduce themselves from a line, and both plays of the pair are done mostly without conventional stage lighting; instead, hand-carried small spotlights are carried by members of the ensemble to illuminate faces of those speaking. This raw technique establishes an unusual dramatic intensity which is fascinating at first, but finally becomes tiresome after nearly two hours. The cast's frantic energy is deliberate, and nearly all dialogue is delivered in a staccato shotgun manner, often almost shouted. The family funeral home includes a mother with a fascination with the evisceration process, and paralleling her obsession is a fantasy prom date for her daughter, the U.S. military's Lt. William Calley, notorious three decades ago for his service in Vietnam. The companion piece, "Wolverine Dream," brings together clowns who deliver death messages, a family Thanksgiving dinner, and a commercial airline crash, the awesome mammal of the title apparently the only survivor of the air tragedy. This play's writing has a somewhat more poetic tone, even at times approaching the fervor often associated with competitive poetry slams. A bit of dialogue that sticks in the mind, "language that pierces the soul," seems an appropriate description. In this half, the continuing dramatic intensity and unconventional lighting made me wonder if Americana Absurdum might work even better on radio, with the visual content left to the imagination. Yet the actors dazzle with their yeoman work, although their purposefully cartooned work generally does not permit many performances to stand out. Nevertheless, both Pete McCabe and Paul Urcioli are particularly memorable for their heroic characterizations. To the credit of the fine cast, directors John Clancy (original) and Mr. Urcioli (current), and certainly writer Brian Parks, this production mostly fascinates, even with its excesses and obliqueness. At Lortel Theatre. 2 hours with intermission. [Bradley]

Rum & Coke
This solo show, tenderly written and warmly performed by Carmen Pelaez, takes her from New York to Miami and finally to the now quiet home of her ancestors in Havana itself, the pristine but quietly sad wedding cake design of a house now occupied solely by an elderly aunt, de facto curator of the family treasures including dinner plates being put into use for the first time in over 40 years. Ms. Pelaez's autobiographical travelogue goes on a bit too long, but patience is rewarded, for there are touching depictions of not only elderly relatives, but also of Cubans of all ages and circumstances. Her penetration into a culture that she sees as a deteriorating still life, yet an inevitably transformed society, is quite remarkable. The production uses ample projections and graphic technology to identify people and places, and of course to add decorative atmosphere in the absence of a traditional set. With a bit of trimming, this engaging monologue that searches for the beauty of the past and finds it in the survivors of the present would terrifically integrate into educational and community programs everywhere. At Center for Architecture. 1 hour, 30 minutes. [Bradley]

The Infliction of Cruelty
If you are lucky enough to see The Infliction of Cruelty, clearly the most impressive new work I've seen at this year's FringeNYC, you might be reminded of Broadway's recent Festen, highly anticipated but a disappointment to many. In contrast, The Infliction of Cruelty, a masterfully constructed debut script by the duo of Andrew Unterberg and Sean McManus, sparkles and crackles in its magnificently agile dialogue crammed with mind-tingling literary allusions that range from Thoreau to Bertrand Russell to Biblical mythology. Like Festen, this impressive work centers on the young and privileged adult children of an immensely successful father, who apparently has a remarkable Achilles heel that transforms family relationships. In this case, the father and mother both are famous, yet neither is seen. He is a famous opera composer, while she is a noted psychiatrist. Their four children, Thomas, Jonathan, Benjamin, and the amazingly-named daughter, Prussia, all are gifted, intellectual, attractive, and extraordinarily articulate. They gather in a study (they refer to it as a sanctuary) of the large family house while a celebration honoring their father proceeds downstairs. The cast of five (including the girlfriend of the youngest son) are uniformly strong under Joel Froomkin's masterful direction. Secrets and indiscretions are at the core of this story, and while some of the plotting may defy plausibility, the engaging theatrical results are a fabulous payoff in this crisp, efficient, and stylish contemporary drama. This deeply thoughtful and theatrical play is in good company with the best work of T.S. Eliot, Edward Albee, and Tom Stoppard. At Players Theatre. 1 hour, 50 minutes. [Bradley]

Never Swim Alone
This startling play for three is another of the alumni brought back for this year's FringeNYC, having won the Prize for Overall Excellence in 1999. The kudos are deserved, for this production has drive, excitement, humor, and considerable food for thought, especially concerning our values and our personal relationships. It is organized as a series of competitive rounds between two sharply-dressed young professional men who now see each other rarely but have a shared history dating back to high school. One fateful summer back then, Frank and Bill spent "all summer, every day, all day" at the beach. On the final day of the summer, they encountered a young woman, and accepted her challenge to "race to the point." The referee of the fantastical competition, it turns out, evokes the woman whose challenge they accepted. While she has relatively little to say, her contributions to the dramatic energy are vital. Early clues are given that one man has with him a loaded gun and that something tragic has affected both of them. The elliptical suspense is palpable. The superb cast (John Maria, Douglas Dickerman, and Susan Louise O'Connor) is riveting, and author Daniel MacIvor has effectively replicated Timothy P. Jones's direction from the award-winning 1999 staging. At Actors Playhouse. 1 hour, 30 minutes. [Bradley]

Sax and Dixon: This Plane is Definitely Crashing
In the spirit of long-form improv, Chicago-based Matt Sax and John Dixon weave together seemingly disparate plots into a bizarre but thrilling culmination using only two chairs and their impressive craftsmanship. Peter McNerney's staging gave Sax and Dixon freedom to play while focusing the action down to its essential elements, making certain that there are no wasted moves. The audience is asked to accept a few wild impossibilities along the way such as condors and pterodactyls locked in heated battle, summoned by a present day prince and a two bit magician. But co-writers Sax, Dixon, and McNerney stand by their choices and make even the most random pieces integral to the wrap-up. The soaring number of hair-brained characters remarkably distinguished by Sax and Dixon are fully formed, and despite their odd-ball outlook in an even odder world, elicit empathy. This trip is a real treat. At Gene Frankel Theatre. 1 hour, 25 minutes. [Winchester]

The Best of The 24 Hour Plays
If the Fringe Festival is theater on the fly, nothing epitomizes its let's-put-on-a-show spontaneity more than the 24 Hour Plays. This being the program's 10th anniversary, its producers decided to handpick the best of the bunch. These revisited works were left intact, not rewritten since their debut performances; and in that same spirit there was no interim rehearsal. Cast and crew reunited the morning of the event and nine hours later they were on stage. Of the five works offered that evening, my favorite was the opener, Mac Roger's Karla Says. Its absurd approach to the mundane (in this case, choreographing infidelity in the face of a helpless spouse) set the tone for the evening. Likewise, while Vikings was a hearty romp mocking masculinity, Poor Bob made for an unflinching look at obsession. A Weekend in Brazil was a farce with mentally challenged children as foils, while I honestly did not have recall of my high school Spanish to keep up with The Woman's key change from Pinteresque banter to its faceoff with an omnipotent mime. That said, it was thrilling to experience pure creativity, unfettered by commercial concerns, turning its time constraints to its advantage. Until next year! At Lucille Lortel Theatre. 90 minutes with 1 intermission. [Weinstein]

It's undeniable that today's theatre is greatly shaped by the advent of film and television. Today's practicioners have cut their teeth on sitcom scenarios and car chases and audiences come to the theatre with shorter attention spans, an array of pop culture references, and high expections. But with a form pulled straight from the silent movie era, Silent Theatre Company's Lulu plays joyfully within a "non-theatrical" framework and ends up innovating. From style of movement to white powdered faces, Lulu is set squarely in this "pre-talkie" movie era. All dialogue is projected on the back wall, and every time this occurs, action freezes and the lights cut out, something I found a bit jolting at first but eventually got used to it as part of the form. The story follows an impetuous and insatiable dancer named Lulu who's looking out for number one. Everyone she meets can see this, but no matter how much they resist, all are intoxicated by her and fall prey to her machinations. This ensemble is remarkably connected and it's a joy to watch a group of physical performers who can push the envelope because of their innate trust of each other. At Connelly Theatre. 1 hour, 15 minutes. [Winchester]

Outstanding Play
I Was Tom Cruise
Modern Missionary

Outstanding Musical
The Fartiste
58! A Comedy About Bike Messengering
Fallen Angel

Outstanding Playwrighting
Matt Hoverman - In Transit
Moby Pomerance - Broken Hands
Geoffrey Decas - The Deepest Play Ever: The Catharsis of Pathos

Outstanding Music & Lyrics
Danny Ashkenasi - The Tell-Tale Heart

Outstanding Solo Show
Flying on the Wing
Mike's Incredible Indian Adventure
Democrats Abroad

Outstanding Direction
Mark Steven Robinson - Don't Ask
Jonathan Silverstein - Red Herring
Joel Froomkin - The Infliction of Cruelty

Outstanding Costume Design
Robin L. McGee - Rainy Days & Mondays
Renee Mariotti & Bernard Grenier - Trouble in Shameland

Outstanding Set Design
Shane LeClair - A Small Hole
Robin Vest - Hermanas

Outstanding Actor
Anna Jayne Marquardt - Walmartopia
Helen Stratford - Suicide - The Musical
Steve Hayes - The Pengiun Tango
Cory Grant - Broken Hands
Margaret Daly - T.L.C.

Outstanding Ensemble
Open House
Vice Girl Confidential
The Onion Lovers
Diving Normal

Outstanding Choreography
Paula Kroening - Band Geeks

Venue Addresses

13th Street Repertory Company - 50 West 13th Street (5/6 Av)

Access Theater - 380 Broadway, 4th Floor (Walker/White)

Actors' Playhouse - 100 Seventh Avenue South (Bleecker/Christopher)

Center for Architecture - 536 La Guardia Place (Bleecker/W3 St)

Cherry Lane - Studio - 38 Commerce Street (Bedford/Barrow)

Classic Stage Company - 136 East 13th Street (3/4 Av)

Connelly Theater - 220 East 4th Street (Avenue A/B)

Dance New Amsterdam - 280 Broadway, entrance on Chambers (Broadway/Elk)

DR2 Theatre - 103 East 15th Street (just east of Union Square)

Flea Theater - 41 White Street (Broadway/Church)

Gene Frankel Theatre - 24 Bond Street (@ Lafayette)

Henry Street Settlement - Experimental - 466 Grand Street (@ Pitt St)

Henry Street Settlement - Harry de Jur Playhouse - 466 Grand Street (@ Pitt St)

Henry Street Settlement - Recital Hall - 466 Grand Street (@ Pitt St)

Linhart Theater @ 440 Studios - 440 Lafayette, 3rd Floor (Astor Place/E4 St)

Lucille Lortel Theatre - 121 Christopher Street (Bleecker/Hudson)

Manhattan Children's Theatre - 52 White Street (Broadway/Church)

Mo Pitkin's House of Satisfaction - 34 Avenue A (E2/E3 St)

Players Loft - 115 MacDougal Street, 3rd Floor (just south of W3 St)

Players Theatre - 115 MacDougal Street (just south of W3 St)

Village Theatre - 158 Bleecker Street (@ Thompson Street)

1998 Fringe Report
1999 Fringe Report
2000 Fringe Report
2001 Fringe Report
2002 Fringe Report
2003 Fringe Report
2004 Fringe Report
2005 Fringe Report
Playbill Broadway Year Book
The new annual to dress up every Broadway lover's coffee table

Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2006 Movie Guide

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

                  metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
Click image to buy.
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The Broadway Theatre Archive


©2006  Elyse Sommer.