Sunday, August 26, 2007

Deserved: Naked in a Fishbow Among FringeNYC Encore Series!!!

Twelve New York International Fringe Festival 2007 plays will be part of the FringeNYC Encore Series, and thankfully the phe-freakin-nomenal Naked in a Fishbowl improv will be one of them. Billed as 'unscripted theater, uninhibited comedy,' four super-close gal pals and their neurotic NYC lives provide the perfect ingredients for a different comedic stew at each performance. Improv relies heavily on the talents of its actors, and in the capable hands of Katharine Heller, Brenna Palughi, Lynne Rosenberg and Lauren Seikaly the audience was given an impulsive thrill ride beyond compare. Four gorgeous, talented, ballsy women with the comedic chops to make you laugh until you snort? Now that is entertainment worth an encore.

Bonus: In addition to Naked in a Fishbowl, the extended plays at the FringeNYC Encores series include the amazing A Beautiful Child. Other plays are As Far As We Know, Double Vision, Hillary Angonistes, Lights Rise on Grace, Mary Brigit Poppleton Is Writing a Memoir, Bombs in Your Mouth, Jamaica Farewell, Paper Son, Piaf: Love Conquers All, and Fringe Festival Audience Favorite Riding the Bull.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

One Women Shows Rock New York Fringe Festival

Sodomy & Pedicures: A post-feminist, femme fatale wannabe finds she is just a little bit dirty in this hysterical solo manifesto. Through the skilled writing, super sharp wit and charming brazenness of the talented Jessica Hedrick, we are shown that the spawn of an Irish Catholic women's studies professor and an American communist will grow up to rebel through acts of submission. Conflicted by her wants of politically incorrect bedroom behavior and the good, old fashioned need to be loved, Hedrick provides perfect fodder for a performance that is over-the-top, laugh your ass off funny, and just a little (okay, a lot) naughty. Try as you might to resist your primal theatrical urge, you can't help but be riveted by Hedrick's heartfelt journey from confused innocent to confident babe ready for intimacy and a fabulous mani-pedi. Pure, outrageous, quintessentially far-out Fringe fare, let's hope this exploration of womanhood has life beyond the Festival.

Jaspora (Imitation Haitian): And now for something completely different. Knockout performer Nancy Moricette sparks a firestorm of energy, anger and conflict in this one woman show on cultural identity and racial prejudice. Super-fueled by a rage from within, Moricette's explosive and emotionally powerful performance exposes painful details of growing up the spirited child of religious Haitian immigrants. Switching deftly from youngster to adolescent to out-of-place college student, Moricette paints a perfect picture of a brilliant woman in tormented conflict with her surroundings. White boys, television fantasy and college degrees all play carrot to motivate Moricette's trek, which ultimately leads back to family and acceptance of self. Jaspora is Fringe theater with depth and a message of importance.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

More Fringe: A Beautiful Child and Angst: The New Teen Musical

More entertainment from the New York International Fringe Festival:

A Beautiful Child: Of all the Fringe offerings I've seen so far, this short and sweet tale of Truman Capote and Marilyn Monroe conversing throughout New York City is the one most likely to have life beyond the festival. Polished, well written, directed smartly to showcase its talented actors, A Beautiful Child delightfully delivers snark and heartbreak in the voice of the still-relevant Capote. The dialogue crackles and sparks between the two icons, each played with delicious originality and non-caricature by Joel Van Liew and Maura Lisabeth Malloy. My only complaint is that this too-quick glimpse into fame and folly lasted but a brief 50 minutes. More, please?

Angst: The New Teen Musical: Well, New York Magazine agrees with me. Angst: The New Teen Musical is, like, totally awesome. It features a MySpace obsessed narrator's observations of his classmates, each a classic, conflicted teen with [insert sex, drugs, identity, isolation here] issues. We all know that Disney cookie cutter high schoolers don't exist, and this cast kicks that to the curb without being too, you know, overdramatic and sulky. Featuring a rousing rock-and-roll score by an unbelievably talented Eric Mayson and gifted performances by him and the rest of the teenaged cast, the show is a spot-on microcosm of current high school life. Spring Awakening, beware!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

U.S. Premier of "Dirt" at NY Fringe Festival

Another admirable solo show at the New York International Fringe Festival, Dirt is the timely story of an Iraqi immigrant and his struggles as a stranger in the strange land of NYC. Desirous of assimilation yet hyperaware of his physical and cultural differences, the tragic, conflicted character of Sad leads us through a beautifully scripted one-man rant on racism and how it destroys from the inside out.

Through the extremely capable, charming performance of Christopher Domig, we are taken deep into the scraping-by world of rose vendor 'short-for-Saddam' Sad, exposing his self-hatred for his name, dark complexion and suspiciously large pores. He adores the English language and the pale white hands of those in the western world. So desperate is he for acceptance that he refuses letters from his mother and berates himself for soiling public toilets with his foreign waste. His inward repulsion is made all the more horrific as he elevates white American culture to impossible, illogical heights, purchasing the best English-Iraqi dictionary possible with his meager savings and pledging to turn over his Iraqi roommate should the Secret Service arrive. Betrayal is a minor sacrifice should it lead to even a crumb of acceptance.

Dirt was the most performed solo show in 1990's Austria, Germany and Switzerland, and you can see why. The script by Robert Schneider (well translated by Paul Dvorak) is tight, timeless and gripping. The show plays at The Players Theatre Loft Space at 115 MacDougal St., 8/18 @ 8:45pm, 8/19 @ 5pm, 8/21 @ 4:30pm and 8/22 @ 8pm. $15.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Favorite Fringe So Far: Miracle on Monroe Street

One of the greatest things about mining hundreds of New York Fringe Festival offerings is chancing upon an unexpected theatrical gem. Such was the case yesterday with The Miracle on Monroe Street. Not that I didn't expect the play to be delightful - I'd met creator, writer and puppeteer Jennifer Levine and her joyous energy let me know I was in for fun. But I had no idea that I would be so moved by the magical tale of her Grandmother's experiences growing up on the Lower East Side - and told through handcrafted puppets.

But moved I was, as well as tickled to full-on laughter, as were adults and children alike at the near-jam-packed Studio @ Cherry Lane Theater. We were taken back to the early 1900's to the childhood of Grandma Pearl and her mischievous younger sister. When the youngster steals a local baker's treat and escapes to a tenement rooftop, it is left to Pearl to steer her fate after she tumbles from on high - to become a Miracle Child.

In Europe, puppetry is a revered and respected craft, considered high art. Levine elevates it to such in The Miracle on Monroe Street, presenting her beloved creations with an ever-so-subtle breath of life. The story itself is beautifully universal, timeless and important, and explores New York City's immigrant experience as well as the bonds of family, beauty of forgiveness and role of religion in times of tragedy.

When the play ended, I was left desperately desiring further adventures of the delightful Pearl. Levine has said she envisions the piece as part of a trilogy, and we can only hope that she continues with this remarkable artistic vision. Shows continue on Sat 18 @8:30, Tue 21 @7:30, Sat 25 @8:30 at the Studio at Cherry Lane Theater, 38 Commerce St. Get tix in advance!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

More New York Fringe Festival Fun

Continuing my all-out-assault on the tremendous theater offerings in the New York International Fringe Festival, I'm aiming to take in a play a day. And my volunteering gigs get me near creative people and finally have me giving back to my beloved New York City home. Here are some insights into two more Fringe offerings:

Marvelous Shrine: Focusing on a family in crisis, with a 'gay rock-n-roll boy goes to war' plot twist, this play pits three strong pay-attention-to-me characters against each others desires, pride and notions of success. Playwright Leslie Bramm utilizes hot-button topics like homophobia, gays in the military and DUI's to illuminate the most classic of conflicts - grasps at independence between parents and child as each desperately aims to keep the bonds of unconditional love unbroken.

Bonus: Getting to meet director Pamela Butler was a thrill, as this dramatic one act is well produced and staged.

Vampingo, a Comedy with Bite: Bless the Fringe for providing a plethora of solo shows for hungry audiences. Ariana Johns' Vampingo offers a unique perspective on where a broken heart will lead us. Fantasy-filled and mystical, this play (co-written with director Jolene Adams) remains childlike as it explores mature themes like suicide, wicca-esque blood potions and bad bad men. Throw in a bat named Nosferatu, a sexy eel, blood-thirsty flamingo, and a few chatty lizards and you've got something uniquely Fringe.

Bonus: Meeting ACR Evangeline Johns (and mom of actor/playwright Ariana Johns) in the lobby, as well as cool New Yorker Selma. Great seeing how family and friends support fellow artists!

Monday, August 13, 2007

First Fringe Festival Foray

Over the past few days, I've been volunteering for the New York International Fringe Festival, where I'm doing everything from hanging posters to handing out will call tix at the box offices of various venues. What a total blast! All the volunteers are fellow culture buffs, and I'm also meeting a few actors and directors (and being a star-struck theater geek). Volunteers are desperately needed, so if you have some time to kill and a passion for innovative theater, be sure to visit FringeCENTRAL at 80 Carmine St. (at Varick) and get active!

So far, I've been fortunate enough to see two Fringe plays:
In the Shadow of My Son: Rough, gripping, sometimes humorous play about postpartum depression. Yep, that is right. But the work is important and informative, and the gentle direction allows your heart to break for the women whose identities are dwarfed by newborns and misunderstood by our 'cult of the child' society. Knockout performances by writer/director Nadine Bernard and spitfire Alexandra Gilman.

Lost in Hollywoodland, or The Slugwoman from Uranus: Gotta get to at least one musical extravaganza at the Fringe, and this play gives you a singing Satan. Won't take much effort to steal a soul or two among the stardom obsessed in Hollywood, and this jaunty theatrical trip gets your toes tapping as ill-fated artistes pursue the carrot of fame straight to Hell. Watch for a Bette-Davis-diva turn by mega talent Tamara Zook. Delicious!

Bonus: If you volunteer for the Fringe Festival, you'll get a voucher to see a show-FOR FREE! Sweet!

Friday, August 10, 2007

New York International Fringe Festival Gets Freaky

For those New Yorkers not jaunting off to upper crustie beach locales this month, the New York International Fringe Festival is THE current cultural place-to-be-seen. Held August 10-26 at theaters around town, this is the largest multi-arts festival in North America and features 200 shows at more than 20 venues. Shows range from an unabashedly wacky musical about Charles Bukowski, a political farce featuring a fictional, futuristic Hillary C., to a glut of angst-fueled commentaries created by genius solo humorists.

Some Fringe offerings wind up on B'way charging 10 times the festival's $15 ticket price. So use the FringeNYC Slice-o-Matic to find plays that speak to your on-stage groove, or pick 'em like a race horse (randomly, but based on a gut feeling.) Or volunteer and get an overall perspective on the multitudinous performance options. Hey, its a high class problem to have too many low-cost choices, so see as many plays as you can and support innovative theater!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Lost Your Grandmama's Cookbook? Then Go Here!

In New York City, a walk down any side street holds promise of the ultra quirky. You never know what bizarre, super-specialized store might be lurking. Today I wandered by a shop advertising out-of-print, antiquarian, and unusual cook books. Nothing but cook books. Cook books galore. Joanne Hendricks, Cookbooks... and books about food and wine, etc. is a gem of a destination, offering one of those 'only in New York' finds where the store itself is like performance art - visually stimulating, unique-unto-itself and strangely soul enriching.

Nestled among the cuisine how-to's lovingly displayed around this early 1800's shop were exquisite kitchen antiques, tea services and art glass. These appealed most to this anti-cook (you'll find my microwave resting atop my stove in my small NYC kitchen, which I consider a brilliant spacial compromise) as did the comic, tongue-in-cheek writings about culinary exploration. Really, it is a miracle I even ventured into a cookbook shop, but the antique feel of the place seduced me. If you are a foodie, check the store out at 488 Greenwich Street.