Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Reviews for Backstage from the 11th Annual New York International Fringe Festival

Kelly Kinsella Live! Under Broadway

August 17, 2007 By Christopher Murray

Kelly Kinsella may earn her living as a dresser for persnickety actors on Broadway, but her one-woman show in the Fringe Festival proves she's got her own comic chops to spare -- and how.

On a set comprising just an ironing board, a costume rack, and a laundry basket, Kinsella embodies the characters she meets in the course of one hectic day. There's her mom's dipsomaniacal morning phone call and a chat with her dirty-minded neighbor, as well as encounters at work with a fussy wardrobe mistress and various self-absorbed performers, including Crazy With a Z, a dead-on imitation of Liza Minnelli as the star of a fictional megamusical called Suddenly Sudan. The barrage of character-revealing language in the monologues is interspersed with video clips of Kinsella as herself wildly biking through Midtown or careering through backstage corridors. She thrums with the aggressive, ruthless humor of many male comics, but underneath is the touching neurotic charm of a still-unmarried New York woman: "Once I hit the trifecta: a married, alcoholic homosexual. I still think he was my soul mate." She's dynamite.

Presented by On Que Entertainment as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the New School for Drama, 151 Bank St. , NYC.Aug. 10–24. Remaining performances: Sun., Aug. 19, 7:15 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 23, 11 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 24, 7 p.m.(212) 279-4888 or (888) 374-6436 or

Farmer Song The Musical

August 16, 2007
By Christopher Murray

Set during the farm crisis of the 1980s, when rising interest rates lowered property values and squeezed America's breadbasket to the breaking point, Farmer Song the Musical celebrates the stubborn pluckiness of rural farmers struggling to survive.

The show is very much a family affair: Amy and Joe Hynek are the mother-son writing team responsible; he is also musical director and lead actor, and his strong twangy tenor is joined in performance by his actor-father, Bill, and his bass-playing sister, Amanda.

The bluegrass songs are often dulcet and homespun, if simple, with monosyllabic rhymes like "Blue jeans and a worn-out shirt/Back of my neck all covered with dirt."

The earnest cast of nine nonprofessionals, most of whom either grew up on a farm in Iowa or work in the agri-industry there now, demonstrate in their mostly wooden performances much of the stoicism and decent hardscrabble effort of the characters they portray.

My favorite song, "I Like Baling," is an ode to bundling hay into square bales: "Don't you just love the smell of fresh cut hay?" Eh-yup.

Presented by Pumptown Productions as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the New School for Drama, 151 Bank St., NYC.Aug. 13-18. Remaining performances: Thu., Aug. 16, 7 p.m.; Fri., Aug. 17, 5 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 18, 2:15 p.m.(212) 279-4888 or (888) 374-6436 or


August 15, 2007
By Christopher Murray

Brian Wilson, the famously bipolar boy genius of the Beach Boys, acts as a literally straitjacketed narrator for this biographical play exploring the career of Leon Theremin, the 20th-century Russian inventor of the eerie-sounding theremin, one of the first electric instruments.

Blue Cake Theatre Company co-founders Duke Doyle and Ben Lewis wrote the somewhat messy script and pull double duty as Theremin and Wilson, respectively. This meditation on the dislocations of genius and the emotionally transporting qualities of music is undercut by a sketchy love triangle and confusing alternate versions of Theremin's biography.

"Musical prophets are never heard in their own time, man," insists Wilson somewhat disingenuously, but what this production is unable in its current form to communicate is the animating passion of two musical innovators who suffered for our aural pleasure.

Presented by the Blue Cake Theatre Company as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the Village Theatre, 158 Bleecker St., NYC.Aug. 11-25. Remaining performances: Thu., Aug. 16, 2:30 p.m.; Thu., Aug. 23, 9:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 25, 6:45 p.m.(212) 279-4888 or (888) 374-6436 or

Shadow People

August 15, 2007
By Christopher Murray

"Part of my story is about drugs," says Jay, Shadow People's 40-something narrator, "which is like saying part of Moby Dick is about whaling."

Jay is played by two actors in this parable of a gay man's descent into grief, self-hatred, and drug addiction in the mid-1990s. The casting is confounding at first, but the theatrical device quickly makes a resonant sort of sense as the character rationalizes, bargains, and squabbles with himself while simultaneously picking up tricks, negotiating with tweaking meth dealers, and calling up bittersweet memories of his lover, who died of AIDS.

The talented Los Angeles-based cast of six men and one woman embodies a seedy retinue of West Hollywood types undone by both inner and outer demons. Suzy Cote does a memorable turn as Nadia, a dealer's slatternly Russian wife, who dreams of being either a conservative judge or a decorator.

Though the script could use some tightening up, author Jay Bernzweig exercises assiduous bravery in not sparing his audience from all the painful details of the path to redemption, healing, and self-acceptance.

Presented by FDMA Theatreworks as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center's Flamboyán Theatre, 107 Suffolk St., NYC. Aug. 12-25. Remaining performances: Thu., Aug. 16, 9:30 p.m.; Tue., Aug. 21, 5 p.m. ; Thu., Aug. 23, 7 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 25, 9:45 p.m.(212) 279-4888 or (888) 374-6436 or

August 14, 2007
By Christopher Murray

"If you want to leave, I'd understand. I'd be devastated, but I'd understand," says one gay guy just after he's disclosed during a first date that he's HIV-positive in Howard Walter's earnest but often plodding new play, Chaser. Val and Dom, two sensitive slacker guys, sniff around each other, demonstrating wit and insecurities in this companion piece to Walters' Extra Virgin (seen during the Fringe in 2005 and about same-sex Internet hookups).

This time the subject is bug chasing: negative guys who seek out and fetishize HIV infection as the ultimate intimacy. Jake Alexander as the isolated and angry Dominick can't fathom Val's (Wil Petre) desire to bareback his way into love on the obligatory beige futon. Both actors capture the emotional intensity of gay men on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but Chaser often feels more after-school special than dangerous liaison.

Presented by Extra Virgin Productions as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the Studio @ Cherry Lane, 38 Commerce St., NYC.Aug. 10-25. Remaining performances: Tue., Aug. 14, 9 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 18, 2:15 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 25, 4:45 p.m.(212) 279-4888 or (888) 374-6436 or

Top and Bottom

August 14, 2007
By Christopher Murray

This light, kinky comedy takes place in a hotel room on a Saturday night when James, the putative "top," or dominant sexual partner, pulls on his shiny new leather pants and invites Tommy, the submissive "bottom," over for a little knot-tying and handcuffing action. Sparks don't exactly fly when the guys drop trou, though. Playwright-director Kevin Michael West's gentle satire of masculinity and macho role-playing is often delightful as the two young men bond through their failed attempt at bondage.

David Clark Smith, who originated the role of Tommy in the L.A premiere of this extended one-act last year, is perfectly in pitch with his more than slightly insolent dirty boy grin. He would be delicious as one of Joe Orton's hommes fatale. Unfortunately, the script veers into sentiment toward the end, with each fella delivering a supposedly climatic monologue about the inner pain behind the urge toward sadomasochistic sex play. Better to have stuck to the spanking.

Presented by Dust Bunny Inc. as part of the New York International Fringe Festival at the New School for Drama, 151 Bank St., NYC.Aug. 11-25. Remaining performances: Wed., Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m.; Mon., Aug. 20, 5:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 25, 10:45 p.m.(212) 279-4888 or (888) 374-6436 or


Mary Hilton said...

Nice posts on the Fringe. You might be interested in my coverage of "In the Shadow of My Sun" which is about postpartum depression, at Newbie NYC ( Thanks!

Patrick said...

great yup... (sent from my beige futon)