Volume 79, Number 10 | August 12 - 18, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Photo by Naftali Beane Rutter

The obsessive linguists of “Complete Writer”

FringeNYC celebrates lucky year 13

Best bets among a bevy of odd offerings

By Scott Stiffler

What happens every August, exhausts even the most tireless theatergoer, and features more thespians than a barrel full of bloated, budget-busting Broadway babies? FringeNYC.

Taking place August 14 through 30, FringeNYC bills itself as “the largest multi-arts festival in North America” — and backs up that boast with several dozen productions by over 200 companies from all over the world.

Now in its thirteenth year, this wildly uneven, curiously curated fest has birthed many genuine works of genius — while bestowing its seal of approval on more than one yawn-inducing, head-scratching debacle. Often rough and frayed at the edges but ultimately elegant in form and noble in function, its $15 per-show ticket price means you can take more than a few chances before your bill totals the cost of just one Broadway show. For FringeNYC tickets and information, visit www.fringenyc.org or call 866-468-7619. Discount passes to multiple shows are available.
Sight unseen, here are our totally biased, not nearly comprehensive picks of likely prospects and unusual suspects.

It’s 1914; do you know where your legendary filmmaker is? This new comic thriller is based on the life of early-era cinemagician George Méliès (whose 1902 film “A Trip to the Moon” has special effects which still amaze). “Alchemist” combines the tale of a has-been French filmmaker gunning for a comeback with screenings of legendary flicks from the first years of the last century. At The Connelly Theater. At Lafayette Street Theatre.

This serious comedy centers around two obsessive linguists, a determined child and a charismatic guru. Together, this motley crew (each with their own agenda) clash over the power and perversion of language. At The Studio @ Cherry Lane Theater.

In this true story presented as a multi-media drama, a brother and sister salvage pages from their father’s unfinished memoir from the wreckage of a plane crash. Two generations of West Africans become linked by a shaman’s prophesy. At CSV Cultural and Educational Center.

A thematic companion to the previously listed show, this modern exploration of ancient performance and manipulated perception draws from shamanic lore to tell the tale of Harley Newman — named for his uncle (an adopted brother to the shaman in a tribe of headhunters). At HERE Arts Center, Dorothy B. Williams Theater.

A runaway girl and a mysterious stranger roam a post-apocalyptic landscape in search of safety —while trying to avoid border patrols and two-headed mutants. At The New School for Drama Theater.

Five NYC choreographers present different perspectives on the struggles of modern life. In the process, they reveal the power of dance as an anecdote to despair. Choreographed by Tina Croll, Heidi Latsky, Maura Nguyen Donahue and Noa Sagie (and, we suppose, a fifth person not listed in the promotional blurb!). At The Robert Moss Theatre.

Old or young, gay or straight, black or white; almost every flavor percolating in the great American melting pot has been fascinated by the trappings of fame. “Groupies” starts with that pop concept-cum-conceit — then branches out with unexpected trips into the minds, passions, and sexuality of four very different people. Central to all of their psyches? Celebrity. Central to the play? Humanity, love, regret, loneliness and unexpected twists. At The Studio @ Cherry Lane Theatre.

Two one-acts by Harold Pinter (“The Lover” and “Ashes to Ashes”) ask the respective questions: Can a woman be both wife and mistress to her husband? Can a man reckon with his wife’s erotic sadomasochistic past? Discover the answers amongst the angst, the pauses, the menace and the humor that combine to make the signature Pinter style. At The SoHo Playhouse.

Is fiction stranger than truth? This work, much-praised during its Vancouver run, delivers a “potentially true” story about two days in the last years of the life of a playwright who’s grasping at former glories while gasping for a comeback. Is that desperate playwright Tennessee Williams or just based on his persona? The producers aren’t telling. At the Cherry Lane Theatre.

It’s 1986 all over again — with a 2009 twist — in this updated version of a decades-old work whose theme of financial distress seems depressingly familiar. Musical comedy helps the medicine go down as central character Kate frets over her fiancé’s decision to delay the wedding until the Dow Jones Average hits 1,000. At Minetta Lane Theatre.

A Long Island girl goes on a 20-year search for truth, love and religion — helped along by the omnipresent music of U2. At The Actors’ Playhouse.

Writer and performer Fernando Gambaroni’s one-man show turns out to be the tale of every man — and woman — who has every arrived in NYC, went to sleep, and woke up the next day with an overwhelming sense of being the new kid on the block and a stranger in a strange land. At manhattan theater source.

Alabama-based BAMA Theatre Company takes a stab at Shakespeare’s perennial summertime tale by having its eight actors magically morph from character to character with only the contents of a single suitcase to help set the scene. At The Cherry Lane Theater.

This modern take on the classic nursery rhyme tells the musical tale of a little barista in love with the Muffin Man. Can Lyla navigate the daily barrage of customers, family and friends in order to tell the Muffin Man how she feels? If you still believe in happy endings, you already know the answer. At The Lafayette Street Theatre.

Photo by Motoyuki Ishibashi
The Samurai storytellers of “Scattered Lives”

Swords rip through flesh in this melding of traditional Japanese Samurai storytelling and revved up rock music. Shido stumbles through drunken battles against countless warriors in search of his way back to Bushido. At the Robert Moss Theatre.

Mortification used to be the normal reaction when somebody sneaked a peek at your diary. This modern trio, however, doesn’t mind putting their innermost thoughts on YouTube for all to see. Can they market their online personas while controlling their lives outside of the electronic realm? At The Robert Moss Theatre.

Dirty? Hot? Sticky? Crowded? It can only be the NYC subway system in the summertime. Sit in air conditioned comfort as you hear over 150 true stories culled from people who ride in a hole in the ground. At The Connelly Theater.

This romantic comedy about a woman who falls in love with her husband’s mistress is set in Union Square and complicated by the presence of a meddling Jewish mother. At The Players Theatre.

Piper McKenzie (the theater company whose brains are the brawn behind Brooklyn’s Brick Theater) presents “Willy Nilly” — a “musical exploitation” timed to coincide with 40th anniversary of the Manson family and the Tate-Labianca Murders. This self-proclaimed “tasteless rock’n’roll spoof” tells the tale of a filthy faux-Messiah, his cult of wanton women and high Hollywood murder — through copious amounts of gore, gratuitous nudity and cruel stereotypes. The man behind this ambitious affront? Trav S.D. — a Villager contributor and prolific renaissance freakazoid. At Dixon Place.

Coming off rave reviews from its Los Angeles run, L.A.’s Gangbusters Theatre Company presents their acclaimed production of George Buchner’s classic about a mentally challenged enlisted soldier who is provoked by his superiors to kill his unfaithful lover. At Lafayette Street Theatre.

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