Volume 80, Number 13 | August 26 - September 1, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

FringeNYC shows: Get’em while they’re hot

Written by Pushkar Sharma and Sathya Sridharan
Music by Chuck Kim
1 hour, 10 minutes (comedy/spoken word/poetry)
Aug. 25, 3:45 p.m. / Aug. 26, 8:45 p.m.
At the 4th Street Theatre
(83 E. 4th St., btw. 2nd Ave. & Bowery)
For info, visit www.FringeNYC.org
or call 866-468-7619
Visit www.brownstarrevolution.com 

Photo by Derek Srisaranard  

Pushkar Sharma and Sathya Sridharan navigate race and time, at the ‘Speed of White.’ 

Navigating the space, race & time continuum


Clad only in brown slacks, brown skin — and blue dress shirts, barefooted colleagues Captain Northstar and Ensign Southstar (with an able assist from mute bass player Chuck) speed through space, time and generations on a quest that’s as silly as it is sacred. 

Southstar is a gangly dreamer who projects his outsider status onto a succession of noble science fiction heroes. Northstar is a realist who has no use for humans, or Earth (or does he?). Their ship is the Brownstar Galactica. Outside is cold, unforgiving space. Inside, “three men in a long, hard, tubular vessel” probe matters both cerebral and celestial — and as their good ship makes its way towards the Alcove of Answers, the crew’s black-hole-dense cosmic quest warps from stand-up stupid to wise man profound. 

Epic enough for you? Well, that’s the frustrating Darth Vader/Ben Kenobi conundrum of “Faster Than The Speed Of White.” A self-professed merger of personal memoir and all things science fiction, it’s got enough ideas for a classic “X-Men” or “The Lord of The Rings”-type trilogy. But this being the Fringe, they’ve only got about an hour to deliver a cohesive work of parody, philosophy and South Asian soul-searching. That’s not a promise anyone should make unless they’ve come up with a badass, pimped out way to do it. 

Happily, they achieve that state of bliss by the end of the show. The Alcove of Answers doesn’t disappoint — providing our weary searchers with, if not some answers, at least a few genuine realizations that leave them wiser, smarter and better people. Sadly, though, many of the questions asked before getting some final answers will leave audiences stuck watching a show that’s more “Enterprise” than classic “Star Trek” — a watered-down version of a familiar tale that falls into some the same traps its creators are so keen on mocking and deconstructing. 

That said, the show is packed with an impressive amount of vignettes in which somber Captain Northstar (Pushkar Sharma) and youthful intern Ensign Southstar (Sathya Sridharan) play their younger selves, their idealized selves, their tormentors, their parents and each other. Along the way, they invoke classic mentor/student and searcher/seer archetypes — while slowly revealing themselves to be a comedy team that owes more to Martin and Lewis than Harold and Kumar. 

But while the show certainly manages to entertain, it only hits the mark when going after the really big questions instead of indulging in “I grew up not knowing who I was” memoir mishegas. Keeping the two-man ensemble tight is also a perplexing challenge. Both actors stumble over lines and, sometimes, each other’s lines. Other times, they’re incredibly tight — but the poetry, rap and spoken word performance style they’re trafficking in requires a precision and confidence of delivery that neither individual nor team posses — and that begins to erode their space cred. 

In a parallel universe, let’s hope the Boston-based collective BROWNSTAR is performing a FringeNYC show that spends all of its time on universal concerns like destiny and identity — and jettisons the material about how lame a role model Kal Penn is.

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