Monday, August 31, 2009

FringeNYC Encore Series

Fringe fans rejoice! All of those sold-out shows you couldn't fit in your schedule are back for a second go-around, as part of the FringeNYC Encore Series.

From September 10 through September 26, you can see 19 of the top selling Fringe shows at 2 venues: Soho Playhouse at 15 Vandam and The Actors' Playhouse at 100 Seventh Avenue South. Visit for the full schedule and see below for the list of shows in the series. All tickets to Encore shows are $18.

The Boys Upstairs
Contemporary American's Guide to a Successful Marriage
His Greatness
And Sophie Comes Too
Sex and the Holy Land
Notes on the Land of Earthquake and Fire (a Theasy favorite)
Devil Boys From Beyond
I Can Has Cheezburger, the MusicaLOL (a Theasy favorite)
Powerhouse (a Theasy favorite)
Tales From the Tunnel
Willy Nilly
Muffin Man
The K of D
Jesus Ride

Friday, August 28, 2009

Burn the Floor (Longacre Theatre)

By Molly

sultry • sparkly • sweaty • ballroom dance

BOTTOM LINE: Just like Dancing With the Stars. With more dancing. And fewer C-Listers.

Let's say you're a major celebrity like oh, Elton John. And let's say it's your 50th birthday and you've recently become a big fan of contemporary ballroom dancing. Maybe you like the sparkly costumes. So your peeps decide to honor your special day by hiring amazing dancers to create a show for you to be performed at your soiree. Now let's say you're a power-player with money who happens to be a guest at Sir Elton's birthday party. And you see this show and you think "this is both awesome and potentially lucrative." You put your monacle back in your eye, take out your checkbook and adapt the show into a worldwide hit called Burn the Floor.

I'm not totally positive that's how it all went down, but suffice to say this show got its roots in 1997 in Sir Elton's honor. After a decade of developing and re-working, it has played in England and pretty much traveled the rest of the world on various tours. Burn the Floor has now set up shop at Broadway's Longacre Theatre for a limited engagement through January 2010.

Twenty smokin' dancers perform ballroom and latin dance routines, supported by two vocalists and a five piece band. Although the numbers don't follow a specific pattern or theme, the playbill does a nice job of introducing what ballroom dance actually is and clarifying what each type of dance is, technically speaking. Through the production you see the cha cha, the waltz, the rumba, the samba, the salsa, the tango, the paso doble, the quickstep, the lindy and swing. Each dancer is paired with another and the duos perform together through most of the show. Actually, each pair has danced together for quite a while and existed as a ballroom team before being cast in this production. The comfort and chemistry between partners is evident. And each team is from a different country so there is a certain variety between performances.

As the lights came up for intermission, my friend asked "so where's the buffet?" Although maybe a little harsh, I think the cruise ship analogy is pretty accurate for this show. Don't get me wrong, the performances in Burn the Floor are outstanding, but the depth of the production is somewhat lacking. Burn the Floor is about entertaining its audience, and maybe a little about educating the public about ballroom dance. But that's pretty much it. There isn't a story. There isn't a larger message. There isn't a visceral connection between stage and house on any emotional level. The dancers perform kick-ass choreography at 110% commitment and the audience has a good time watching it. (And my fellow audience members definitely enjoyed themselves). Not that there's anything wrong with theatre for the purpose of mindless entertainment, but just don't go in expecting something more. It's a fun, sexy dance show.

And that brings me to the adult portion of this review. Burn the Floor isn't scandalous, but it's definitely sexified. From little costumes to gyrating hips to smoldering bedroom eyes to sweat flying from one oiled up body to another, this show is full of flesh. One really can't complain about watching twenty toned bodies for two hours, but I feel I should at least mention it. And actually, it has a "mature" advisory. I personally think it's appropriate for anyone, but if you're sensitive about that sort of thing, better you should know in advance.

I had a good time at Burn the Floor. It's not groundbreaking theatre and it doesn't have much original production value, but it's a solid dance show with really phenomenal talent. Ballroom dance doesn't get much attention on a commercial level, so modern ballroom with an emphasis on creative nuances in choreography is a pretty exciting genre to experience, and one that is relatively hard to come by for an audience member. If you are looking for an easily accessible, upbeat Broadway experience, Burn the Floor is a great option. And if you are a dancer or are interested in dance, it's a good opportunity to see some exciting choreography.

(Burn the Floor plays at the Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street. Performances are Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday at 2pm and 8pm, Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm and 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. The show runs 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission. Tickets are $59.59-$111.50. For tickets and more show info visit

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party (FringeNYC)

By Dan

BOTTOM LINE: Really good for the Fringe with some great moments, although it is a bit long, a bit uneven, and potentially a bit over-rated.

Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party is the paradigmatic Fringe title. You have the feeling that it could be a silly, gimmicky mess, or else it could be surprisingly interesting. It veers much more to the latter is an incredibly thoughtful show. But there are gimmicky elements as well, and I think these prevent Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party from being the theatrical achievement it aims to be.

Since Abe is known for being honest - let’s be real, the title Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party is about as accurate as the phrase “Holy Roman Empire”- the show is not a dance party, or really any kind of party, it isn’t really about Abraham Lincoln, and it isn’t even particularly gay (yes, there some brief moments of dancing Abes, but this is a minor diversion). The play is centered around the trial of a schoolteacher in Illinois, arrested for presenting a pageant in which she had her young students tell that Abraham Lincoln was homosexual. Except Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party isn’t really about this trial, nor is it about whether or not Abe was gay. Rather, it is about how different people experience these events. After a brief prologue, there are three acts, told from the points of view of three people: the prosecutor, the defense attorney, and the famous journalist who comes into town to cover the story.

As one might expect, we learn more about the events with each act and missing information in one act is filled in with the next one. However, by the third act, much of the material starts becoming old. Because an audience member decides the order of the three acts, they need to work in any order. While this seems interesting in theory, I think the play would have been more successful if playwright Aaron Loeb decided the order for us, allowing him to determine what was revealed when. As it is, we have heard enough about certain events in the first two acts to make watching them unfold in the third act less interesting than they should be. (I suspect this is the case no matter the order one sees). Also, I noticed a few inconsistencies from one act to the other that might be avoided if the order were pre-determined.

I’m also not sure about the choice of the three main characters. I would have liked a story about the journalist, the prosecutor, and the teacher. The inclusion of the defense attorney turned this into a story of political maneuvering (both she and the prosecutor are scheming to become governor). And while I appreciate that this wasn’t a didactic tale about “an issue,” I would have liked more of the play that I saw in the part about Anton, the journalist (played by the superb Mark Anderson Phillips). His scene in the cornfield with Jerry (an equally superb Michael Phillis) was the best scene in the play, extraordinarily touching and intimate without being at all preachy. In fact, this scene was so surprising to me because much of what had come before had been a bit campy, especially Anton’s sidekick Esmerelda (played by Velina Brown, who also plays the defense attorney).

I think one of the biggest problems with this play was the uneven tone. It didn’t seem to know if it wanted to be campy, silly fun, or else a serious, thought-provoking piece. Certainly, something can have aspects of both, but I sensed a certain identity-crisis here. Whereas a silly campy Fringe show might demand a convoluted plot filled with shocking twists and turns, a multi-faceted character piece that aims to show several points of view would do better to simplify, simplify, simplify.

There is a lot worth seeing here, even if it is a bit long at two and a half hours. Among other things, Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party has a great set design. Bill English’s set consists of three panels in which the different set pieces are hidden. Along with a cornfield curtain, this set is the savviest I have ever seen in the Fringe (a festival that severely limits design elements). Not only does English’s set work well, it also looks good, and even has a few surprises.

Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party was sold out even before the first performance, so tickets to the remaining show will certainly be hard to come by. I’d bet given its success, it will reappear at the Fringe Encores series. I’m not sure that Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party lives up to the hype implied by its early sell out, but it is a solid piece of theatre that I’m glad I saw.

(Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party plays at the HERE Arts Center- Mainstage Theater, 145 6th Avenue- enter on Dominick, one block south of Spring. The show is approximately 2 hours 30 minutes long, with two brief intermissions. The final performance is Saturday 8/29 at 7:15 pm. For tickets and show info visit and for more FringeNYC info visit

The Boys Upstairs (FringeNYC)

by Dan

BOTTOM LINE: A fairly standard gay play (which means light and superficial). It's good for a laugh or two, but all the more disappointing because it tries (and fails) to be so much more.

As a 31-year old gay man living in Hell’s Kitchen, I would seem to be the ideal target for The Boys Upstairs (a play about a group of gay guys, all in their mid 20s to early 30s, living in Hell’s Kitchen). And while it isn’t fair to expect that a light gay comedy will portray life as it is, I still wish that The Boys Upstairs had shown me, in some way, a bit more of the heart and soul of the life I know. Because while the writing is often funny, the play as a whole left me cold.

The Boys Upstairs takes place in the midtown apartment of two roommates, Josh and Seth. Their good friend Ashley basically lives there as well, since his real apartment is so far uptown he often crashes on the couch, along with whatever trick he has found for the evening. At the beginning of the play a new guy, Eric, has moved in downstairs (thus the title). He’s attractive, and appears to be straight, so all three guys instantly fall in lust with him. Throughout the play Josh (ostensibly the main character) tries to deal with Seth’s boyfriend (who he doesn’t like), with Ashley’s parade of men, and with his own insecurities and relationship hang-ups. And of course, since this is a gay living room comedy, all of this takes place amidst a plethora of cocktails and morning-after stories.

I’m all for fabulousity - I love a great cocktail and a night out with the boys. The trouble is, as much as this team claims (in their production notes) that this play is about something serious and meaningful, it really isn’t. I didn’t care about any of the characters. Any 20 or 30-something living in Manhattan will tell you that finances are a huge concern. So how could I care about Josh, a trust fund kid who can afford to let his friend live with him for a tiny portion of the rent? Why didn’t playwright Jason Mitchell write about two guys who couldn’t go out every night, and couldn’t order in breakfast, or takes cabs to go shopping, or jet off to some Caribbean island? Wouldn’t this struggle have been more interesting?

This critique aside, The Boys Upstairs aims to be a play about friendship. But I didn’t see any friendship on stage. I saw people who had fun together, but that isn’t friendship. Friendship may occur amidst cocktails and quips, but it isn’t limited to them. Since I didn’t buy the friendship of Josh, Seth, and Ashley, everything they did ultimately seemed shallow. Late in the play, Ashley does something upsetting to Josh. But this “event” (I’m being vague on purpose) is all resolved way too quickly. Another thing that really bothered me was the series of questions Josh twitters during the scene changes, which seem to be Mitchell’s way of telling the audience what he wants them to take away from his play. This device is so obvious and heavy-handed that I cringed every time a scene ended, in preparation for what was to come.

There are many good things about The Boys Upstairs (a show that has a good chance of getting in the Fringe Encores series, which may be the only way to see it, as the two remaining shows are sold out). The five guys in the cast are all attractive (an important thing in this kind of play), and all are good actors. I especially liked Kristen-Alexzander Griffith as Ashley, the most outlandish of the three friends. Ashley could have easily been a clichéd, one-note character; to Griffith’s credit, Ashley was actually the deepest character in the play. He’s much more Emmett from Queer as Folk than Jack from Will and Grace, even though Ashley is the most flamboyant, has the funniest lines, and does the most outlandish things, there is actually a real person there. Also good is David A. Rudd, who plays all of the boyfriends, dates, and tricks; my favorite was a Don’t Tell Mama employee who hilariously speaks in showtune-ese for his entire scene. Josh Segarra was cute, likeable, and fairly believable as the somewhat unbelievably hard-to-read Eric. Less appealing were Nic Cory as Josh and Joel T. Bauer as Seth. It isn’t that they were bad, they just didn’t compensate for the superficialities of the script the way that Griffith did.

It may be that ironically, I am actually not the appropriate audience for this kind of show: many audience members seemed to be twenty years older than the boys onstage, and there were certainly lots of laughs. To be fair, there were more than a few lines that made me laugh out loud, and I was never bored. Certainly, this seems to be a crowd-pleasing show, and although I wasn’t satisfied, I can certainly see how many others will laugh a lot and enjoy their time with The Boys Upstairs.

(The Boys Upstairs plays at the Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street between Varick and 6th Avenue. The show is approximately 1 hour 35 minutes long. Performances are Thursday 8/27 at 5 pm and Friday 8/28 at 7 pm. For tickets and show info visit and for more FringeNYC info visit

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Citizen Ruth (FringeNYC)

By Dan

BOTTOM LINE: The kind of musical I expect from the Fringe: Citizen Ruth shows some promise, and features a strong cast, but it’s a bit long, and doesn’t let the audience invest emotionally.

If you must see a 2009 Fringe musical based on or inspired by a film directed by Alexander Payne, then see Citizen Ruth. Not because Citizen Ruth is a terrific work of art, but because Vote! (the Fringe musical that tries to be the movie Election) is really pretty bad. While Citizen Ruth is a bit too long, and lacks a truly sympathetic character necessary for a musical, its positives ultimately balance out its negatives. If this sounds like faint praise, it is - I didn’t love Citizen Ruth, and there were times that I didn’t even like it. But I understand that creating a new musical is difficult; given the potential complexity of this material, Citizen Ruth is a decent first attempt.

Ruth Stoops is a homeless drug addict who is arrested (again); when the judge finds out that she is pregnant (again), he tells her he’ll go easier on her if she has an abortion. A particularly passionate group of Pro-lifers pays her bail, and brings her home, so they can persuade her to keep the baby. Eventually a pro-choice group gets their hands on her, and the battle begins.

From what I can tell, the musical follows the plot of the movie (which I haven’t seen) fairly closely. Both sides come off as fairly selfish, and it is clear that everyone seems to care more about the debate than they care about Ruth. But my main trouble with this musical is that I didn’t care much about Ruth either. This is not the fault of Garrett Long, who does an excellent job as the confused, used and abused Ruth. Long perfectly captures the way Ruth is pulled back and forth throughout the show, without ever once letting us forget that Ruth is, in her own way, an incredibly strong woman. Rather, the problem is in the way that Ruth is written - she doesn’t tell us, or anyone else, much about herself. She has two solos, “God Help Me” and “What About What I Want,” but they are unmelodic, unrhymed, whiny, and annoying (as opposed to the rest of the score, which is not this at all). In a musical, the audience often gets to know a main character through her songs. But these two solos are so obnoxious that I quickly tuned out, so Citizen Ruth became less about a troubled woman (an interesting subject for a musical) and more about an overly familiar debate (not so interesting for a musical).

From the laughter and applause in the almost sold-out theatre, it seems that many people did not mind this. The supporting cast (all of whom play several characters) is great; my favorites included Zack Collona as the way-too-sunny kid Matthew Stoney, Marya Grandy as the crazily intense Nurse Pat, Dennis Stowe as the hilariously annoyed Larry Jarvik, and the always dependable Annie Golden as the (admittedly random) chick rock star Jesse Dove. The costumes also deserve a mention. Unlike many Fringe shows (which tend to have merely suitable costumes that seem to have come from the actors’ closets), Clint Ramos’s costumes really help with character development. While there were some unnecessary projections, and the ever-present headset mics (which never work properly in Fringe shows - when will people learn?), these are minor flaws in an otherwise well-staged production.

And other than a few of Ruth’s songs, much of the score is worth a listen. Citizen Ruth remains light-hearted throughout, especially for a musical about abortion. While I didn’t laugh as hard as those around me, there were some funny moments, and I was never confused. My main problem was that I wanted to be more emotionally involved in the story (because I wasn’t, the second act began to get monotonous, and the ending was extremely sudden and unsatisfying). These critiques aside, if you are interested in politically-engaged new musicals that will also make you laugh, you might want to visit Citizen Ruth.

(Citizen Ruth plays at the Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane, between 6th Avenue and MacDougal Street. The show is approximately 2 hours long, with one brief intermission. Performances are Sunday 8/23 at 10:30 pm and Monday 8/24 at 7:30 pm. For tickets and show info visit and for more FringeNYC info visit

America’s Next Top Bottom: Cycle 5! (FringeNYC)

By Dan

BOTTOM LINE: The first show I’ve seen with a literal “bottom line.” This is an improvisational comedy contest - the humor is dumb, dumb, dumb, but also very funny.

America’s Next Top Bottom: Cycle 5! is not a meditative look on the interrelationships of American gay men in the first decade of the 21st century, nor is it a reflection on the mores of sexual practices in a community that seems to be torn between seemingly conflicting desires for normalcy and queerness. Believe it or not, America’s Next Top Bottom: Cycle 5! is actually a comedy show in which the audience votes on which of seven flamboyant men will become America’s Next Top Bottom.

If you’re turned off already, then you probably don’t need to continue reading. But if you’re even mildly intrigued, then you’ll be glad to know that this fifth installation of America’s Next Top Bottom (the first four cycles occurred at the Celebration Theatre in Los Angeles) is frequently hilarious, largely improvisational, and very, very, very dumb (and I mean that as a compliment).

After introducing the seven contestants, a series of games and elimination challenges whittles the contest down to three finalists, and then the audience chooses a winner by voting with ballots that come in the program. There are different games in each show; the night I went, one challenge involved Teddy Teddy pulling a random prop from a bag and then asking each contestant to use it in a “talent contest” (you have to….juggle these Barbie dolls!) Yes, it all sounds very silly, and it is. But it is also very high energy, and at only about an hour, ends before it has the chance to get monotonous.

Drew Droege plays host Trina Sugg, a Franzia-drinking stressed-out mother who is thrilled to be bringing the show to “Broadway New York.” Trina Sugg, and her co-host Teddy Teddy (Pete Zias does this take-off on club kid Kenny Kenny) are the funniest people on stage, always ready with random asides that often made me laugh out loud. Much of the show is improvised; for example, the contestants didn’t seem to know what games to expect, which helped create the atmosphere of a contest. And as with a lot of improvisational comedy, the people on stage often make each other laugh as well.

If I have any critique, it is that some of the contestants rely too heavily on overly familiar racial stereotypes; for instance, I preferred “Corky Adaire” (a professional seat filler) to “Harajuku Sulu” (an Japanese guy with a hard-to-understand accent). But the show succeeds because it doesn’t just rely on the wackiness of these personas, but on the humor found in good improvisational comedy.

America’s Next Top Bottom isn’t overtly sexual, and there is no nudity, although the cast is liable to say anything. And while the audience seemed to be primarily full of gay men, this isn’t necessarily a gay show. Rather, this show will appeal to anyone who enjoys really dumb humor, like watching someone do ballet to Kelis’s “Milkshake”, or make up a poem from the words “New Jersey,” “grapefruit,” and “canary”. Or to put it another way - if you like Drew Droege as the voice of “Feathers” in the cult web show Planet Unicorn, you’ll find him hilarious in America’s Next Top Bottom: Cycle 5!

(America’s Next Top Bottom: Cycle 5! is unfortunately no longer running in the Fringe Festival. For show info visit and for more FringeNYC info visit

Live Broadcast (FringeNYC)

By Ben

BOTTOM LINE: Smart subject matter, strong moments, a work in progress.

Live Broadcast has a lot of potential. The premise is extremely compelling – what happens when a successful actor from middle-America goes on a national talk show to debate real issues with a liberal congresswoman? Does he choose to speak his mind or does he let the pressures of his own industry force him to keep his mouth shut?

This show is very much on the fringe of something that could continue to grow as the artists involved continues to develop it. It isn’t until the end of the first act that we start to see the story get away from a lot of talking and the action pick up as the stakes of the characters become clear. The second act is almost like a completely different show. The actor and politician go head to head on live TV with the host and his agent very much on edge. Real issues and strong points of view are put out there and the actors show sharp vigor for the material.

There are a lot of good things happening with this show. After getting past a lot of the initial exposition, the actors do get to sink their teeth into their characters. We have 4 archetypical characters: an actor, a politician, an agent and a news talk show host with a bit of an ego. When the natural conflicts that arise with these characters come up, it’s very cool and very true to watch. Most of this happens in the second act and the actors do a fine job of playing these roles when the heat picks up. It’s almost like a completely different show when we are actually watching the live broadcast. There is more that can happen and exploring these issues as this play does is refreshing to watch. It will make you think a lot of about entertainment and our country.

I believe with continued work, collaboration and development with this piece it could become a real fantastic piece of theater worthy of a full production. It’s just not there yet for most audiences, but I will say that if you are curious about the show and the premise, by all means check it out. There is a nice production value and, as I said at the beginning, it has a ton of potential.

(Live Broadcast plays at The New School for Drama, 151 Bank Street. The final performance is Sunday, August 23rd at noon. Tickets are $15. For more show info visit and for more FringeNYC info visit

Friday, August 21, 2009

Baby Wants Candy (FringeNYC)

By Zak

BOTTOM LINE: Hour long, completely improvised musical that is quite possibly the most fun you’ll have at the Fringe Fest this year.

So I think that pretty much sums up what you will experience at the kick ass new improv show, Baby Wants Candy. A group of actors take a suggestion from the audience and think up an hour long musical right there on the spot. Hilarity ensues.
I had a great, great, time at Baby Wants candy. It’s hard to say a lot about the show because it will be completely different each night, but I'll metion a little about opening night. With the suggestion “A Scotsman in Thailand,” the group of actors came up with a tale of a young Scottish man who leaves his island home to find love in the red light district of Thailand and encounters gay backpacks, fame hungry female pimps, cross gender whores, a sexual compulsive who travels the world, and cute kittens. That’s right. Cute Kittens.

And yet some how it all made sense. I laughed more than I have at any other improv show I’ve seen in the city. The entire cast was incredible, but I was in particular awe of the vocal stylings and biting wit of Eliza Skinner. Thomas Middleditch played a young Thai whore and a gay backpack (at one point in the same scene) with the skill that trumps anything that you will see on Saturday Night Live or The Upright Citizen’s and I wouldn’t be surprised to see popping up all over film and television very soon. He is definitely someone to watch. Much of the success of Baby Wants Candy can also be contributed to the phenomenal band who improvises an entire musical score as well. The styles ranged from hip hop, far east flavor, power ballads, to Scottish folk dance and they never missed a beat.

I really think that Baby Wants Candy is great. After the Fringe Fest run, it will continue performances in the fall at The Barrow Street Theatre. I know that I will definitely be attending that run in the fall, that is, if I don’t go back to see it again this year at the fringe festival. If you are looking for a wonderfully entertaining night, go see Baby Wants Candy. Seriously. Go See It.

(Baby Wants Candy plays at The Players Theatre, 115 Macdougal Street. Performances are Friday 8/21 at 11:00pm, Saturdayd 8/22 at 2:00 pm, Thursday 8/27 at 6:00pm and Saturday 8/29 at 1:00 pm. Tickets are $15. To purchase tickets or for more info visit and for more info on FringeNYC visit

Thursday, August 20, 2009

just don't touch me, amigo (FringeNYC)

By Ben

BOTTOM LINE: An awesome solo show...funny, sharp and downright edgy at times.

This show was fantastic. Now it's possible one might think that solo shows at the Fringe are to be avoided like the plague. But this one sounded intriguing. It's billed as “a comedy about a foreigner who just doesn’t get that his loneliness is such a turn off.” Wow, I’m glad I went.

Fernando Gamborani has incredible charisma and depth in his character driven story. He takes you on a hilarious ride through the metamorphosis of a foreigner from South America coming to New York with naïve ambitions that are damn funny when put on stage and expressed so innocently. What happens as this character evolves and interacts with other New Yorkers is hilarious; it exposes some biting truths.

Scenes that seem typical at first go much deeper to make you laugh at how fickle people can be in this city, especially when it comes to how we treat each other. Dates, job interviews, run-ins at a coffee shops: we have these interactions where we judge one another so quickly. It’s a treat to watching Gamborani play both sides so brilliantly. My personal favorite scene was when his character goes in for a job interview and takes on corporate culture.

The show moves fairly quickly without losing your attention and wraps up in a fairly decent time before you get bored. It’s an example of a good solo show and I do recommend it highly to anyone who wants to check it out.

(just don't touch me, amigo plays at Manhattan Theatre Source, 177 MacDougal between 8th and Waverly Place. Performances are Saturday 8/22 at 9:15pm, Wednesday 8/26 at 3pm and Thursday 8/27 at 9:30pm. Tickets are $15. For more show info visit justdon' and for more FringeNYC info visit

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A History of Cobbling (FringeNYC)

By Dan

BOTTOM LINE: A short, bizarrely funny play that both entertains and stays with you.

I fully admit - I only went to see A History of Cobbling because my friend thought it sounded interesting. On my own, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it, as it is one of those plays that tends to get lost amongst other, flashier titles in the Fringe catalog. But I’m very glad I went. A History of Cobbling may be one of the more interesting plays I’ve seen in a long time, because it strides that fine line between fantasy and reality, between the ridiculous and the mundane.

The play takes place in the kitchen of Michael and Loraine’s home, as they discuss the surprising event of the day: on a deserted city street, Michael met a foot high English cobbler. Justin T. Klose and Cameron Reed, who also co-wrote the play, are Michael and Loraine. Both are excellent, and create complex characters that have lot more going on than it might at first seem. Reed’s somewhat daffy Loraine is especially delightful, and her speech is peppered with a lot of malapropisms that are as funny as they are unexpected.

All too often playwrights feel the need to tell the audience everything through dialogue; in A History of Cobbling, Klose and Reed wisely avoid this temptation. While Michael and Loraine are at first surprised by the presence of the foot high people, their conversation begins to ramble, and they are soon speaking about the most random subjects. And weirdly, it reminded me of many conversations I’ve had with my partner, in which something that at first seems shocking quickly becomes ordinary, and the talk moves on to the everyday events that are the bulk of most relationships. In other words, A History of Cobbling reminds us that relationships are built on things like grocery lists. But this isn’t just a typical play about a normal couple. In this strange little world, Michael and Loraine have a lot that they don’t talk about, and these elephants in the room become more and more evident as the play progresses.

I think everyone will read something different into this play; for me, it is about the need to keep going in the face of loss, and that while the desire to forget might seem to translate into an inability to remember, memories have a way of resurfacing in the most unexpected places. If this implies that A History of Cobbling is serious and somber, don’t be fooled. I laughed a lot during this piece; at times I had no idea why things were funny, since much of what goes on is so very odd. I enjoyed myself tremendously, and would recommend this to anyone looking for an entertaining play that doesn’t hit you over the head, but has enough substance to give you something to think and talk about after it is over. In a sense, A History of Cobbling is a lot like the cobbler Michael meets - short, a bit surreal and bizarre and strange, and much more affecting than it might at first appear.

(A History of Cobbling plays at the Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street between Varick and 6th Avenue. The show is approximately 45 minutes long. Performances are Thursday 8/20 at 8:30 pm, Friday 8/21 at 3:30 pm and Tuesday 8/25 at 5:45 pm. For tickets and show info visit and for more FringeNYC info visit

I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL! (FringeNYC)

By Dan

BOTTOM LINE: A sweet, fun, and often hilarious musical that may well be one of the must-sees of this year’s New York Fringe Festival. is a popular website that basically consists of photos of cats accompanied by funny captions, many of which are grammatically incorrect (this “lolspeak” both parodies internet slang, and serves endearingly as the “thoughts” and “words” of the cats in the pictures.) Why on earth would it occur to anyone to make a musical out of such material? I have no idea, but fortunately for us, it occurred to Kristyn Pomranz and Katherine Steinberg, and the result is I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL!

I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL! is quintessential Fringe - a very silly musical made from unlikely source material. But while some shows seem to rely solely on a strange premise or enticing title (the cynic in me feels that the more interesting the title, the less interesting the show), I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL! actually delivers. It is incredibly sweet, and often hilarious.

The show begins with one woman showing her friend (and the audience) the website. All the while, her own cat lusts after the cheeseburger sitting on her desk. She decides to take a picture of him, and soon he is uploaded into internet world (where he is called Lolcat, and can now talk and sing), on his quest to find his true love, a cheeseburger. Along the way, Lolcat meets various characters, including Drop (another cat who also hopes for a cheeseburger), Lolrus (a walrus who yearns for a bucket), and Jodie (a mouse who wants someone to love). The characters are all inspired by and its related websites, and the show is frequently augmented by projections of the photos found there.

To be sure, these photos (and their captions) are essential to the show. Without them, the show wouldn’t be so funny (and most likely, it wouldn’t make much sense). The projections are extremely well-timed and well-placed. (Important - make sure to sit close enough so that you can see the top of the screen and fortunately there is a projection up when you walk in so you’ll be able to tell). Indeed, the biggest laughs come from the various photos; one could argue that the projections are really the core of the show, and everything else is just filler. But ultimately, I think the show works because both halves (the projections and the book-score-performances) work together incredibly well. I’d argue that each half depends on the other.

The cast is uniformly good. Seth Grugle is adorable as Lolcat- the “everycat” of the piece. Vincent DiGeronimo is also great as the cuddly Lolrus, although I had a difficult time understanding many of the lyrics in his songs. And then there is Bryan Welnicki, who plays Drop, a cat who sits under a box waiting for a cheeseburger to fall from the sky. He only has one song, but Welnicki gives my favorite performance in the show.

I also loved the story to this musical. Yes, this is a standard “quest” plot line (in this case, the quest is a Cheezburger). But if it isn’t sophisticated, it doesn’t need to be; the story held my interest, and I even liked the ending. If anything needs work, it is the score. While many of the songs have clever lyrics, the music is not very interesting. I enjoyed Jodie’s solo “Someone to Eat Cheese With” (Carly Zien has maybe the strongest voice in the cast), and the closing number “Tasty Taste of Love” is a terrific finale, and the best song of the show. But aside from these two exceptions, most of the music is more or less forgettable. In fact, I think that with better music, this show could be incredibly successful in a commercial off-Broadway engagement.

But even with a mediocre score, I had a great time at I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL! I laughed a lot, and had a smile on my face the entire time. Judging by the response of the (sold out) audience around me, lots of other people liked it as well. This is one of the few Fringe shows I’d recommend to everyone- if you are open to having a silly, light-hearted good time, you’ll enjoy this. And it isn’t just for cat lovers (although I must admit that yes, I wrote this review with a cat on my lap). I wouldn’t be surprised if it returned for the Fringe Encores series in September. But in case it doesn’t, try to make one of the remaining three performances (and buy soon!). Most Fringe shows have something worthwhile about them. But very few provide as much pure enjoyment as I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL!

(I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL! plays at the Cherry Lane Theater, 38 Commerce Street between 7th Avenue & Hudson Street. The show is approximately 1 hour 20 minutes long. Performances are Tuesday 8/18 at 6:15 pm, Wednesday 8/26 at 9:15 pm, and Friday 8/28 at 4:45 pm. For tickets and show info visit and for more FringeNYC info visit

Powerhouse (FringeNYC)

By Ben

BOTTOM LINE: Outstanding. If you've ever thought the Fringe was sub-par, go see this show.

Holy crap, that was awesome. From the moment it begins this show does not skip a beat. It was tight. Wow. Honestly every element of Sinking Ship Productions' Powerhouse was perfect and brilliantly creative. It’s really what live theater can be that no other medium can match.

Powerhouse tells the story of Raymond Scott, a composer from the 1930’s whose unique style of jazz and swing music hit the airwaves and became the soundtrack for the classic Warner Brothers Cartoons. Erik Lochtefeld's compelling performance as Scott, from his simple entrance to his tragic end, never loses the audience's empathy for this man’s obsessed life and human flaws. The ensemble work that rounds out the rest of the cast fills the stage with energy and great acting. They dance, use puppetry and create a world of characters that you’ll love to watch every moment of.

Did I say puppetry? You bet I did. Kick booty puppetry. Wasn’t even expecting it, but when the puppetry is used it the play becomes so animated (no pun intended) and alive that it just gets better and better. Eric Wright is both a cast member and the puppets' designer. The puppets are created in a fashion I’ve never seen and they are worth the price of admission to simply see the work the ensemble does with them. My hat is off to the cast, as well, for their ability to never let the energy drop and fly around the stage with such exhilaration. The show also includes set pieces so unique and creative they serve as a reminder of how cool theater can be.

And that’s just it. This was a brilliant, exciting piece of theater. Live theater can be such a blast with great artists working together on every level to make something spectacular like this show.

This show had better be picked up and staged in a New York theater so the world can see it beyond the Fringe. As for you, my dear reader, find out if tickets are available and SEE THIS SHOW!

(Powerhouse plays at The Connelly Theatre, 220 East 4th Street between Avenues A and B. Performances are Wednesday 8/19 at 2:45pm, Saturday 8/22 at 2:15pm, Sunday 8/23 at 7pm and Friday 8/28 at 9:30pm. For tickets and show info visit and for more FringeNYC info visit

Monday, August 17, 2009

Natural History (FringeNYC)

By Ben

BOTTOM LINE: Strong acting, creative directing and smart writing carry beyond what initially seems to be a clichéd premise to reveal an engaging emotional story of a modern day young woman.

Natural History is a very strong piece. I did not know what to expect going in to the show at the Soho Playhouse, but I was pleasantly surprised by Sweeter Theater Productions new play. At first, I thought this was a typical piece of obvious Fringe Theater: a young woman standing behind a velvet rope on display at the Museum of Natural History? Really?

It turns out to be a well-written and sharply directed modern day anywoman tale that is quite moving. Each scene got better and more intriguing as the show went on walking a smart balance between dark humor fun and emotionally gripping truths. The actors Robyn Frank, Andrea Gallo, Simon Kendall and Franny Silverman deserve a nod for their ability to deliver truthful, compelling characters that I loved seeing evolve on stage.

Nothing is over the top in Natural History. A few nods to the audience are a bit fun, and it's a quality piece of live theater overall. I’d love to see more work done by the Sweeter Theater Production team and if you have a chance to do see this one at the festival, go for it.

(Natural History plays at the Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street between 6th Avenue and Varick. Performances are Wednesday 8/19 at 5:30, Friday 8/21 at 5pm, Tuesday 8/25 at 10pm and Saturday 8/29 at 3:45pm. Tickets are $15. For tickets and more information visit and for more info about FringeNYC visit

Willy Nilly (FringeNYC)

By Molly

I was excited to see Willy Nilly a new satiric musical parody of the Charles Manson family in the style of the protest musical Hair. The script itself is pretty funny and it does a fine job representing the Manson murders. There are many entertaining references (i.e. the Roman Polanski character is Poland Romanski) and it illustrates a far-out crazy time with an emphasis on crazy (i.e. zany, loony, off-your-rocker whackjobs).

I'm going to assume that this show, written by Trav S.D. (who is also in the cast), is in its early development stages. Although it tells a solid, easy to follow story, the ending just sort of peters out and the moment to moment action is frequently unclear. Although the framework is there, Willy Nilly is kind of just a big, silly acid trip, minus the acid.

I'd recommend seeing this show if gratuitous silliness is your thing, and/or if you're really, really wasted. As silliness is not always my thing, I was pretty turned off by the nature of the presentation. Don't get my wrong, I love satire, especially when it's ironic, snarky and smart. But silliness for the sake of itself rubs me the wrong way. And I never felt like Willy Nilly was being funny for its audience. Rather, it just seemed like the cast, having a rocking good time indeed, could've had as much fun in a basement with a karaoke machine.

And unfortunately the silliness was used as a crutch many times throughout the show. Tedious music? Mediocre performances? Inability to sing the high notes in the song? It's ok, look at how silly we are!!! Throw in a dozen or so STD references and the smart humor gets overshadowed.

If the production can hone in on what this show's about and lift the quirky spoof from its haze of
uninspired (and mostly unfunny) humor, there's probably a really good show waiting. Hell, the premise alone is prime for mockery and the story stands on its own, even more so since the audience knows it's non-fiction.

(Willy Nilly plays at Dixon Place, 161A Christie Street between Rivington and Delancy. Performances are Friday, 8/21 at 5pm, Sunday 8/23 at 2:45pm and Friday 8/28 at 7pm. Tickets are $15. To purchase tickets and for show info visit and for FringeNYC info visit

How Now, Dow Jones (FringeNYC)

By Dan

BOTTOM LINE: A newly revised version of a semi-obscure 1968 Broadway musical, How Now, Dow Jones is worth seeing, especially if you’ve ever felt that “they sure don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”

Many shows at the Fringe are new works, hoping to gain notice through the festival and have future lives, like Urinetown famously did (a show that started at the Fringe and went on to run for several years on Broadway). How Now, Dow Jones is one of the first shows I’ve heard of that is doing the reverse - after a run on Broadway back in 1968, and six Tony award nominations (and one win), How Now, Dow Jones is now seeking additional attention at the Fringe.

More specifically, this is a revamped, significantly edited version of the How Now, Dow Jones that appeared on Broadway forty years ago. Director Ben West added three songs and some unused dialogue, and he eliminated four major characters, five musical numbers, and the entire ensemble. So a standard two act musical with large production numbers has become a short one-act piece that seems to focus more on the main characters.

Of course, without having seen the full-length version, it is difficult to know how this revised version compares. Kate is frustrated because her fiancé won’t marry her until the Dow Jones hits 1,000. Charley feels like killing himself because he fails at everything he tries. While it is clear from the outset that these two will wind up together, I felt that this main story got lost sometimes, and that the stakes weren’t really high enough until much later on in the piece.

That said, I really enjoyed this short, sweet musical. Cristen Paige plays Kate, and is perfectly suited to this kind of “old-school” material; her “Walk Away” is a standout. And as Charley, Colin Hanlon is extremely charming and affable. While there was something about him that seemed very 2009 (as opposed to Paige, who manages to appear very 1968), Hanlon’s “Gawk, Tousle and Shucks” is a delight, with Hanlon’s goofy “aw shucks” faces making the song a high point in the show. The rest of the cast members are great as well, although some seem a little young (so that the most age-appropriate actor seems too old, in comparison). And with one exception, all of them project well with very little amplification. It is a relief to see a musical that doesn’t rely on those annoying headset mics that seem so ubiquitous these days.

The one obvious thing missing from this How Now, Dow Jones is the large production numbers, especially “Step to the Rear.” (Check out to see Tony Roberts and company sing it on the 1968 Tony Awards. The choreography is by Michael Bennett, who was brought in when the show was out of town but requested to remain uncredited.) The song remains in the show; understanding that it is the most hummable song in the score, West saves it for the end. While the eight-person cast does a great job with it, there still seems to be something missing - it is still an eight-person cast doing a full production number. I think this final song would have succeeded more if it had been the only dance number in the show. There are a few times when the duo of “Dow” (Shane Bland) and “Jones” (Dennis O’Bannion) dance around the stage, as if to make up for the lack of a full dance ensemble. While they are fine dancers, these two simply can’t replace a twenty-person chorus.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend seeing How Now, Dow Jones. It is fun, has great music that is likely unfamiliar to even the most avid fan of musical theatre, and at 75 minutes, is almost over too soon.

(How Now, Dow Jones plays at the Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane, between 6th Avenue and MacDougal Street. The show is approximately 1 hour 15 minutes long. Performances are Monday 8/17 at 10:30 pm, Tuesday 8/18 at 8 pm, Thursday 8/20 at 8:15 pm, and Sunday 8/23 at 5:45 pm. For tickets and show info visit and for more FringeNYC info visit

Sunday, August 16, 2009

VOTE! A New Musical (Fringe NYC)

It's time for a Theasy Point/Counterpoint!!


I had a good time at VOTE! A New Musical. There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this new musical about a high school election, due in part to its star-packed cast with a slew of Broadway performers (most notably Bailey Hanks, Winner of MTV’s “Legally Blonde the Search for Elle Woods and Broadway star Deidre Goodwin who had appeared in eight Broadway shows including A Chorus Line, Chicago and Nine and also the film version of Chicago.

Follows three candidates on their road to the highest elected office in the land at typical American high school. While it might appear to just be a fluff piece about the inner workings of high school politics, VOTE! does briefly try to pose some bigger questions about our country’s political system. It’s lighthearted fun. VOTE! Doesn’t take itself to seriously and the nearly 400 audience members on opening night seemed to enjoy it. The score, written by Steven Jamail, is catchy and well crafted and the cast gives it their all and delivers solid performances across the board. All and all, worth a trip to the polling booth at the Minetta Lane Theatre to catch VOTE!


I decided to see VOTE! for one reason: it featured Deidre Goodwin. And to that extent, I got what I came for. Goodwin is terrific, and somehow manages to sell her one song “Hands of a Surgeon,” even though it makes absolutely no sense and has nothing to do with the plot of the musical (I think the song is about mnemonic devices, or about how Goodwin’s character could have been a surgeon but decided her talent was teaching, or maybe just about giving Goodwin a chance to wail). And Goodwin even gets a chance to dance, although it is only at the very end of the show, and for not nearly as long as I would have liked.

I just wish the rest of the musical had been even a quarter as entertaining. Maybe it isn’t fair to expect Fringe musicals to be fully realized, professional productions. But at the very least, I’d hope they would make sense. As best as I could tell, VOTE! is about a high school election for student council president (parallels to the far superior movie Election abound). But Muffin, the main character (gamely played by Bailey Hanks), doesn’t really seem to care much about winning the election. In fact, she doesn’t really participate in the campaign process at all; she seems to prefer looking at and thinking about airplanes. Apparently she wants to be a stewardess? I’m not sure why, or why we should care, but as there were several songs, and even a bit of choreography, that made reference to airplanes, I’m pretty sure Muffin likes them.

VOTE! isn’t awful; the energetic cast is a lot of fun and two cast members I found myself watching a lot were Daniel Robinson and Robbie Fowler. And some of the music is hummable, especially the final song. However, some lyrics could use work, such as “I want to be the villian’s girl, I tried to be good but it made me want to hurl.”

But VOTE! doesn’t work as a musical, unless the point is just to showcase a bunch of random, unconnected songs. For the most part, the book makes absolutely no sense. And when I could figure out what was going on, I didn’t care, because there is little, if any, character development. The production relies on a lot of unnecessary set pieces - why is there a huge blackboard that says “Return Your Textbooks?" And I even found some elements a bit offensive - why can’t the attractive blond cheerleader also be intelligent (spoiler - she cheats). And why does Nikki, the black girl, have to sing a song about how her main goal in life is to be “Just Black Enough?” The song comes out of nowhere, and implies that only black people need be concerned with racial politics.

The whole show just seemed to be thrown together, as if a bunch of high school students developed a musical in a week, each writing a different scene. There is promise here, but the material needs a lot of work. If you’re itching to see Deidre Goodwin perform, VOTE! might be worth checking out. But there are over 200 shows at FringeNYC this year, so if your time is limited, I’d look elsewhere.

(VOTE! A New Musical performs at The Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane between MacDougal and 6th Avenue. Remaining performances are Sunday 8/23 at 3pm and Wednesday 8/26 at 5:30 pm. Tickets are $15. For more show info and tickets visit and for more FringeNYC info visit

A Time to Dance (FringeNYC)

By Molly

In solo-show, A Time to Dance, Libby Skala channels her quirky great-aunt Elizabeth (Lisl) Polk and tells the story of her life. Through Skala, we see Lisl grow from remarkable little girl to self-assured old lady and learn about her life and accomplishments along the way. From a childhood in Vienna, a move to New York, a relocation back to Denmark and then Austria after Hitler's invasion, followed by a final transfer back to the States, its clear that Lisl's energy and spirit guided a pretty incredible life.

Skala got the idea for this show after interviewing Lisl for a play she was writing on her grandmother (Lisl's sister), actress Lilia Skala. According to the program notes, Lisl just wanted to talk about herself during the interviews and after reviewing the tapes, Skala realized she had a pretty great story as well.

The biggest strength in A Time to Dance is the charismatic connectedness Skala offers the audience. As the show is about a woman's love for dance, Skala flits around the stage and makes movement paramount to the show's message. The action on stage is interesting from the minute it begins and I personally never lost interest in Lisl's story. It seemed like those around me were also pretty engrossed.

Now, I think most people have quirky relatives with great stories, particularly those who survived the world wars and lived to tell about it. Lisl's life is fascinating but I was also interested in the subject matter beyond the character. Lisl's modern dance background and work as a notable dance therapist really fascinated me and to be honest, I was hoping to learn more about those facets of her life. A Time to Dance doesn't really delve into the technical side of Lisl's life in dance. It's really just the story of this phenomenal person's joie de vie, and certainly one worth telling.

(A Time to Dance plays at the Theatres on 45 Bleecker, 45 Bleecker Street. Performances are Tuesday 8/18 at 8pm, Thursday 8/20 at 9:45pm, Friday 8/21 at 3pm and Monday 8/24 at 9:45pm. For tickets and show info visit and for more FringeNYC info visit

Saturday, August 15, 2009

notes on the land of earthquake & fire (FringeNYC)

By Zak

BOTTOM LINE: A solid, well acted witty take on the business of making movies and the price you pay for success.

I love the Fringe Fest because you never know what you are going to see. I wasn’t planning on seeing notes on the land of earthquake & fire, but I am so glad that I did. notes… is described as a vicious new play by Jason Schafer, who penned the screenplay for the motion picture Trick, and it does not disappoint. It tells the story of a struggling Hollywood assistant who will do whatever it takes to break into the business, including looking after his boss’s teenage girl, reading mountains of scripts for no credit, and fielding a mysterious half naked stranger who shows up at his door.

A lot of plays that pop up at FringeNYC are in their first or second incarnation and have a few kinks here and there that are worked out along the way. That is not the case with this very enjoyable piece. It is very clear that this play has already been a finalist for the O’Neil Theatre Conference because it is extremely polished and is propelled along beautiful by the very talented cast. Most notably is Ian Scott McGregor, who practically never leaves the stage, and plays the put-upon everyman who wants to rise above his dead-end job, with such sincerity and humor that every person in the audience identifies and empathizes with this talented actor.

So, needless to say, I enjoyed myself. I had a great time and think that most people will as well. If you are looking for a smart play with great performances about the lengths we go to in order to achieve success, then go see notes on the land of earthquake & fire.

(notes on the land of earthquake & fire plays at The Players Theatre, 115 Macdougal Street.
Performances are Sunday 8/16 at 1:00pm, Wednesday 8/19 at 5:30pm, Monday 8/24 at 10:00pm and Saturday 8/29 at 5:45 pm. Tickets are $15. To purchase tickets or for more info visit and for more info on FringeNYC visit

Friday, August 14, 2009

Puppetry of the Penis (45 Bleecker)

By Dan

Silly, silly, silly • full frontal male nudity • great for groups of women • best experienced with a drink (or three)

BOTTOM LINE: Dumb, juvenile fun...two men form their genitals into different shapes. You were expecting something different?

I somehow won a pair of tickets to Puppetry of the Penis, so I finally got my chance to check out this show, which had a decent run in New York several years back. The general gist of the show is in the title - two men perform the “art of genital origami” pulling, shaping, and twisting their “tools” into various shapes including food, the signature Hamburger; animals, the Sea Anenome; and modes of transportation, the Roller Skate).

What can I say? It is what it is, juvenile, but potentially fun. The two young men (Rich Binning and Christopher J Cannon- both in their 20s) are perfect for this show. They embrace the silly humor, and quickly make the audience feel comfortable. This is not an erotic show at all, nor should it be. But yes, the puppeteers are naked for almost the entire show. As they narrate and prepare the various “dick tricks,” a video camera is aimed at the results, magnifying each trick so that everyone in the audience can see it. (Watch out for the aisles though - there are poles that may obscure your view of the screen).

There were a good number of people there on the Wednesday night I went- mostly women, some of whom had brought men along with them. There were also several pairs of (presumably) gay men. And this makes sense - the show probably appeals to those who don’t mind spending some time looking at two naked (and attractive, which surprised me!) men play with themselves. The women seemed to laugh a lot more, I’m assuming because the “tools” are somewhat foreign, and so the “tricks” seemed more strange and surprising.

At one point, Rich and Chris asked if any man in the audience wanted to try a trick with them, and to my surprise, a guy went on stage; he dropped his pants and made the Hamburger! I can’t be sure, but he didn’t look like a plant to me - his face was a bit flushed, and he looked both excited and embarrassed, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

The show is 90 minutes long, but the first 30 minutes is taken up by one of three female comedians. I saw Amy Schumer, and although she was funny for a few minutes, I thought she soon lost the audience. I’m guessing the comedy is meant to be a warm up to the main event, but for my friend and I, it actually did the opposite...we were having less fun during the intermission than we were when we first walked in. Hopefully the other two women are better; if not, you can always get a drink during intermission. Or to avoid the comedian altogether, you can hire the puppeteers for private parties (I’m not kidding).

(Puppetry of the Penis plays at 45 Bleecker (just east of Lafayette Street). Right now, tickets are on sale through September 13. Performances are Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday through Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 7pm & 9:30pm, and Sunday at 7pm. Tickets are $39-$59. The show is about 90 minutes, with one intermission. Visit to buy tickets, and for more info. Between September 8th and September 20th you can also try the “20 at 20” program ($20 tickets 20 minutes before the show). See for details.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Bacchae (Shakespeare in the Park)

By Dan
free theatre in Central Park • a boring production of a (potentially) thrilling text • probably won’t be a hot ticket

BOTTOM LINE: Even though it is free, I’d suggest skipping this. If you’ve seen The Bacchae before, you’ve probably seen a better production. If you haven’t, this production shouldn’t be the first one you see.

There are some good things about the Public Theater’s production of The Bacchae, now playing in Central Park. It is free. It is outside. It is about 90 minutes, no intermission. And most likely, you won’t need to camp out overnight to get a ticket (like many did earlier this summer to see Twelfth Night). Are there bad things? Well, you have to sit through this boring, boring production.

It isn’t that The Bacchae, by Euripedes, is a boring play, or even that the ancient text is in any way difficult to understand. Dionysus (a god) gets upset at King Pentheus (a mortal, and also his cousin) for refusing to worship him, so he drives Agave (the king’s mother) and a bunch of other women crazy. Agave tears her son apart, limb from limb, and then is heartbroken when she comes to her senses and sees that she is holding her dead son’s body parts in her hands. There is lots of ecstatic, even orgiastic behavior here: madness, violence, and tons of blood. This is a play that could be many things (raw, sexual, sensual, earthy, disgusting, tragic, frightening, seductive) but boring should not be one of them. Unfortunately, even though I knew it was a short one-act play, I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

My biggest problem with this production is the Chorus of twelve women. I feel bad for the actors- they have to remain on stage the entire time, singing slow, monotonous music (it reminded me of something a cantor in church might sing). Other characters also sing, but the score (composed by Phillip Glass) is never appropriate for this piece. The choral singing is accompanied by “movement”- the women prance around the stage performing random gestures that seem completely disconnected from the actual text. These chorus sections sap what little energy there is from this production. Plus, the women are saddled with some of the ugliest costumes I’ve seen on stage in a long time (bright orange and yellow MC Hammer pants!). Unfortunately, this is just one example of the inexplicable costume choices. If someone can figure out why Teiresias ends the show in black sequined pants, please let me know.

But there are additional problems. In my opinion, Jonathan Groff is miscast as Dionysus. Dionysus should be seductive and sexual, someone who draws us in to worship him. But here, Groff comes off as a whiny schoolboy (especially at the beginning, when he complained that no one would worship him). This worked well in Spring Awakening (he starred as Melchior), but not so great here. A few other names people might recognize: Anthony Mackie (recently seen in The Hurt Locker) plays Pentheus, and André de Shields plays Teiresias, the blind prophet. Both are fine in their roles, but neither stands out in a way that held my interest. (I didn’t like Mackie’s cross-dressing scene at all - he goes from hesitant to put on a dress to super campy in about 5 seconds. But I blame director Joanne Akalaitis for this.)

In fact, this production seems so misguided that I’m guessing Akalaitis had some kind of driving concept in her head (perhaps a desire to go back to the performance style of the Ancient Greeks, combined with Dionysus as a Christ-figure?), one that caused her and Glass to ignore the show as an audience member might see it. In any case, this concept is not communicated to the audience at all. So all of the choices appear extremely random, and because there is nothing exciting to watch, boredom sets in very quickly. I felt like I was watching a PBS lecture on Ancient Greek theatre. Or like I was in a church, watching a Sunday school class put on the play. I actually found the program (with extensive dramaturgical notes) more interesting than the production.

If after all of this, you still want to see The Bacchae (it is free, after all), the good news is that it probably won’t be difficult to get tickets. I got to the park about 6:30pm and waited on the standby line. Even though it seemed as if I was fairly far back in the line, I got a ticket. While this was my first time waiting on the standby line, I’ve heard that if you’re there by 6 or 6:30 (5:30 to be really safe), you probably shouldn’t have any trouble getting in. (Caveat: if you are going with someone else, you won’t be guaranteed two tickets together, since the standby line is only 1 per person). And because I really don’t think this will be a hot ticket, I can’t imagine the line will get worse. Of course, you could also go to Central Park when they do their initial distribution at 1pm. (And again, I don’t see the need to get on this line super early in the morning).

(The Bacchae runs through August 30th. Added performance (stand-by line only): August 24. No performance: August 25. The show plays at the Delacorte Theater, located in Central Park at 81st Street, Tuesday through Sunday at 8 pm. It is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. Normal ticket distribution is 1pm at the Delacorte (2 tickets per person). Tickets are handed out to the stand-by line starting at 7:30pm (these are 1 per person). Tickets are also available through the virtual line, and there are a few days of outer borough distribution - see for more info.)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

New York Int'l Fringe Festival 2009

It's August - that means it's time for thousands of performers to descend upon lower Manhattan for a giant theatre festival celebrating artists from all over the world. The New York International Fringe Festival is notorious for offering myriad options of productions ranging from silly musical comedies to serious dramas to dance to clowning to puppets to performance art...and pretty much everything in between.

This year, FringeNYC is billing itself as "New York's best staycation." Well, if you take advantage of the festival's offerings (nearly 200 shows), there is certainly a lot to do below 14th Street from August 14th through August 30th. And $15 tickets make FringeNYC extra recession-friendly.

If today's FringeNYC press preview at the Minetta Lane Theatre taught me anything about this year's festival, it's that satire is in and so are the 1950's. Nine shows performed at today's preview and although they represent a mere sampling of the festival, they indicate goofy good times and some solid new theatre, too. Here are some of the previewed shows that your Theasy writers are excited to see.

Scattered Lives
beautifully choreographed Japanese swordfighting set to traditional music as well as rock...the athleticism and grace are impressive and the bad-ass-ness is reminiscent of the Kill Bill movies

Devil Boys From Beyond
a self proclaimed "outrageously insane comedy" involving cross-dressing camp at its goofiest...from Ridiculous Theatre Company

The Event
a comedic, self-referential one man show about what it's like as an actor on a stage and the relationship made with the audience during a performance

a new musical about high school student council...this show includes a large cast and Broadway names and is sure to be a hot ticket

Far Out
a new musical spoof of 1950's B-movies about alien invasions

Other FringeNYC shows Theasy will be reviewing include How Now Dow Jones, The History of Cobbling, America's Next Top Bottom, Citizen Ruth, The Boys Upstairs, Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party, A Time to Dance, Willy Nilly, Natural History, Just Don't Touch Me Amigo, Live Broadcast, Powerhouse, and others.

Check back to throughout the next two weeks for FringeNYC coverage, reviews and information. And let us know if you see anything good! For more information about FringeNYC, visit their website at

Monday, August 10, 2009

Joan Rivers - She's baaaack!

By Scott

BOTTOM LINE: You'll laugh.

Hey, I just read that Joan Rivers is doing stand-up at the Laurie Beechman Theater at the West Bank Café from August 4 – 20. I caught her act several months ago at the Cutting Room and she was hoot and a half! Check out that review here. And, if you are so inclined, check out Joan’s newest shtick and newest face live at the Laurie Beechman Theater at the West Bank Café, 407 W 42nd St (between Ninth and Tenth Aves, downstairs). Joan performs Tuesday, August 11 @ 8pm; Wednesday, August 12 and 19 @ 8pm; Thursday, August 20 @ 9pm. Tickets are $30: or 212 352 3101.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Los Grumildos (HERE Arts Center)

By Kitty

BOTTOM LINE: Debachery, decadence and disco balls.

This is my Amsterdam fantasy. Inside the basement space of the HERE Arts Center, Peruvian artist Ety Fefer builds a kooky cabaret whose guests include demented dollhouse denizens, rodent hybrid rock stars, and insects with spiky shells to match their gold spiked heels. These creatures drink, sing, smoke and make love in a world resembling that of a European cabaret club circa 1940 complete with red lighting, simulated cigarette smoke and a soft, swing jazz soundtrack.

Los Grumildos, though described as "kinetic theatre", is more a play in the philosophical sense. Human beings are replaced by puppets. Movement is manipulated by strings. Ideas are conveyed and emotions shared in the assembling of the atmosphere rather than in spoken word.

Yet, it seems a disservice to classify Los Grumildos as simply an art installation. Strangely, there is a sense of "different every night." Each creature possesses its own inner life and even though they are retarded by their plasticine parts, they are free in their personal expression and seem to bring a different energy with each look.

(Los Grumildos' bizarre magic has finished its short run at HERE Arts Center in New York. However, Ety Fefer continues to tour her puppets throughout the United States and Europe. To learn of future installations, visit

Sunday, August 2, 2009

THE AMORALISTS (August Featured Theatre Company)

By Le-Anne

Recently, I had the good fortune of sitting down with the members of the up-and-coming theatre company, The Amoralists. (See the Theasy review of The Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side. The show has been extended through Aug. 17th). The four American Academy of Dramatic Arts alumni had a lot to say. They are an interesting bunch with a lot of great stories and innovative ideas. Here is a mere sampling of what they shared.

The company’s been around since December of 2006, but Meghan you just recently joined the team this year?
JAMES KAUTZ - She’s seen all of our shows, as a friend.
MEGHAN RITCHIE - I’ve known them for years. I’m a big fan and I was Derek’s assistant director in the fall.
DEREK AHONEN - We have a different assistant director for each show. Then there’s a good chance that somebody can come in and collaborate with us. We had our first intern on this last show. She worked out great.
MATTHEW PILIECI - We’re expanding as a company by working with friends, people who know how we work, and have worked with us before.

How did the company begin?
AHONEN - On a trip to LA we were debating whether to move out to LA or stay here...
PILIECI - and what the hell to do with our lives.
AHONEN - We took a couple grand and drove to Vegas with the hopes of winning fifty thousand dollars to start a company.
KAUTZ - We were absolutely convinced that we were gonna win.
PILIECI - We already had it spent.
KAUTZ - What our productions were gonna be, all that kind of thing. We walked into the first casino, Matt walks up to a roulette table, throws fifty dollars down, bets it on black.
PILIECI - Lost it.
KAUTZ - And that set the tone for the weekend.
PILIECI - We spent the rest of the weekend losing more money and drinking apple martinis. (laughter)
KAUTZ - Then on the drive back we all kinda looked at each other and were like “Fuck it. Let’s just start this.”

Matthiew Pilieci, James Kautz, Derek Ahonen. Not pictured: Meghan Ritchie. Photo by Krissy Rowe.

What were your first steps when you came back. Was it a slow process?
AHONEN- Not really. We got back and we dove in head first. I had a play. It was just a matter of getting the money together.

What was the play?
AHONEN - While Chasing The Fantastic. It’s probably the most experimental thing we’ve done in the sense that it jumped around in time and played with the boundaries of reality as opposed to the other things we’ve done which have been so straight forward, in your face, and confrontational. It went really well but no one saw it.
PILIECI - Our friends saw it.
KAUTZ - We made every possible mistake you could.

Like what?
PILIECI - Getting a nonexclusive space, number one.
AHONEN - Wrong PR people.
PILIECI - We got PR people that are used to dealing with, like, banks.
AHONEN - They had no theatre connections. Out of our own frustration, we made a contact with some company that you had to pay twenty dollars to get a review.
PILIECI - And when we got it, we thought we were stars!
KAUTZ - Then we did our homework.
AHONEN - We followed the press for shows we liked and were like, “Who’s doing press for them?”

The Amoralists have gained a lot more press recently.
AHONEN - Yeah. The bigger the press the more people it brings in. But it doesn’t matter what level it’s coming from. When the reviewer is fair and objective then it’s great.
KAUTZ - Reviews are a beautiful way to get people to see your play. That’s all we really want. We want people to come and see these shows.

In 2007 they were pretty hard on you and in 2009 almost every review is glowing. AHONEN - We’ve had a couple harsh reviews this summer.
PILIECI - New York press is real harsh.
KAUTZ -Love us or hate us, you gotta feel something for us. When we first started, we were fully prepared for that.

The Pied Pipers is not really part of the PS 122 season.
RITCHIE - We’re a rental.
AHONEN - Shoshona Currier (PS 122 Programming Associate) had seen [the original production of The Pied Pipers] and we talked to her about coming in there with a play and she was really open to it.

Some reviewers have criticized The Pied Pipers for the use of nudity, political views, and for being didactic or even pedantic at times.
PILIECI - Are you calling the nudity pedantic?
AHONEN - Some people make up their mind that they’re not gonna like a piece, then they pick out flaws. Nothing’s perfect. We’re not writing perfect plays.
KAUTZ - I was in a bar two nights ago and the bartender was talking about The Pied Pipers and he was like, “So that’s kind of The Amoralist view, right? The very radical, leftist, kind of view? That’s your thing? All your plays are about that?” And I looked at him and I’m like, “No, not at all. Most of our plays have nothing to do with politics.” There’s all kinds of social, American, commentary in all of them. That’s a thread.
AHONEN - The play that we did after The Pied Pipers, the first time, is a drama about a family of cops whose matriarch was murdered. They’re tough, right-winged, racists, everything the Pied Pipers are not.

What do you think about the articles out there that say “they’re ready for Broadway?”
PILIECI - Unfortunately, Broadway’s a star vehicle right now.
KAUTZ - I’d be afraid of putting our work in the hands of some “Money Man” who wants to change or control things. This play is not gonna work if [Matt doesn’t] come out naked, with an erection.
AHONEN - It wouldn’t work without the erection?! The whole thing wouldn’t work at all? (laughter)
PILIECI - The whole thing!
AHONEN - It’s hanging in the balance of Matt’s unit.
PILIECI - Somebody would take this to Broadway and fire me and you.
KAUTZ - And hire Matt Damon and Ben Affleck and we’re fucked.
PILIECI - Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off Broadway. It doesn’t matter as long as the product is good.
RITCHIE - A lot of off-Broadway stuff is really great. Broadway is just so difficult to market that it’s not necessarily the big goal for a lot of companies [like ours], at the moment. Unless you’re a big musical, it’s a really difficult place to be.

What is the big goal?
AHONEN - A bigger audience base. We’d love to have our own, permanent, theatre.
RITCHIE - And not have to go buy things off our own credit cards. It would be nice to have a good size budget.
AHONEN - The reason that we extended [The Pied Pipers] - we sold out the last two weeks and we didn’t know anybody [in the audience], we’re like, “You don’t close a show that’s selling out.” We have our own product and if it could make money...
KAUTZ - That’s the thing that I’m most excited about - people are coming [to see Amoralists’ shows].

How did you come up with the name The Amoralists? Not to be confused with Immoralists, which is...

KAUTZ - Completely different. And it seems like some of the reviews may have confused the two.
AHONEN - We were originally gonna call our company Seventies Film On Stage but then we worried people were gonna think we’re doing "Serpico". But it’s the qualities in those movies. PILIECI - You know "Dog Day Afternoon?" That’s kinda us.
AHONEN - We started off as Tribe For The Huddled Masses.
(RITCHIE chuckles)
AHONEN - Which was cool for us but it’s a not really a good name for a theatre company. Everything that we [came up with] was too limiting, or too weird, or too long. One day, Matt was like “What about The Amoralists?”
PILIECI - I wanted it to sound like a band!

It really just came out of the blue like that?
KAUTZ - Well, no, we figured out what we liked about “Dog Day Afternoon” or “Taxi Driver” or all these other movies. What was it about the characters that was so fascinating? It was this human quality presented in a way that wasn’t judgmental.
PILIECI - It was amoral.

Do you find that a lot of things nowadays are judgmental?
PILIECI- I feel like our society, in general, is very quick to judge. And that goes across the board from art to people.
KAUTZ - Art is then produced to cater to that and to profit from that.
PILIECI- And we try to get away from that a little bit.

For more info check out The Amoralists on MySpace, Facebook, and at

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