Saturday, August 22, 2009

What the Fringe?

Critic-O-Meter hasn't been around long enough to face summer's festival glut, and given our usual criterion--a show must have a minimum of five reviews to be graded here--we were thinking the math wouldn't work to cover the Fringe Fest (Aug. 14-30), since there are so damn many shows and only so many will get reviewed, let alone reviewed by more than one critic, let alone by five!

But then it struck us that we could play some useful role in culling all the Fringe reviews in one place--this post--and ranking the reviews that have come in from everywhere, so you at least might have some idea which shows are faring best (and not so well) in the review sweepstakes. It's arguably much less reliable/authoritative than averaged grades for each show (which we'll still do for any multiply reviewed show), but we're betting it's better than nothing.

A note about how we're ranking them: Since one-review rankings give inordinate weight to an individual critic's grade, we're correcting a little bit by giving an extra point to shows that get more than one review: First we average the grades based on our usual 14-point system (A+=14 down to F=1), then we add an extra point to say, if nothing else, "This show got more attention." We're not giving each show an overall grade, but the order in which they're listed below reflects these adjusted averages.

UPDATE: We love Nytheatre.com but it's looking unlikely, given that they've set out to cover every Fringe show and we're already struggling to keep up with reviews from other sources, that we'll get around to processing their reviews. We encourage you to visit their Fringe review page for another point of view.

And so, without further ado, after the fold, our guide to the Fringe Fest reviews...


Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party
HERE Arts Center through Aug. 29.
Time Out NY A+ What sounds like a wacky romp turns out to be both riotously irreverent and intermittently historical, yet anything but fluffy: Aaron Loeb’s two-hour-plus work is actually a gripping small-town courtroom drama, telling the story of a schoolteacher accused of corrupting her students’ minds by alluding to the 16th President’s possible homosexual tendencies...The outstanding cast, led by Mark Anderson Phillips as a big-shot reporter and Michael Phillis as a closeted baker, expertly navigates Loeb’s every tonal shift, from catty comedy to gut-punch tragedy. Back Stage A Identity politics and wild comedy collide with exciting results...When an elementary schoolteacher rewrites the Christmas pageant to include a scene featuring Honest Abe explaining his "special friendship" with Joshua Speed, all hell breaks loose in Menard County, Ill...Loeb makes sure no one is a complete villain or hero. He also combines sharp satire with poignant insight into our deeply divided land. (14.5)

Devil Boys From Beyond
Time Out NY A+ Jabbing their lewd lines with hatpin-prick timing, their eyes flashing like paparazzi cameras, the marvelous actors of Devil Boys from Beyond are fashioning something very silly and special at the Actors’ Playhouse. If there were any justice in this mixed-up world of ours, the whole show would be tractor-beamed Off Broadway tomorrow. NY Post A Cheap in all the right ways, the fast, taw dry and very funny "Devil Boys From Beyond" is the Fringe Festival at its best.(1)
14.5

Dirty Stuff
Time Out NY: A+ In this amazing one-man show, Jonny McGovern flawlessly transforms himself into five distinct characters who cross paths in the end....The writer-performer keeps the audience glued to the stage and leaves you stunned by his talent. Village Voice A There's a moment in Dirty Stuff—when a nerdy, closeted gay man sings a duet with a gay pimp about the virtues of boys' soccer teams—that demonstrates how multi-dimensional a solo show can be...Quite the revelation. (14.5)

Candide Americana
Backstage A+ Stanton Wood's updating of Voltaire's novella is trenchant, canny, a series of lacerations directed toward the American right wing. He has a perfect partner in director Edward Elefterion...One of the best possible versions of "Candide" I've seen. Time Out NY A It truly must be the best of all possible Fringe Festival worlds when a Voltaire update is completely in sync with the scrappy, resourceful vibe of the annual showcase. The athletic Rabbit Hole Ensemble bounds out onto a barren stage, alternating characters with a mix of reckless abandon and stop-on-a-dime precision...The cast inspires laughs and love in equal measure—with special props going to Lauren Murphy, whose self-deprecating exuberance suggests a farceuse in the noble line of Carole Lombard and Anna Faris. Village Voice A- Few of Wood’s jokes are new or unexpected, but the quick dialogue—bolstered by Edward Elefterion’s efficient direction and a boisterous ensemble—makes for an amusing, if safe, diversion. Centuries later, Voltaire’s classic is still a sturdy framework for cultural caricature and quick political jabs.(14)

Powerhouse
New York Times A Somehow manages to pack very funny puppetry, exuberant dance numbers, fascinating historical tangents, a mountain of narrative and a vivid sense of period mood into one steam train of a drama...The rare Fringe show that lives up to its title. Time Out NY A- A whimsical ride...You can forgive a little narrative laxness in Jon Levin’s kinetic and visually enchanting production. Aiming to honor the mad, creative urge to perfectly transmute ideas into art, this work succeeds beautifully. (14)

Harold Pinter Pair
SoHo Playhouse
CurtainUp A These two menacing comedies deftly turn outrage into poetry and are punctuated with the author's signature pauses, unsentimental language, and hints of threatening behavior. The more effective and better played is The Lover, but the more haunting one is Ashes to Ashes for its economy of gesture and psychological scope. Time Out NY A This pleasingly perverse double-decker of Harold Pinter one-acts would leave even a seasoned couple’s therapist in a muddle, and I mean that as high praise. Just Shows To Go You A The Lover, the first of the two Pinter plays in this double header, is pitch perfect, from the chime-like Beatles instrumentals that play over the scene changes, to the color of the furniture, to the choice of each cocktail glass. Most importantly, the direction (by Patrick McNulty) is right on point and the actors (Chris Thorn and Juliana Zinkel) are keenly attuned to each other and expertly maintain the chilly tension in Pinter’s dialogue. Village Voice A- Under the direction of Patrick McNulty, this pairing of plays results in a richer production of each. Chris Thorn and Julianna Zinkel, in The Lover, could handle Pinter’s dry comedy with a bit more precision, but they certainly find the near-psychotic desperation driving the couple's games—a crucial aspect of the play, and one that might give way to pure farce without the darker Ashes to Ashes as a companion piece.(13.75)

The Adventures of Alvin Sputnik
HERE Arts Center through Aug. 27
TheaterMania A Both a joyful and melancholic fable. Written and performed by Tim Watts, and presented with a seamless blend of multimedia which includes animation and puppetry, the solo show is an artfully designed, gently affecting little gem. Time Out NY A A sweet tale of love and devotion—set in a grim postcatastrophic world—in a solo show that ably mixes animated video and live performance...Using simple hand-puppet techniques and bringing everyday objects to life, Watts manages to communicate great emotion. Village Voice A- The script does not avoid the twee, yet Watts, his puppets, his ukulele, and his lo-fi animations are simply sopping with charm. (13.67)

La Ronde
Time Out NY A Schnitzler's tale of love and lust in 1897 Vienna comes to life brilliantly...Alyson Weaver and Ken Barnett flow seamlessly in and out of their roles, with only minor changes of costume to indicate the shifts. Village Voice A- Larry Biederman’s spare production sums up the communal desperation, and the fleeting pleasures, in Schnitzler’s amorous merry-go-round...Not all of Biederman’s efforts pay off—there are unfinished voice-over experiments, and some misguided opening video—but Schnitzler’s social portrait, harsh and prescient, hasn’t lost its bite. (13.5)

Borderline
Village Voice A It’s cheeky, it’s morally complex, and it makes the character’s experience of drug-induced psychosis and fragile recovery seem unsettlingly familiar, even to a presumptively straight-edged audience. (13)

Complete
Time Out NY A If the linguistic definitions in Andrea Kuchlewska’s comedic drama are far from “complete,” it's only because the playwright is more interested in the interior grammar of her characters...Clever segues between past and present—smoothly accomplished by director Birgitta Victorson—help convey all the “undelivered communication” that Eve's spent her life shutting up...Terrific performances from actors like Owen and Price ensure that every word counts. (13)

Cut From the Same Cloth
Time Out NY A In this striking biographical drama, real-life siblings Megan and Seth Auster-Rosen strive to complete their late father’s memoir about life as a young man in West Africa...Memorializing their father and dealing with his loss, the Auster-Rosens weave an engrossing and touching story. (13)

Dolls
Time Out NY A In his solo show about gays and dolls, Michael Phillis proves himself a plastic performer—in the fine old sense of “plastic” as “pliable,” not the newer one as “phony”...Skillfully staged by Andrew Nance, the play is amusing, imaginative and perfectly suited to its intimate Fringe stage. TheaterMania B+ Rank, preference and discrimination are the subtextual themes in the tightly written, briskly paced 70-minute show...Phillis is detailed and imaginative in both his clever writing and in his appealing performance...He makes each portrayal seem so effortless that it may only be after you've seen them all that you register how accomplished his performance is. (13)

Flight
Back Stage A A potent mix of writer-director Tim Aumiller's trenchant script and a pair of terrific performances. Time Out NY B+ Tim Aumiller’s witty and engaging Flight features three chairs, two actors and one surprising twist—all well served by an intimate setting and intelligent dialogue. (13)

Hear What's in the Heart: A Shoemaker's Tale
Time Out NY A My review can be summed up in four words: Go see this play! Actor-writer Steve Scionti plays eight characters in his courageous homage to his Italian-American family...While everyone walks out of this performance with memories of vibrantly funny and touching moments, spectators in the front row also leave with little bits of orange pulp, thanks to Scionti’s impression of his father, Sebastiano, who literally spits out advice through a mouthful of fruit. (13)

High Plains
Time Out NY A A sad and sordid treat. Watkins is a gorgeous writer...He delivers the material with a passion to match, moving from funny to macho to devastatingly guilt-ridden as smoothly as you imagine the wild Western plains are spreading out around him. (13)

Hungry
Time Out NY A A stunning portrayal of Bobby Sands...Beautifully written, the play interweaves Irish history, poetry and politics with words of Sands’s own, taken from his prison writings. (13)

It's My Wonderful Life
Time Out NY A Bronx native Charles Michael Edmonds provides a humorous, moving and very personal account of his struggles with cocaine addiction. Edmonds captivates his audience...and offers a new spin on Capra’s 1946 film about the power of second chances. (13)

Jesus Ride
New York Times A Michael Schlitt...is no natural performer, but his intense stage persona in “Jesus Ride” suits his purposes...In short bursts of grumpy narrative he describes being a secular Jew working for a Hollywood studio on a new movie about Jesus, “The Revolutionary,” which opened at a Christian theme park in Tennessee. Besides the divine absurdity of this culture-clashing soap opera, the pleasures of “Jesus Ride” include a lively filmic history of movies about the Gospels. (13)

Jungle Fun Room
Time Out NY A Four struggling actors perform at a New York City zoo children's theater—which is really more of a supply closet and changing area—in writer-director Brian Hampton’s hilarious comedy...The modest but amiable show keeps the laughs coming from start to finish. (13)

Mars: Population 1
Time Out NY A- Despite the minimal staging, however, the realness of his adventure keeps you stuck to your seat, as Halloway crashes into Mars’ atmosphere, runs out of oxygen and reflects on the meaning of the one-small-step–vs.–one-giant-leap dichotomy. The sound effects are particularly well done: every knob twist and switch flip is perfectly synced to Allerdyce’s swift, lively gestures. Throughout Captain Holloway’s plight, the audience finds itself rooting for this lonely astronaut, faced with the overwhelming immensity of space. When it’s over, you’re sad to have to come down to Earth. Talkin' BroadwayA- The evening as a whole captures the sacrificial spirit of the men who go where no others have before and risk venturing into the unthinkable for that best of all possible reasons: because it's there. That's also what gives Galloway's shocking, but frighteningly clever, fate its real poignancy: It's dreams, not science, that drive humanity in all its grandest achievements, and which must be preserved at any cost. The final scene, which is far too special to spoil here, demonstrates that Galloway and Allerdyce alike realize (and perhaps resent) that we've hardly left our doorstep in the 40 years since our first trip to the moon, and never crossed the street. (13)

Natural History
Time Out NY A- Employing a strange yet effective parallel to natural evolution, August asks us to question our own lives and independence. Although some of the metaphors are unsubtle, they are often profound, and remind us that the old cliché about history holds true for everyday life as well: We have to know where we came from to know where we’re going. (13)

Penumbra
Village Voice A A one-man musical by slam poet and hip-hop theater artist Anthony “Fascious” Martinez...Fascious, a pint-sized dynamo, creates his own sparks...These penumbral glimmers are enough to alert us to the great light beyond. (13)

Viral
SoHo Playhouse through Aug. 26
Back Stage A Blessed with an unflinching script and a quartet of very funny performers, the play begins as the blackest of comedies before transforming into an uncompromising look at how we choose to live...As funny as "Viral" is, it's Stewart's harrowing monologue about the courage it takes to recognize one's weaknesses that will haunt you for days afterward. New York Times A- Haunting...The drama, which seems better upon reflection, first seems stilted, and audience members guffawed at moments that, to me, seemed deeply melancholy. But their response may in part be because the play generates unease and anxiety without providing any release for it. It’s like a horror movie without the shocks. At some point you almost have to laugh. TheaterMania A- With a decidedly dark comic bent, Rogers' play explores not only the ways people can exercise control in their lives, but also the ways in which human existence -- in its widest sense -- has become a commodity in the Internet age. Director Jordana Williams expertly balances the play's tones and stories, but her work cannot conceal some of the inconsistencies or loose strands in the plot...Nevertheless, Viral satisfies and its story lingers well after its final moments. Time Out NY B+ If you feel stable enough to attend, prepare to laugh at times and feel troubled at others as you watch the excellent cast capture these unusual characters. (13)

Zipperface!!?!: The Hobo Musical
Time Out NYA Witty dry humor, a visit from Susan B. Anthony and a random robot war in the middle of the story keep the audience laughing and engaged. The cast’s acting and singing are impressive, and manage to make an otherwise ridiculous story believable and entertaining. This musical definitely deserves a larger arena than the Fringe Festival. CurtainUp B+ The show-within-the-show is pretty ridiculous, and is acknowledged as such by basically everyone onstage. Even the song titles seem to say so: examples include "Let's Put on a Terrible Play" and "I am Dead (So am I) (So am I) (So am I)." That doesn't stop it from garnering a lot of laughs, thanks to director Gregory Bing's high-spirited production and a very appealing 15-member cast who make every single character onstage memorable. In addition, the script (by Rothstadt, Jon Bershad and Andy Wolf) contains so much wit and inventiveness that nitpicking feels churlish. Even when it's veering wildly off course, we're enjoying the ride. (13)

Baby Wants Candy
Talkin' Broadway A+ The songs were as accomplished and melodic as they were random. From the opening line ("The greatest love stories in the world are tied to the greatest diseases known to man") on, they were as smartly crafted as is imaginable under the circumstances, bearing musical influences of Richard Rodgers, Stephen Sondheim, and Jason Robert Brown, with lyrics that rhymed with much greater regularity than you see in shows of the Spring Awakening and Passing Strange ilk, and that sometimes even blended into complex musical scenes. TheaterMania A+ The company is delightful from top-to-bottom. They're open, generous, and as dexterous as the best improv group should be. Back Stage A The delightful, off-the-wall "A Scotsman in Thailand," performed by Baby Wants Candy, a Chicago-originated improv ensemble, was one night only. But whatever title is shouted from the audience, the six players—drawn from a pool comprising Rebecca Drysdale, Peter Gwinn, Jeff Hiller, Bob Kulhan, Colleen McHugh, Thomas Middleditch, Stuart Ranson, Albert Samuels, and Eliza Skinner—will undoubtedly deliver a satisfying mini-musical with rhyming solos, duets, ensembles, and a plot neatly sewn up by the end. Time Out NY B- The night we attended, the performance, based on audience suggestions, was titled A Scotsman in Thailand: The Musical; and while many of the songs were genuinely funny, the humor in between often sagged with groanworthy stereotypes (Thai sex tourism!) and the type of gender gags (girls in boys’ roles!) endemic to the improvised form. CurtainUp B- Actually the fact this show is in the Fringe at all is a bit suspect--BWC has been around since 1997 in Chicago and NYC, and has launched more than one comedy career, so it's hardly an edgy show trying to gain acceptance.(12.8)

A Time To Dance
45 Bleecker
Back Stage A A sparkling one-woman show about writer-performer Libby Skala's great aunt Elizabeth "Lisl" Polk...Rather than focus on professional accomplishments, Skala delves into the absorbing stories of Lisl's early life in Vienna as a member of a Jewish family during the years spanning the two world wars...A vivacious actor, Skala brings childlike exuberance and lots of freeform expressive dance movement to her poignant portrayal of an undaunted survivor. CurtainUp B+ Written and performed by Libby Skala, this one-woman show is a tribute to her grand-aunt and dance therapy pioneer Elizabeth Polk...Skala doesn't try to wow us with any dancing pyrotechnics. The sketch has a dancerly quality to it but essentially remains a biographical piece on her grand-aunt's life. Time Out NY B+ Skala skillfully weaves the life story of her great-aunt Elizabeth “Lisl” Polk with different forms of dance and various songs and instruments, exuding an almost childlike enthusiasm when recounting the difficulties that Lisl had to endure...Skala manages to hold the audience’s attention—and keep it smiling—with a pointed tale of hardship. (12.67)

Ether Steeds
TheaterMania A Giving words to the unknown and telling stories to explain the world are the primary themes of this compelling and thought-provoking work about damaged individuals...[Sahr] Ngaujah -- who will soon be reprising his Obie-winning role in Broadway's Fela! -- has a strong presence and a nice onstage chemistry with Lord that adds tension to their interactions. Time Out NY B Sarah Lord’s buoyant performance as Skeeta, a 16-year-old North Carolina girl obsessed with Venus flytraps, is the best reason to see Ether Steeds...The play—which could be a half hour shorter without losing anything important—occasionally sags under the weight of its ambitions. (12.5)

Mutti's After Supper Stories
Time Out NY A Iris Rose's enchanting children's play alternates between depicting a mother telling her two kids bedtime stories and dramatizations of the classic folktales...It probably helps that the cast is an actual family. Village Voice B Mutti is no Coraline. Rose, Hales-Tooke and the DePaula clan don't get very far mining the psychological depths of tales in which little ones are disowned by their parents, or terrorized simply for taking a walk in the woods. (12.5)

Pie-Face: The Adventures of Anita Bryant
Time Out NY A Lee plays Bryant with conviction, employing streaming video and lots of crowd participation...As the play moves to Anita's fall from grace, including her celebrated facial encounter with dessert, we're still laughing: Lee's humor is right-on from start to finish in this in-your-face comedy. Village Voice B A history lesson on the downfall of a wholesome entertainer...The show peaks early with a screening of a gay assailant mussing the former beauty queen’s china-doll complexion with a pie in the face...The momentum dissipates when director Kenny Howard insists upon a deeper emotional response. (12.5)

Citizen Ruth
The Minetta Lane through Aug. 24.
Village Voice A A wickedly funny musical send-up of the abortion debate...Scathing political satire of the best kind, evenhandedly skewering both sides...You’ll probably go to hell for laughing along, but it’s worth the risk. Time Out NY A- Cleverly examines both sides of this slippery coin, and Garrett Long's cracked-out central performance—as a drug-addicted mother whose court-ordered abortion stirs up fanatics of the left and right—puts the crowd in labors of laughter. Although Leydorf’s lyrics and Brennan’s music lack the true musical variety that could push it to the next level, I foresee this baby having a life after the Fringe. TheaterMania B- Ruth's passivity is integral to the 1996 film that is this show's source material, allowing for a satire of extremism on both sides of the reproductive rights debate. But front and center in a musical, her passivity is dead weight, and her surly anti-social attitude -- at first a snarky contrast to her song-and-dance surroundings -- wears thin very quickly despite Long's skill with comic delivery...Skillfully directed by Howard Shalwitz, the production moves fluidly, shows clear storytelling know-how, and has been peopled with highly capable talent. (12.33)

Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van
Connelly Theatre through Aug. 29.
Back Stage A An amusing, energetic jolt that skewers pretentious concept directors yet has a soft spot for actors and technicians. Time Out NY B+ What the play lacks in originally, it makes up for amply in biting wit and enthusiastic farce, performed by a uniformly excellent cast...Three in a Van also dares to ask an important question: Who are the biggest assholes in the gay community? Discuss—and enjoy. TheaterMania B The cuckoo idylls of an amateur theater group are nothing new to the stage -- and the same is true of the show's just-outside-the-stage door setting. The characters are familiar as well...For two acts, the main source of tension is whether Eric and Daniel's Mime: A Musical will be mounted the following season. But the main reason for the proceedings is to watch the group hurl comic lines at one another, and Dobson's tenacity at making you laugh will win out whether you want it to or not. (12.33)

Art's Heart
Time Out NY A- Writer-performer Anthony Johnston’s tragicomic monologue...Thanks to Johnston's charming script and spastically soulful performance, the production is full of smileworthy moments and tender chuckles. But it's the petite details that give the show body...Although it may sometimes be sappy, there’s no denying that the show has a lot of, well, heart. (12)

The Books
The Cherry Pit through Aug. 27.
Time Out NY B+ Throughout Michael Edison Hayden's offbeat but emotional drama, the intensity of their characters and the surprising intrigue of their sorry lives lead them steadily into something like a relationship...Eventually they cross the established lines of their initial arrangement—driving this unlikely love story to an almost-edge-of-your seat climax. Back Stage B+ Michael Edison Hayden's new play about the relationship between a professional dominatrix and her client thankfully eschews the sensational and proves surprisingly engrossing and ultimately touching...Aadya Bedi and Scott David Nogi turn in accomplished performances in this intricate dance under the disciplined direction of Matt Urban. Bedi looks smashing in Shaumyika Sharma's sexy latex gear, but the focus here is on character. Bradley Anderson is fine in a small offstage role as a neighbor. Village Voice B+ The post-golden-shower-literary-discussion romantic dramedy you’ve been waiting for. Tender, cheeky and only a tiny bit maudlin, Michael Edison Hayden’s charged two-hander unspools a series of welcome twists on a patently ludicrous concept. (12)

The Boys Upstairs
SoHo Playhouse
Village Voice A Sex in the City meets Boys in the Band...Director Matthew Corozine’s zestfully speedy staging serves this light-as-air confection well. More importantly, he ensures that his ensemble delivers the characters with emotional truth. Talk Entertainment A Fast-paced, fiercely funny...This is not The Boys in the Band. This is your new, out in the open for all to see and listen to gay guys living and trying to find sex and love and happiness in Hell's Kitchen...With a little editing and some fine tuning it will be seen by many for quite a while. Talkin' Broadway A- No, there’s not a lot going on here. But because [Jason] Mitchell has scribed his exchanges with such style and director Matthew Corozine has staged them with such unflagging energy, you never have time to worry about any inherent shallowness - you're laughing too frequently...A major element of the show’s success are the actors. Time Out NY B- [A] booze-soaked compilation of gay clichés, sitcom setups and bad puns...Still, a lot of these recycled gags are quite funny...At least we get to see the hunky cast in their underwear a lot. Back Stage C+ Mitchell is exceedingly facile with one-liners and adept at mining stereotypes for easy laughs but less successful at giving his characters depth...Mitchell, however, seems capable of more than sitcom slickness. Here's hoping he goes for it. (12)

Dominizuelan Presents: People in the City
Time Out NY A- Two talented and vivacious young women, Wendy Mateo and Lorena Diaz, take on a wide range of characters in more than a dozen sketches, set on a nearly naked stage. Whether playing young or old, male or female, straight or gay, white or African-American, both women are captivating: Think John Leguizamo in female bodies. (12)

The Event
The Players Theatre
TheaterMania A- Creative, thought-provoking, and unique. Yet, looked at from a different perspective, it could be considered to be about nothing at all..As quintessentially meta-theatrical as can be in these days when meta-theater is so much in vogue...One of the joint Clancy-Oberg achievements is turning the often poetical Event into a model of how one-person shows can be directed and performed. New York Times A- A funny if familiar exercise in meta that once again dismantles the artifice of theater. Then Mr. Clancy makes his move, pivoting from a meditation about theater to larger questions of autonomy in a world where the possibility of choice can be an illusion. Stuck with the barest control over his fate, the poor actor, the playwright implies, is not so different from the rest of us. Village Voice Since the show will be plotless, Oberg urges any unsatisfied spectators to depart. "You can leave, or you can stay," he says. "It's only an hour. It's not my fault." But those who persist can enjoy a clever retread of the theatrum mundi concept and Oberg's dead-on impression of the excitable, chain-smoking [John] Clancy. Time Out NY C+ Mild but delightful...Considering that playwright and director John Clancy cofounded the rambunctious, overstuffed Fringe, we might expect that his metatheatrical exercise would be more adventurous...Where is any sense of heat or danger? (11.75)

Camp Super Friend
Time Out NY B+ Throughout its simple, cute story, the show has lessons to teach about making friends, respecting others and embracing one’s own individuality. If much of the style is cheesy and broad, that tactic seems effective in holding the sometimes fickle attentions of its intended audience. Village Voice B A nice show about the son of a superhero who learns to make friends while away at a summer camp for superheroes. It is part of Fringe Jr. and probably appropriate for children ages 5 through 9...It would have been good if the show's promoters had made all this a little clearer before we arrived, but no hard feelings. (11.5)

Egg Farm
CSV Center-Milagro
CurtainUp A A show that crosses the theatrical techniques of Brecht with the dark tones of Sweeney Todd...The soul of a woman is injected into a chicken, in hopes of giving birth to a human being "totally devoid of flaws." We never get to meet this new super species of human being, but something more intriguing happens. The two actors morph into dozens of characters, who hatch out of their brittle shells and tell us all about their flawed lives...It's off-beat, funny, heart-warming. Time Out NY C+ What might otherwise have just been arty, self-conscious dreck is rescued by the dynamic performance of Christopher Grant as the play's alpha thug, Bobbitt...Given the flimsy yes-you-are-a-special-and-unique-snowflake themes of Bill Heck and Nick Mills's script, that’s a feat indeed. (11.5)

John & Greg's High School Reunion
Time Out NY B+ While Ayers and Halbach aren't the most convincing character actors we've ever seen, their enthusiasm is infectious...Ninety minutes blow by in what feels like 50. TheaterMania B The show doesn't really try for depth, keeping the interactions on a fairly light, humorous level. But there is a gently ironic tone layered over nearly the entire piece. (11.5)

MoM: A Rock Concert Musical
Time Out NY B+ While some of the songs and dialogue are cliché, this show definitely speaks to a certain type of woman in the era of the “everything mom.” We wouldn’t be surprised if there’s life after Fringe for this show. Village Voice B A little like Desperate Housewives on a Susan Boyle adventure. Caliban's songs are a terrific mix of styles, and the lyrics, while not elegant, aim for humor and genuine emotion—often inspiring both. While Caliban’s characters intrigue, the book proves ungainly...A life for MoMpost-Fringe is undeniable. (11.5)

1-900-SEFLPLEX
Time Out NY B+ Alex DeFazio’s intriguing play...Although some aspects of 1-900-SELFPLEX are confusing at first, DeFazio’s absorbing script eventually made me eager to see what would happen to all of her fictional characters. (11)

All Over
Village Voice B While Audley's reflections on America and Americana aren't always profound, her confessions of twenty/thirty-something paralysis certainly feel authentic...If the writer-actress could extend this kind of direct connection beyond the one or two isolated scenes in which it occurs, as well as cut 10 minutes of the show’s 80-minute run time, we might be ready to fall over All Over. Time Out NY B Pleasant...When Audley is not delivering quirky anecdotes about the funny signs she read and the strange people she met, she takes us inside her head to reveal the inevitable loneliness, fear and paranoia that begin to set in after weeks alone on the road...Yet her experience also affirms her faith in the democratic process. (11)

And Sophie Comes Too
The Cherry Pit through Aug. 29
Time Out NY A Playwright Meryl Cohn weaves these likable characters, too human for their own good, into a story that explores the importance of accepting who you are and taking control of your life. As they converge throughout the play, the plot moves through a series of moments that are both hilarious and touching. Back Stage C The quirkiness of Meryl Cohn's premise for "And Sophie Comes Too" initially inspires laughs, but unfortunately they fade...The performances, as uneven as the play, range from Sydney's unbearably campy turn as the newly maternal Sophie to the genuinely hilarious cameo from Susan Barnes Walker as Sharon's frustrated girlfriend. (11)

And Then You Die
Time Out NY B+ David Hansen’s autobiographical one-man show, about his lifelong obsession with long-distance running, is a simple and tragic yet reaffirming tale, told earnestly and with minimal poetics. There’s no irony, no wacky AV visuals, no Fringe Festy Negro spirituals in space: how refreshing to be touched by something real. (11)

Breathe...
Time Out NY B+ Tim J. MacMillian's biographical drama traces the inspiring journey of Jill Kuirsky, a girl from a small-town broken home who is diagnosed with lupus, an incurable disease, before the eighth grade...Kuirsky plays herself for a few early scenes, but quickly decides she'd rather watch the personal moments that assemble her life from the outside looking in, so she picks a younger look-alike, Meghan Lowery, from the audience. (11)

Camp Wanatachi: A New Musical
Time Out NY B+ Natalie Weiss’s musical, cowritten with composers Conrad Winslow and Travis Stewart, is set at an all-girls summer camp...Although the cast does an excellent job—particularly Aleque Reid, Biet Simkin and Weiss herself—the live band may be the real stars of the show...refreshing and uplifting. (11)

Cephalopod: A Play Below Sea Level
Time Out NY B+ Notwithstanding its name, Cephalopod doesn’t actually submerge its audience. Instead, it descends to a basement playroom, where Mary (Jessica Cummings) has retreated after birthing a stillborn daughter...Cummings successfully captures Mary’s heightened emotional state, and Emily Zacharias provides welcome comic relief as her mother...If her caricature of Di goes over the top, it also reminds us that our imaginations, particularly when it come to healing, can be more helpful than the truth. (11)

Comedogenic
Time Out NY B+ Chicago comedian Paul Thomas’s solo show takes common, relatable social experiences—parties, weddings, funerals—and bumps them up to the “what if?” moments that we all may have imagined while in our wackier moods...Thomas’s sketches succeed to varying degrees, but their mix of absurdity and plausibility makes all of them funny. (11)

Crossings
Time Out NY B+ Beautifully captures the complex world in which newcomers to our country live. The characters’ tales, varying in their specifics, reveal similarities among their experiences. In some cases, the hope and prosperity that these people saw in America becomes a reality for them; in others, there is disappointingly little difference between their new worlds and the lives they left behind. (11)

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Time Out NY B+ Penned by former Daily News food editor Paul Schultz and performed by a talented, all-Equity cast, this rock musical take a gastro-gambol through the ages, from Adam and Eve’s first bite of the apple to the modern melting pot of Queens. (11)

Eli and Cheryl Jump
Talkin' Broadway B Surprisingly provocative...Linshaw gives an attractively conflicted, if occasionally overexuberant, performance as Eli. But Vincent is stunning, not just as the enigmatic Cheryl, but also Eli’s doting mother, first serious girlfriend, and unplaceably Eastern-European landlady...There’s so much of real value in this lovely and soaring play that it’s a shame the title characters' necessary leap of faith is diminished by forcing audiences to perform unnecessary leaps of logic. Village Voice B Director Nicole A. Watson's elegantly minimalist staging creates some tension, and Vincent charms, playing a host of roles, from Eli's mom to a high school girlfriend—the princesses in this promising, but unnecessarily convoluted attempt at a theatrical fairy tale. (11)

Eminene
Time Out NY B+
Set in a war-torn no-man's-land of the future, Barton Bishop’s sci-fi play chronicles the tumultuous journey to safety of a nameless young runaway and her mysterious companion. With strong acting and a surprisingly linear plot filled with strange and scary encounters, the show doesn't disappoint. (11)

Exiles From the Sun
Time Out NY B+ A bleak, but surprisingly fun, full-length drama about a prominent New England clan in the midst of implosion...As the evening unfolds, the family’s dysfunctional collective history comes to light, touching on a tragic mix of alcoholism, infidelity, suicide, schizophrenia and animal mutilation. (11)

Face the Music... And Dance!
Time Out NY B+ Although this show, directed by Tina Croll, consists only of movement—no plot here!—one can appreciate the grace of the performers without prior knowledge of modern dance. The most stirring and unifying element is the sense of community among the dancers: Their dedication and passion are clear, and combine to create a beautiful production. Triumphing over despair is a bit much to expect, but you’ll leave feeling good. (11)

Forest Maiden
Time Out NY B+ Writer-director Nina Morrison’s bizarre but fun-loving tale crosses modern technology and sexual openness with the fantasy world of matriarchs and their kingdoms...A unique look at gender roles and modern love—in a medieval context that seems to imply that no matter how much things have changed in the intervening centuries, much is still the same. (11)

GirlPower: Voices of a Generation
Time Out NY B+ The show achieves the innovation and freshness sought by many more seasoned writers and actors at the Fringe Festival. Gritty and honest, GirlPower is sure to encourage postperformance discussion among audience members of all ages and genders. (11)

His Greatness
Time Out NY B+ Although he’s never mentioned by name, it’s clear that the drawling Southern playwright in Daniel MacIvor’s affecting three-hander, His Greatness, is none other than the iconic Tennessee Williams...But don’t expect a docudrama; MacIvor wisely opts for realistic speculation, sidestepping sentiment by keeping the biographical details firmly in check. (11)

Imagine
Time Out NY B+ A loose collection of skits and songs created by the kids, who range in age from 7 to 14. Some deal with universal childhood problems, like boredom and jealousy, while others are more nonsensical. Most of the kids are not trained actors or singers, but director Bill Bartlett, who founded the group, taps into their natural talent and comedic ability for a charming performance. (11)

The Motherline
Time Out NY B+ Promises to embody every earnest, right-on cliché of Fringe theater. But actually, this is an entertaining, engaging show with moments of real originality and laugh-out-loud humor. (11)

Tales From the Tunnel
Connelly Theatre
CurtainUp B Something of a love letter to the subway...The stories are generally clever and feel original, and contain likeable recurring characters that give the show a little continuity...After eighty minutes or so, the energy starts to flag a little. TheaterMania B An entertaining albeit uneven program...Tony Award winner Wilson Jermaine Heredia is entertaining in his recurring role as a subway musician...Not all of the stories are equally compelling, and some judicious pruning could benefit the piece. But the show is likely to provoke knowing nods from its audience, as well as plenty of laughter of recognition. (11)

The Aperture
Talkin' Broadway B A harsh and intriguing, if sometimes overambitious, look at art, war, and why our perceptions often confuse the two...Lewis smartly weaves the action between the present, the recent past, and John’s African existence, creating a living, ever-shifting photomosaic of a relationship fraught with social, sexual, and psychological anxieties...Things degrade only when Lewis works too hard to impart his messages. Time Out NY B- An engaging two-person drama...perfect for anyone who thought that Crash deserved its Best Picture win...Ironically, this play about a photographer forgets to show, not tell. (10.5)

Baking With Bertha
The Players Loft through Aug. 22.
Back Stage B Delivers delightfully...Mason is played by Michael D. Bowen; Sam Barber is the writer-director. In truth, though, the show is as much about the audience's appetite, for Bertha lures volunteers to make a pie crust, add apples, and whisk whipped cream into shape. Chuckle-worthy patter ensues, much of it off the cuff and cunningly clever...It could also use just a bit more baking time: It's a mystery why Barber allows Bertha's familial tale to turn so dark. Time Out NY B- Chicago-based comedian and pastry chef Michael D. Bowen, a.k.a. Bertha Mason, is the star of this messy, flour-dusted affair...Between ill-executed delivery of Bertha's backstory (told with gratuitous “Ya know”s—we get it, she's from Minnesota), Bowen sprinkles in a nice portion of useful kitchen tips; for instance, toss equal parts flour and sugar over the bottom of your piecrust before you fill it to prevent sogginess...Bowen’s sharp, improvised answers and off-the-cuff asides, however, prove there is a quick-witted comedian somewhere beneath the padded bra. (10.5)

Confirmation
Time Out NY B+ Vincent Marano’s comedic drama is like a drunken conversation between close friends whose loudmouth jibes flare up unexpectedly...After early moments of hilarity, Confirmation becomes a sincere portrayal of individual transformation and responsibility. Talkin' Broadway C+ Promising but plodding...It only works unequivocally in the last 20 minutes or so, when Marano and Joe drop all the walls between us and the truth. (10.5)

The K of D, an Urban Legend
Time Out NY A Playwright Laura Schellhardt uses the trope of urban legends to explore the dark places where children sometimes find themselves, and the fantasies they craft to help find a way out. And the production benefits greatly from a tremendous solo performance by Renata Friedman, who manages to be both wonderfully charming and profoundly disturbing. Village Voice D+ Unfortunately, Schellhardt’s spooky premise never really produces any of the spine-tingling chills or surprises you might hope for. Despite some creepy sound effects, director Braden Abraham could have exploited more of the script’s ghost-story elements to evoke an eerie mood. Where we wanted to feel goose bumps, we just felt bored.10.5

I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicalLOL!
Village Voice A Exceptionally stupid and very wonderful I Can Has Cheezburger: The MusicLOL! As a caption on the source site (icanhascheezburger.com) might read: "Dumb play: Ur doin' it right!" Insouciant, infantile, and uproarious. Talkin' Broadway C+ All this show, which was written by Kristyn Pomranz and Katherine Steinberg and includes additional music by Mike Gillespie, has to do is live up to those photos and it will play. And play it does, if never notably - this is an evening that’s not so much bad as it is obvious and pointless. Time Out NY C The website is frequently hilarious; the musical, not so much...You get the feeling that the writers were just interested in coming up with funny songs about Lolcats...It’s not clear why anyone who doesn’t already love it should care.
(10.33)

How Now, Dow Jones
Minetta Lane Theatre through Aug. 23.
Time Out NY B+ The whole shebang comes off with the tongue-in-cheek humor and self-conscious raciness of a ’70s sitcom, and we mean that as a compliment: It’s goofy, over-the-top fun with a catchy soundtrack...The actors, especially Hanlon and Berman, maintain the tone admirably—and Elmer Bernstein’s tunes aren’t bad either. This is no masterpiece of musical theater, but thanks to Carolyn Leigh’s smartly ridiculous lyrics and a cast that doesn’t hold back, the show has the thing it needs most to hold up 40 years later: a good dose of fun. Back Stage B The romance is still ridiculous, while the Wall Street satire remains obvious and largely toothless. Still, West has directed it spiffily, there's snappy choreography by Rommy Sandhu, and the young and talented cast performs withhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif charm to spare. New York Times B+ Carolyn Leigh’s dynamite lyrics, the show’s main calling card, make reference to Mozart and a Pinter play (more than two years before Sondheim’s “ladies who lunch” drank to one) and beautifully complement Elmer Bernstein’s frothy score...Staged with pinpoint simplicity by Ben West, who marvelously streamlined the material to a fleet 75 minutes, the production features little scenery, an orchestra of one piano and, blessedly, no microphones. Take note, directors: We can still hear just fine. Even in its trimmed-down form, Max Shulman’s preposterous book remains hopeless...Still, Mr. West nails the big decisions. Talkin' Broadway B Against the odds, there’s much that’s good here...Sad a statement as it may be about our current musical theatre, Bernstein’s music and Leigh’s lyrics make for a modest winner of a score...The staging is fast, fresh, and fine...But...it seems unlikely that any amount of tinkering will ever make this very good time into a very good show. TheaterMania B A notable and often enjoyable endeavor...The performers' unevenness undermines some of director Ben West's fine revisions to the original two-act..One senses that this new version might allow this charmer to enjoy a wider popularity. NY Post D Will appeal only to two dedicated albeit small groups: Broadway-flop chasers and obsessive fans of genius film composer Elmer Bernstein. But even members of these constituencies will find this production wanting. (10.17)

The Antarctic Chronicles
Time Out NY B+ Jessica Manuel's entertaining one-woman show, about the year she spent in Antarctica as a fuels operator, showcases the native Minnesotan’s talent...Manuel has an engaging personality and impressive comedic range, and the audience seemed reluctant to leave: They wanted to stay and hear about her next adventure—in Australia. (10)

And She Said, He Said, I Said Yes
HERE - Williams Theater
CurtainUp B This set of monologues features three actresses (Jehan O. Young, Melissa Joyner and Rory Lipede) who have worked together with playwright Harrison David Rivers and co-directors Eric Louie and Anika Chapin to create a play based on their real-life stories...The piece basically rises and falls on how winning the actresses are, and not on the quality of the stories they tell. The good news is that all three are quite engaging. (10)

Bargains & Blood: How To Succeed at Home Shopping
TheaterMania B Clocks in at only about 95 minutes, but it could still greatly benefit from rigorous pace-tightening, including nearly all of the periodic videos that demonstrate the End of Times channel's best-selling products (the Kitty Kat Katheter Komforter was a favorite). Still, it's nice to see that antic, campy tastelessness is still alive and well on the Lower East Side. (10)

A Contemporary American's Guide to a Successful Marriage © 1959
Cherry Lane Theatre
CurtainUp A A very funny play given an excellent production here...Playwright Robert Bastron's script gets a lot of laughs even when it's outrageously anachronistic, and the cast is wonderfully committed to their characters and interact very well together. Time Out NY D+ A sophomoric mess...Even if Guide took better aim at a more worthwhile target, it would still suffer from shoddy pacing, broad mugging, festering anachronisms and college-level craftsmanship. So it's a pleasant surprise to see Autumn Hurlbert bring a bit of depth to her role as a chipper housewife facing a loveless marriage.(10)

Dancing With Ghosts
Time Out NY B Middle-aged Harley Newman looks more like a hippie professor than an ex–sword swallower. But in this peculiar corner of the Fringe, Newman not only deep-throats a blade, he also reads minds, rests on a bed of nails and blocks a blowgun dart with his hand...While his act is exciting, Newman himself is a little too mellow. (10)

Dominate Yourself
Time Out NY B Announces a new talent. This woman can be sexy, awkward, rude, flighty, obnoxious—like Tracey Ullman, but funny. If only her piece were as sharp. (10)

Don't Be Scared! It's Only a Play
Time Out NY B Cory Antiel's 45-minute solo show explores how we all store and process memories, both pleasurable and painful...His analysis, though not especially deep, is often entertaining...The main fun of the experience, for me, was sitting in a teensy Manhattan theater on a Monday afternoon with a dozen semiemployed people, watching a young, semiemployed actor act goofy, conduct an imaginary orchestra and dance around with music in his pants. (10)

Don't Step on the Cracks
Time Out NY B
Don't Step on the Cracks isn't just a blast of earnestness: It's a probing look at the onset of grown-up anxiety. These kids may borrow a poem or two from Shel Silverstein, but they also echo his suspicion that the real world enjoys jerking the rug out from under you. (10)

Every Love Story Ends in Tears
Time Out NY B Explores the possibilities and limitations of life and love through the eyes of a Puerto Rican family...The most touching moments in the play are provoked by music and dance; it would have been nice to see these aspects take a more prominent role. (10)

The Green Manifesto
Time Out NY B If you get your groceries from Whole Foods, argue with your friends about recycling glass, volunteer for Greenpeace on the weekends or get your om on at thrice-weekly yoga sessions, this just might be the show for you. (10)

A History of Cobbling
Time Out NY B With suspension of disbelief demanded from the get-go, this fantastical one-act romp laces up its boots and races gleefully toward la-la land...A lively and inventive production, but at times it feels a little more like a creative writing exercise than a cohesive theater project. (10)

Just Don't Touch Me, Amigo
Time Out NY B There’s a vaguely Christlike cast to the travails of Pedro, a gay immigrant to our fair metropolis, fresh off the boat from Argentina. He doesn’t die for our sins so much as suffer our discomforts of becoming New Yorkers...[Fernando] Gambaroni never quite inhabits his characters convincingly enough to make you forget the seams in his play, but he’s an engaging-enough performer to keep you from checking your watch constantly. (10)

Be A Man!!!
Time Out NY B Appealing... The writer-performer is observant about life’s absurd dichotomies, and his glib and breezy manner disarms the offense one might otherwise take at some truly provocative fare. (10)

Damon and Debra
Time Out NY B Directed by Passion Hansome, both actors do an excellent job of expressing the characters’ vulnerabilities. This thought-provoking production brings up points that are sometimes uncomfortable, yet all too true (10)

The Death of Evie Avery
Time Out NY B Running an hour and 40 minutes (with no intermission), the play occasionally drags, though comedic rescue arrives in several personae. Ada (Johanna Weller-Fahy), the dramatic version of the novel's beatific supermom, is a swaggering, kvetching fertility goddess of a Momzilla. Two lusty so-called Ancient Greek Lesbians (Lauri Berritta and Tovah Rose) portray Evie's deepest desires, begging for treats and fawning over her suitors. And through it all, Amelia Randolph Campbell's Evie remains a charming, elegant and heartbreaking presence. (10)

6 Seconds in Charlack
Time Out NY B More in the style of M. Night Shyamalan than Judd Apatow...Though sometimes weighed down by flat jokes and Garden State–like cuteness, 6 Seconds in Charlack is redeemed by moments of detailed, thoughtful dialogue and a very satisfying—and quite unexpected—ending. (10)

The Taming of the Shrew
CSV Center-Milagro
Time Out NY B+ The slapstick humor and talented ensemble make this centuries-old show seem modern—and downright fun to watch. CurtainUp C Too tame...Although Violeta Picayo as Katherine throws off some hot sparks, Henry Dwyer as Petruchio is simply miscast...Blazes no new paths with Shakespeare's beloved play about sexual politics. (10)

Afterlight
Cherry Lane Theatre
Time Out NY B+ Flory invokes elements of magical realism to tell three stories about characters struggling with transitions. Misti B. Wills's production generates some effective, nuanced performances, and although the pace is maddeningly slow at times—and these slice-of-life stories aren't superbly sewn together at the end of 80 minutes—Flory's characters have the pluck and emotional weight to hold you captive. NY Post B The play's mystical, allegorical elements alternately fascinate and exasperate...There's much here to admire -- especially the beautifully drawn characters, superbly played by the fine ensemble. TheaterMania C Monica Flory has won half the battle by creating an interconnected group of interesting, believable characters, but she keeps threatening to lose the war -- not to mention the audience's attention -- by sticking them in an often aimless, underdeveloped, and ultimately perplexing script. Talk Entertainment C A vague, mysterious meandering into the lives of seven townsfolk somewhere in the Northeast...The acting is uniformly good. But to no avail. The script leaves us wondering mostly about the life span of the butterfly and what that funnel of light is all about. Director, Misti B. Eills does little to clarify. (9.75)

38 Witnessed Her Death, I Witnessed Her Love: The Lonely Secret of Mary Ann Zielonko (Kitty Genovese Story)
Robert Moss Theatre
Village Voice B+ Engrossing...With her raspy contralto and Emma Thompson–meets–Martha Graham visage, LoLo is no Sarah Jones–style chameleon; each of her characters has a similar look and sound, and she was wise to focus on just three of them...All the more captivating for the relative conventionality of Zielonko’s thoughts. CurtainUp B A sketch of a shocking, fascinating story that needs more details to fill in the numerous gaps and discrepancies...Four limber, expressive dancers illustrate emotional scenes through Jody Oberfelder's choreography, using '60's pop recordings...This is riveting theater, with intensity and passion that unfortunately represents only the mere core of the whole story. Back Stage C A drama that adds neither incisiveness nor poetry to the terrible event. Talkin' Broadway C Though LoLo’s monologues are based on actual testimony and interviews, including Zielonko’s first-ever interview to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Genovese’s death, none of the people shed much new light on the incident...A show designed as a tribute to the overlooked Genovese instead makes her look as unremarkable as almost everyone else in the world. (9.75)

666
Back Stage A Who'd have thought that a show about four men in prison getting beaten, raped, electrocuted, hung, and guillotined would be so hilarious? The Madrid-based troupe Yllana obviously did.Time Out NY D I really wanted to like this show...Sadly, the performance falls short of the sordid, satanic comedy I had envisioned; instead, it resembles what might happen if the Three Stooges and Jerry Lewis ran a mime academy for chickens...The actors seem capable of more than using two-foot dildos as air guitars while they lip-synch to Beastie Boys classics—but then again, most people probably are. (9.5)

Look After You
SoHo Playhouse
NY Post B While Flory refrains from playing up the pathos of Hannah's condition, her focus on the boyfriend's commitment problem seems reductive...Still, the play largely works, thanks to some amusing dialogue and the appealing performances. TheaterMania C+ Too often resembles the kind of well-meaning "disease-of-this-week" films that populate the cable airwaves...[Louise] Flory is to be commended for incorporating a great deal of humor into a script dealing with such a serious subject, and director David Stallings handles the work's tonal shifts (and periodic set changes) quite well. But the play and its characters ultimately feel a tad underdeveloped. (9.5)

Winnemucca (three days in the belly)
45 Bleecker through Aug. 28.
Time Out NY B+ A deft, thoughtful play with as heavy a debt to Tarantino as to whoever wrote the so-called Good Book...The script explores—sometimes clearly, sometimes not so much—the expediencies and hypocrisies that religion peddles in the name of redemption. Add to that some diabolically dark humor, and Winnemucca has all the trappings of a great whale tale. TheaterMania C- Dan Moyer's contemporary take on the prophet Jonah still shares plenty in common with the Biblical story...Moyer's writing is often evocative, and one of Jonah's early monologues describing his flight from his calling is particularly strong. Under Wren Graves' direction, the production tries for a noiresque feel, but unfortunately, the pacing is often too slack for this to be realized effectively. (9.5)

Notes on the Land of Earthquake and Fire
The Players Theatre
New York Times B+ A sharp and cynical exploration of the intersection of power and sex in the movie business, told from the perspective of Chad (Ian Scott McGregor), a long-suffering gay assistant to a studio executive...Mr. Schafer, who also directs, gave the role of Shane to Chad Lindsey, most famous for rescuing a man who fell onto the Penn Station subway tracks in March, earning deservedly fawning press coverage. That he is handsome and young didn’t hurt. Time Out NY B+ Solid, bitchy fun...The playwright’s flair for zippy, smart dialogue is more than matched by an attractive, quick-witted cast. TheaterMania C+ Surprisingly derivative...The apparent suspense here is whether Chad will eventually stand up to Alan as a rampaging fire threatens nearby of if he will swallow the easy-cynicism Tinseltown pill...The play's vituperative language is so chiseled you could fool yourself into thinking you're listening to something of actual value. Back Stage C- Author-director Jason Schafer...has here written his obligatory I-hate-Hollywood play. Unfortunately, this tale of a whiny studio producer's assistant who undergoes a baptism of fire hasn't anything new to say...Schafer directs smoothly, and his cast—Sarah Grover, Ian Scott McGregor, Chad Lindsey, and Scott Aiello—delivers solid work. But neither the characters nor the playwright's observations are ultimately worth the time and talent invested. New York Post D Just in case you've never seen a movie or play about the film industry, it offers these less than revelatory concepts: Studio executive are a - - holes, their assistants are underpaid and overworked, and producers are desperate. Jason Schafer's play is being billed as "vicious" -- a description that holds true only if you've never seen an episode of "Entourage."(9)

Remission
Time Out NY A Aan excellent pairing: Bromley may speak in “superannuated symbiologies” and aim to “magnify [Dan’s] vagaries,” but Berkley—in his Jay and Silent Bob T-shirt, cargo shorts and sneakers—remains direct and gut-shot honest...An actor’s bravery is rarely noted, but Berkley deserves a medal for willingly revisiting the spasms, abrasive voices and violence of his past, and sharing this important story in a most electric and rare performance. Village Voice D- Annoying...A barrage of words and calculated lyricism, delivered passionately, but frequently unintelligibly, tell of parental emotional abuse and sexual abuse by a teacher...Relief sets in when Berkey recounts the post-rehab vision that led to him flush his meds, a first step toward his disease's remission, but only because it means the piece is concluding. (9)

Some Editing and Some Theme Music
Village Voice B A meta-analysis of identity in the age of YouTube...The company’s energy can be infectious. A rapid-fire rendition, by actor Evan Prizant, of possible opening lines for his vlogs epitomizes the actors’ charm and aplomb. But the piece’s concept is too unwieldy for them to carry the whole way. Time Out NY C- This ambitious show starts off well: Three actors sit perched in front of their Macs onstage, ready to send messages out into the world via built-in webcams...But after a few minutes, any semblance of direction and meaning are lost...The show ends up wallowing in the very self-indulgence it presumably means to critique. (9)

Diamond Dead
Time Out NY B- This musical about a zombie rock band...has a lot of potential, but still feels like it's in the rough...Our enjoyment of watching the band perform is muddled by an overcomplicated plot and a bizarre twist involving Sarah Palin. (9)

Jack and the Soy Beanstalk
Time Out NY B- Jerrod Bogard and Sky Seals’s environmentally conscious musical update of a classic fairytale...Using puppetry, catchy songs and a bit of comedy, the cheerful ensemble falls a bit short in conveying the show’s overall theme, in which the Giant represents corporate power and the beanstalk represents the localized farm. (9)

Bitch!
Time Out NY B-
Written by Booker herself, Bitch! includes one too many (deafeningly loud) phone rings and vengeful rants against the Kennedys, Lawford’s self-appointed nemeses. It also yanks the Harold and Maude thing until it snaps—even having Buddy play a Cat Stevens song yet to be composed. But the performers seize their roles with relish, evoking a fetid sense of decay that only grows smellier with their sparring. It all gets a bit repetitive, but as a sourness spiral, it's fascinating. (9)

The Most Mediocre Story Never Told
Time Out NY A- This schizoid double act takes us through Sefton’s debut as Jesus in an eighth-grade passion play, his booze-soaked college days and his current career as a “waiter-actor"...An energetic, entertaining deconstruction of the genre—and really not mediocre at all. Talkin' Broadway B An engaging, ingratiating presence onstage, [Jay] Sefton...confirms that it’s possible, and perhaps even likely, that a one-person play can be successfully spun from any source. But Sefton’s own venture would cut considerably deeper if you could feel that he believes his own unique story is one truly worth telling.
Village Voice D+ Sefton wants it both ways and gets neither. Like a cocky magician, he'd like to show you the machinery yet leave you, despite yourself, believing in magic...Sefton's sincerity and parody don't enrich one another by contrast; they cancel each other out. TheaterMania D A strained theatrical biography...There could be something to watching a man bring his insecurities to life, but in Mediocre, which has gotten a workman-like staging from director Debra Deliso, the effect is merely embarrassing. At times, the piece feels like the stage equivalent of a mother showing off the worst imaginable pictures of her child to his or her best friends. (8.75)

A Long Walk Home
Time Out NY B- The near-seamless, and often very beautiful, coordination of onstage elements...suggests a highly polished play. Yet the piece ultimately feels like a workshop...in which ideas are being proposed and worked out before the audience. Village Voice D An undoubtedly heartfelt, wildly indulgent journey deep into creator-director-performer Lauren Marie Albert’s navel...As exasperating as the title would indicate. (8.5)

Crow Mill
Time Out NY C+ Andrew Unterberg’s examination of the nature of memory...Despite moments of insightful dialogue and acting, the first two thirds of the play get bogged down in the central couple’s dull intellectual banter. But if the chemistry between these two characters is questionable, Librandi’s performance shines throughout—especially in the chilling and haunting final scene. (8)

Far Out: The New Sci-Fi Musical Comedy
Time Out NY C+ A doo-wop-infused spoof of 1950s alien-invasion movies, teenage angst-ridden musicals and the Cold War...The songs are rollicking, sometimes funny sing-along numbers; and the choreography is executed with enthusiasm and surprising grace. The problems arise when these elements are shoehorned into the show’s convoluted and slow-moving plot. (8)

I Will Follow
Time Out NY C+ A fanatical love of U2 sends playwright and actress Barri Tsavaris on a lifelong search for Bono in this semiautobiographical play...The often comedic, sometimes sentimental überfan chats with “Bono-God,” delivers monologues, and recounts significant and sometimes humiliating stories from her life. (8)

The Office and the Metal Blob
Time Out NY C+ The themes that writer-director Andrew Scoville explores range from the everyday (corporate ambition, group dynamic, cheating husbands, unhappy single women) to the fantastical (parallel worlds, universal sublimation)...Several of the hardworking and energetic actors give good performances, and some of the songs are clever...But in the end, audience members are left wondering if they might have been better off in a parallel world themselves. (8)

Bubs: A One Man Musical
Time Out NY C+
Cy Frost and Doug Olson’s tuner stars Erik Sandvold as Will Tate, a singer-songwriter who comes from broken-home beginnings. Woven into his story are songs about Tate’s father—an unsuccessful musician—and the various “Bubs” that his dad admired: men who “love what they do, but can’t make a living doing it, and can’t quit either.” As Tate's story progresses predictably (and not without clichés) from issues with his father to acceptance of himself, the band—whether helping with Sandvold’s costume changes or forming a chorus line—provides a welcome supporting cast to the star's song-and-dance hang-ups. (8)

Dances in Funny
Time Out NY C+ Wants to be both an inquiry into comedy and a thematically bundled anthology of pieces centered on food. The results are gently amusing, if rarely laugh-out-loud funny. The problem is that the evening juggles too many priorities to fully succeed at any of them. (8)

Dream Lovers
Time Out NY: C+
Separated into five skits, the play essentially looks at five couples trying to sort out the reality of their relationships—a few in their dreams, but most in the real world. Dream Lovers entertains well enough and is good for a few laughs, but it's hardly as “fiery,” “zany” or full of “startling climaxes” as its advertising suggests. (8)

White Horses: An Irish Childhood
Manhattan Theatre Source through Aug. 30.
Back Stage C Writer-performer Owen Dara's stage adaptation of his memoir of the same title is charming but a bit familiar, ending up something of a mixed bag...Dara has a contagious smile, and his impressions are funny, but the material about his mistreatment by the Catholic Church, teenage rebellion, and forgiving your parents is standard stuff. CurtainUp C Dara is a likable performer who peppers his story with songs he's written and one-liners aplenty, but the result isn't terribly effective as a drama. The biggest problem is that Dara's script isn't as textured as it needs to be to really sell his story. (8)

Crazy Good Luck
Time Out NY C+
MacIntyre speaks, dances, spasms, sings and plays the piano through all her impersonations—90-year-old tough Southern mama, breast cancer survivor, ex-wife of transgender husband and spurned lover—and you can't help but wonder how much of it is based on fact and how much on fiction. You leave feeling like a voyeur into an uncovered diary: The material is as unsettling as the abandon with which MacIntyre delivers it. It's on best display in her expressive dances, especially “Honky-Tonk Love?,” a sexy and solitary pelvic groove. If only the piano-and-song part of the show could live up to it. (8)

Daily Sounds
Time Out NY C+ Heavy as lead... Provides a thoughtful, serious examination of a relevant issue, and the actors prowl the stage with gravity. (8)

America's Next Top Bottom
The Actors' Playhouse
Time Out NY B The performance is largely ad-libbed, a fact that makes the highs higher...and the lows lower...The best part of the show’s in-the-moment style is that audience members get to elect their ANTB in real time. Back Stage C+ Campy nincompoopery—a skewering of reality TV screaming "Girlfriend!"...The piece rarely pushes boundaries—we never see why any of these boys should be the top bottom!...Unlike many Fringe shows, this one could be longer. Thicker, too. Village Voice F+ But even with the lowest of expectations, Top Bottom disappoints. Rather than offering a comic spin on reality shows by focusing on the sexual preferences of the five contestants, the play—created and directed by Efrain Schunior—regurgitates bad queer camp. (7.67)

Sadie, Sadie
45 Bleecker
CurtainUp C- There are several funny moments...but in general the play feels seriously underwritten and far too messy for production...There are certainly the ingredients here for a zany and sweet romantic comedy, but Sadie, Sadie doesn't quite put them together. Time Out NY C The first act is buoyed by funny moments, but the second drags as the characters talk and talk and talk some more about their feelings. The likable four-person cast almost succeeds in making you root for the star-crossed couple. (7.5)

Dante's Divina Commedia: Inferno
Time Out NY C Performed entirely in Italian with minimal English translation, this stage adaptation of Dante’s Inferno is not for those looking for a light night of Fringe theater...Many spectators will surely be engaged by director Rene Migliaccio’s depiction of tortured, non-English-speaking souls in hell. But for others, like me—and presumably, the several people who left midway through the performance—the show is an unpalatably intense bite into the acquired taste of art. (7)

Hint
Minetta Lane Theatre
CurtainUp B+ Joe Maloney and Bonnie Milligan's send-up of the traditional murder mystery...is filled with sly winks to the audience and a thorough smashing of the fourth wall. The only thing the show is missing is a real plot. But many in the audience may be having too much of a good time to notice. Time Out NY C A hammy musical that dishes out the old whodunit setup with plenty of energy but not much else...A few scattered titters can’t save a show that, in the end, doesn’t seem to have much of a…clue. Talkin' Broadway F Murderously unfunny...Tries to blend the whimsical, anything-for-a-joke zaniness of the classic Zucker-Abraham-Zucker comedies (Airplane!, Top Secret, The Naked Gun) with the bloody zing of Agatha Christie, but leaves out the suspense, the laughs, and any trace of original inspiration. (7.3)

The Fall of the House of Usher
Connelly Theatre
Time Out NY C+ The rawly talented, mainly college-student cast commits fully, but often their efforts are palpable, and Cirves should have taken a cue from Poe and kept his story short...It struggles to capture the menace that Poe conjured so well. CurtainUp D+ Although the main musical number is set to Poe's "Annabel Lee," many of the other songs have lyrics penned by writers far superior to Poe. This is the best feature of the play. The rest is overacted melodrama that drags on and on and on until it comes to a bloody ending that would have horrified even the macabre author of the original story. Back Stage D+ Poe can conjure in a single sentence more dark atmosphere than this musical can generate in two acts and as many hours. With the exception of the lovely Carolyn Myers as Annabel Lee, the principals are played by college students, and though they work hard, they are not giving professional-level performances. (7)

first dark
Time Out NY C Inspired by Hollywood thug-life phenomena, Charlotte W. Bence’s unoriginal script is saved by praiseworthy acting and impressive intermittent rapping by THC: The Higher Concept. (7)

For the Love of Christ!
Time Out NY C- In this musical, set in San Francisco circa 1979, a gay man comes out to (and leaves) his family, falls in love at a bathhouse, gets swindled by said bathhouse’s owners and eventually travels to both Heaven and Hell...Decent songs and good performances are overwhelmed by a scattered story. TheaterMania C- [Ben] Knox's attempt to conjure a John Watersesque world of raging bigots, villainous queers, and lust-driven children falls short...On the positive side, Michael P. Kramer's set of dark, transparent plastic panels and faux construction girders is classy, and the company that Knox and director Holly-Anne Ruggiero have assembled all seem like they'd do well with better material. (7)

M: An adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth for three actors
Time Out NY C A tidy abridgement that zips along as quickly as the original language will allow. But if Monaco’s version is less butt-numbing, it’s also less tragic—a Shakespeare quick fix for the CliffsNotes set. Minus those plodding, ambient bits to build suspense and drama, Macbeth’s crimes lose much of their oomph...In the end, nothing wicked this way comes: just Macbeth on a budget. 7

Live Broadcast
New School for Drama
Talkin' Broadway C There are definitely some interesting concepts here...But Schiffbauer has sufficiently developed very few of his ideas. The most climactic (off-air) exchanges are preachy and obvious, many of the relationships between characters are sketchily defined, and the dialogue is so littered with unfinished and unstarted sentences and evasive or unvoiced descriptors that everyone requires a minimum of 10 minutes to say nothing. Time Out NY D+ The secretly right-wing Hollywood superstar Tom Powers (Schiffbauer) inadvertently commits career suicide by going head-to-head with a liberal congresswoman on a political talk show. It’s a premise with the potential to stir some thought, but Schiffbauer’s play—despite laudable performances all around—sinks under the weight of its own ham fists. Back Stage D A watered-down version of "The Little Dog Laughed," "Live Broadcast" suffers from an overstuffed script and a cavernous stage that swallows the preposterous proceedings...There's a play to be written about the ways in which both politicians and celebrities are unable to be fallible figures. "Live Broadcast" just isn't it. (7)

The Doctor and the Devils
CSV Milagro Theatre
Time Out NY A- Kudos to the Rag N’ Bone Theatre Company and director Daniel Balkin for successfully adapting Dylan Thomas’s play, based on the real story of famed body snatchers in Edinburgh. Expect chanting, dancing, singing, eeriness and a kick-ass Tom Waits soundtrack, but wear as little clothing as possible: The theater is small and not air-conditioned. TheaterMania D Dylan Thomas' rarely seen indictment of base human behavior in which evil triumphs...The work calls for the sort of theatricality which is beyond the grasp of director and adaptor Dan Balkin and the modestly talented members of the Rag 'N Bone Theatre Company...The story could be ghoulish in some hands, but here, it simply registers more as foolish.
Back Stage F Frenetic, misguided...Adapter-director Daniel Balkin evinces no interest in storytelling, psychology, social and cultural context, or the philosophical and moral dilemmas faced by his characters. What he does seem enamored of are sloppy dumb-show stagings of corpse deliveries and crude fantasias of overlapping voices. (6.67)

Union Squared
Talkin' Broadway B- The formula for a bona-fide comedic star turn is the same at the New York International Fringe Festival as anywhere else: Give (at least) decent jokes to a good performer who has great timing and the aisles will soon be filled with rolling audience members. In fairness, Anita Keal, who plays the outspoken Jewish mother Sophie, isn't the only noteworthy part of David S. Singer's new play Union Squared - this is, all told, a respectably funny riff on domestic dissolution. But Keal comes closest to updating a long-played archetype to 2009 delicacy. Village Voice F+ Singer undermines the promise of Union, though, by layering on mammoth amounts of commentary about unscrupulous businessmen and addictive behavior. Director Diana Basmajian only compounds the script’s problems with a flaccid, perfunctory staging that deflates potentially zestful comic situations. The performers—particularly Ferrari and Meisels—attempt to instill some lightness into the production, but it's not enough to energize this leaden piece. (6.5)

Vote!
Minetta Lane Theatre
CurtainUp A- It's no easy thing to keep your eye on three teenage candidates all at the same time. But in the new cartoon musical Vote! one must do just that and figure out the most qualified person to be the next student council president at Green Valley High School...In spite of its adolescent silliness, one gets a real taste of the skullduggery encountered along any campaign trail. There's a live band on stage and veteran Broadway actor Rachelle Rak's choreography is top-notch. TheaterMania D A misguided mess...Seems to want to spoof America's larger electoral process while still upholding the basic tenets of democratic elections. But it treats its subject matter too simplistically for social critique, and isn't funny enough to be an effective satire. Time Out NY D In trying to do too much, the show ends up a muddled mess...It’s a shame that the standouts in this show are given so little to do...To paraphrase Muffin, it’s like my theatrical pet peeves just threw up all over my musical nightmares. Talkin' Broadway F+ Covering astonishingly limited ground in a painfully protracted 105 minutes, Vote! is hobbled by obvious, unexciting writing that makes the least of a largely useless roster of characters. (6.25)

Fancy Footwork
Time Out NY C- Beware the combination of bad Irish accents and lousy acoustics...The play is at its best when focusing on the specific interpersonal struggles of a pair of Emerald Isle pugilists, not the impressionistic metaphors that this production simply can’t handle. (6)

e-Station
Time Out NY C- Self-consciously experimental...If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to watch three people work through a K-hole in an electronics warehouse, here’s your chance. The piece is based on the style developed by the late Japanese director Ota Shogo, and perhaps those familiar with his work will find e-Station intellectually interesting; the most fascinating element of performance, for me, came in tracking the other spectators’ reactions to something so unusual. (6)

Buddy Becker's Big Uncut Flick
Time Out NY C-
In the case of Buddy Becker’s Big Uncut Flick, Todd Michael’s attempt to parody both ’40s film and ’60s television produces a romp that’s a little more heavy-handed than heroic.... Although this mash-up feels clumsy at times, the breakneck pace means it’s over before you can spend too long deliberating its merits. (6)

Groupies
Time Out NY C- A series of monologues about celebrity obsession and the personal issues it masks. At its best, it pairs effective writing with equally strong acting...[The] final two pieces lack the care and mystery that distinguish the first half. (6)

Hot Air Buffoons
Time Out NY C- Long on energy but short on attention span, the Polite Society’s Hot Air Buffoons packs a dizzying number of sketches into one hour...Many of the sketches are based on funny concepts, but somehow the humor falls flat upon execution. (6)

Clemenza and Tessio Are Dead
Time Out NY C-
Someone is always pulling the wool over someone else's in this somewhat humorous play-within-a-play-within-a-play. Godfather aficionados will likely enjoy it, but will a general audience? That is the question. (6)

Willy Nilly
Time Out NY B- Jeff Lewonczyk and Trav S.D. aren’t mounting a high-minded meditation on a society run amok, à la Sondheim; instead, they deliver an intermittently amusing mockumusical...All of the performances err on the broad (and off-key) side, and the first hour has a number of laughs...But as the familiar story takes hold, the show loses a lot of life, both literally and metaphorically. Village Voice D Stars an intensely uncharismatic actor as the captivating cult leader and various nubile young women as his acolytes. Lighting and sound problems plagued the production; various crashes occurred backstage; the loud band rendered most of the lyrics unintelligible—and those that could be deciphered did not impress. Just Shows To Go You F+ My reaction to this one-act musical went from mild amusement to annoyed tolerance to outright loathing within 20 minutes. Is there a reason we have been asked to watch a snarky, cartoon-thin spoof of the Manson Family murders in which everyone, criminal and victim alike, is turned into an object of snickering mockery? (6)

Alchemist of Light
Time Out NY D+ The actors do a solid job, but the story is not very compelling; and after a while, the thief—at first the main source of excitement—becomes annoying and unthreatening. The ending feels abrupt and unsatisfying. (5)

Ectospasms
Time Out NY D+
Although the story has great potential, it is muddled by scenes featuring a medium who communicates with spirits and deals with various living clients. The point is that the Fox sisters' supposed discovery gave birth to the spiritualism craze. But very little of that is made clear in the piece, whose storytelling is hampered by the use of dance as a medium. Just 45 minutes long, Ectospasms doesn't have time to develop either of its stories fully—and the Robert Moss Theater doesn't offer much space to do so. The show is clearly well-intentioned, but an afternoon on Wikipedia will teach you much more about the history of spirits, séances and things that go bump in the night. (5)

Poke Until Wince
Time Out NY D Between the recurring references to pearl necklaces and Dutch fucking, there are a handful of laughs and many more moments of just wanting it all to end. But at least I now know the definition of “Dutch pillows,” should that ever come up in conversation. Talkin' BroadwayD- A contemporary, comic La Ronde...misfires in almost every way...You’ll be wincing almost as soon as Chesmore’s poking starts. (4.5)

American Jataka Tales
Time Out NY D The breakneck pace at which the vignettes fly by makes it all but impossible to follow how these souls are connected. Is the overeducated, unfulfilled Carolina man one and the same as the prairie dog who seeks peace and quiet away from his species' communal burrow? Are all the characters versions of the narrator, the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama? Mark Duncan's direction only compounds our confusion, employing virtually no sets or costumes and assigning roles to the actors without regard to gender or, it seems, anything else. (4)

Deathwatch
Time Out NY D Textbook Genet—masculinity, morality, the spiritual dimension of evil...The audience is assaulted with presentational monologues on an awfully tiny stage, and left wondering why the guys are played by women. (4)

Finger Paint
Time Out NY D Erin Austin and Ross Evans’s lackluster dramedy...Practically screaming its theme that we are blank canvases painted by experience, Finger Paint offers no complex hues, only garish primary colors. (4)

George and Laura Bush Perform Our Favorite Sitcom Episodes
Time Out NY DThose expecting sharp satire will find themselves led into a comic Guantánamo Bay...After a strong start, the laughs die early. (4)

Gutter Star: The Paperback Musical
Time Out NY C+ The score, by James Mack Avery and David Gillam Fuller, has several good songs: “A Life of Lesbian Love” is amusing, and “What If?” provides some emotional depth. But many of the tunes are simply jaunty exposition, doing work that might have been more efficiently served by Jack Dyville’s dialogue. The production itself is rough around the edges, with intermittent PA feedback from the microphones—which the strong-piped cast didn’t seem to need—and dancing that seems short on originality and fizz. Talkin' Broadway D- Normally you feel sorry for an understudy who's forced to spell an irreplaceable star, or who was obviously shoved into a difficult role with too little rehearsal. But Walt Frasier, who stepped into a secondary role at the performance I attended of Gutter Star: The Paperback Musical, gave the best-sung and most assured performance to be found in the show. The only reason to feel bad for him is that he had to go on at all in one of the most shambolic musicals yet at this year's Fringe Festival. Just Shows To Go You F+ Gay women are under-represented on stage compared to gay men, so it’s especially regrettable to report that this musical - about a screen star in “golden age” Hollywood whose lesbian affair threatens to destroy her career - is disappointingly bland and often inept. Back Stage F- Even free air-conditioning isn’t worth having to sit through the inept new musical “Gutter Star.” Bloated at less than 60 minutes, Jack Dyville’s book strains hard for easy laughs in his wink-wink pulpy story of closeted lesbian girl-next-door movie star Darla Storme (Deborah Tranelli) in 1950s Hollywood. Unfortunately, Tranelli (who has previously played Tallulah Bankhead) is hardly the Debbie Reynolds type, and her Ann-Margret-in-Vegas costumes don’t help matters. TheaterMania F- Gutter Star: The Paperback Musical, at the Minetta Lane, not only doesn't have anything to do with the line from Oscar Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan that goes, "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars," it's an inchoate waste of 55 precious minutes written at gutter level and which consistently fixes its aspirations there. (3.6)

A Rule of Nines
Time Out NY D Awkwardly mashes together racial tension, domestic violence and spectral psychodrama...What’s confusing about the text is rendered thoroughly bewildering in Christopher Triebel’s shapeless staging. (4)

A Fine Line
Village Voice D- Both women contribute a decent variety of characters, with Ms. Sanders showing a slight advantage in terms of versatility. And the seemingly disparate threads end up converging in a satisfying and not implausible way. But this is slim consolation given the slightness of many of these threads. A final twist implies that excessive enjoyment of one’s surroundings can tip abruptly into psychotic rage. By this standard, audience members at A Fine Line should be safe. (3)

Artiflex: The Artistic Life of Emperor Nero
Time Out NY F Under Velia Viti's direction, the Italian troupe Artifex moves leadenly, sings haltingly and acts generically. The play buries itself in Nero's mind, not his actions, which makes for a talky show—just about the last thing you want from a cast whose accents render them largely unintelligible. (1)

Inferno: The New Rock Musical
Time Out NY F A sub–Spinal Tap morass of shapeless ditties...If [Rick] Merino—who spends the whole show onstage playing Dante and guitar—had trusted a director, at least, the show might have some visual shape. Instead, it is a silly mess...All ye who enter here: Abandon hope. (1)



















15 comments:

joshcon80 said...

Those reviews of Baking with Bertha are a lot kinder than mine was. I felt the character Bertha and the comedian playing her were both totally charming, but that the show she inhabits wasn't very strong.

Jerrod Bogard said...

thanks for including Jack and the Soy Beanstalk in your article. The show recieved four reviews - here are three not sighted above:

" does not disappoint on any level. " " fast-paced and energetic " -- NYTheatre.com

"a rip-roaring good time musical with a light-hearted green message. This is a must see masterpiece for all ages." -- TheaterOnline.com

"wonderfully entertaining for both the kids and the adults" -- StageBuzz.com

Anonymous said...

Note: Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party also got a glowing review in NYTHEATER.COM.

Link is here:

http://www.nytheatre.com/nytheatre/review_fest.php?p=100121

Quote: ". . . there aren't enough words in this review to describe how much I recommend it."

Rob Weinert-Kendt said...

Duly noted...we're a little backed up here, and while we do check out nytheatre.com, we're not sure we're going to get to all of their reviews...Bear with us, and in the meantime, please keep sending links. Thanks!

Susan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Most of these pull-quotes are pretty inaccurate of their full reviews. Many of the plays and musicals that faired well overall are given strangely lower ratings than their reviews, while others that faied terribly are given A ratings. Turly bizarre. Somebody's playing favorites here.

Rob Weinert-Kendt said...

Dear Anonymous:

Specifics, please. I'm curious how exactly you think we could be playing favorites with 200 shows. Seriously, if there are any oversights or glitches in our grading or inclusion of sources, it's entirely due to the sheer, eye-crossing quantity of reviews we're trying to plow through. Constructive comments are helpful and most welcome!

Rich said...

I was hoping Critic-O-Meter would be critiquing the critics rather than the shows! Do you think Time Out NY really serves anyone by sending out non theater critics to review Fringe shows? How does anyone else feel about this? A lot of work goes into all these shows and to send someone from the copy editing department or an administrative assistant or whatever non theater related department is like a sucker punch! My show, "Fancy Footwork," was reviewed by Noah Tarnow who lists himself as "copy chief" at Time Out, I guess that means he is a copy editor. Using the oldest cop out in the book he says "beware bad Irish accents," hmmm... the lead actor here is from Dubin, Ireland! Mr. Tarnow's "review" isn't really a review at all as it says almost nothing about the play. I think Mr. Tarnow just needed to say something bad to make himself feel better. For someone who makes his living with words Mr. Tarnow's "review" is, in my opinion, a muddled piece by a muddled person. You can say "sour grapes" if you want, but I defy anyone who sees our show to say the fight scene "lacked pep." Here is an excerpt from the nytheatre.com review by, Joe Beaudin: "What is most intriguing about this character is his passion in describing the art of boxing, and the character's use of imagery to convey that passion. Byrne captures the intensity and fire of the character (as well as a perfect Irish accent) and does a nice job of inhabiting a dual role—during a boxing scene, he portrays both referee and commentator all at once, simultaneously playing each part with specificity.
Another highlight is the fight choreography of Frank Shattuck. I was a little skeptical at first as to how they would truthfully convey a boxing match, but in the end I was impressed. This production may not have the budget of even one of the six Rocky movies (that's right, there were six), but Shattuck is able to create a genuine boxing match with live sound effects and all."

The blog "PinkGrapefruit" had this to say, "45 minutes feels like 25 in this fast paced packs an emotional punch 1 act play written by Irish playwright Miriam Gallagher and directed by American Rich Johnson."
Here is a link to the nytheatre.com review: www.nytheatre.com/nytheatre/review_fest.php?p=100183

Rich Johnson

Aaron Riccio said...

Rich, I hear where you're coming from, but what do you mean by "theater critics"? What is it--aside from the fact that he wrote a positive review--that makes Joe Beaudin and his four reviews (in the last three years) more of a "theater critic"? Would Noah Tarnow become more of a theater critic if, in addition to his day job at TONY, he also ran an improv group? If he were an avid theatergoer? (I'm also not quite sure what you aimed to prove by quoting an anonymous blogger.)

What you can take it as, Rich--what the Fringe Binge "serves as"--is a valuable sampling of opinions, both from theatergoers and non-theatergoers. Perhaps that will help illuminate what people ARE looking for, and help companies figure out what new audiences may be looking for.

You know what else you can take it as? As a place to start up discussions: every review on the TONY site has an embedded option to add a comment.

Rich said...

Aaron, I actually thought about what you just said right after I clicked "publish your comment!" Maybe they should have a button that says, "think this through before publishing your comment." I agree with you, I mean I'm basically a clerk or sales person or a teacher or an editor (I do all those) or whatever it is I do at my day job too. I have been involved in theater for most of my life. But what does qualify someone to critique a live performance? I guess I feel burned by TONY because some of the reviews seem like they were written in about 5 minutes by people who don't seem to have a lot at stake in the matter. I'm not sure it's such a great idea to review every single show in the festival. If people read the TONY review they are not going to want to see my show. So that's my personal take, it takes people away from our work. The TONY guy and the nytheatre.com guy were there on the same night. So two different opinions. But you said you weren't weighing in the nytheatre.com reviews because they are reviewing every show, is that right, but isn't TONY reviewing every show as well? The bottom line for me is that if you are writing for a mass audience in a publication that has as high a profile as TONY, then you should put a bit more thought into it than our reviewer did. Thanks for your comments! I do realize I went overboard on the first comment.

Rich

Aaron Riccio said...

Rich, that's a good point re: Time Out vs. NYTheatre; I've got no idea why that line was drawn. (For the record, I don't work for Critic-O-Meter; I'm just a commenting critic.)

I don't know what the NYTheatre editorial process is, and I'm not sure how unbiased some of the writers are (I tend to take their reviews with a grain of salt). However, based on my experience with Time Out (and the Fringe Binge editor, Adam Feldman), I doubt that any of these are actually written in anywhere close to five minutes, even if they seem that way.

Like I said, all I can hope for is that the wealth of coverage from all sources (including comments) will help encourage people to check out the Fringe.

Max Jordan said...

I wanted to know the consensus for Zipperface but you guys don't have it. I read a couple of reviews on TimeOut and CurtainUp and they seemed pretty good and it has sold out all its performances but the premise just sounds so ridiculous.

Could you average them up to see if there are any more detailed reviews I missed?

Anonymous said...

This is a great service to the New York Theatre universe. I know you must be struggling to keep up, but FYI, Candide Americana was also reviewed by Backstage and Broadway World. Here are the links:

http://www.backstage.com/bso/reviews-ny-theatre-off-off-broadway/candide-americana-1004006000.story

http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Fringe_Candide_Americana_Optimism_20090823

Anonymous said...

It must be hard to keep up with everything.

Here are other reviews for AND SOPHIE COMES TOO

http://newyork.timeout.com/events/fringe-festival/298315/and-sophie-comes-too

FRINGEFODDER_TONY.pdf

http://www.nytheatre.com/nytheatre/review_fest.php?p=100128

pengo said...

Thanks for all the hard work getting the word out on the Fringe shows this year.

Here is an entirely self-serving take on the quality of criticism I received for my show:

http://daddyrunsfast.blogspot.com/2009/08/criticism.html