By Christian Viveros-Fauné
By Miriam Felton-Dansky
By Tom Sellar
By Tom Sellar
By Jessica Dawson
By Tom Sellar
By R. C. Baker
By Tom Sellar
More meaningful, if still not precisely necessary, were two male-driven pieces. The first, An Apology for the Course and Outcome of Certain Events Delivered by Doctor John Faustus on This His Final Evening, comes courtesy of Theater Oobleck, who last year graced the festival with the even more multisyllabic The Complete Lost Works of Samuel Beckett, etc., etc., etc. Audiences expecting a similar farce are in danger of disappointment (if not heatstrokeoh, the Saharan splendor of the Downtown Variety Lounge). Nevertheless, playwright Mickle Maher and Ben Schneider's Faustus do deliver a thoughtful meditation on language, intention, hell, epistemology even. And they give the audience beerscold, cold beers.
Though solo performer Antonio Sacre does not distribute Buds, his Si La Gente Quiere Comer Carne, Le Damos Carne . . . The Remarkable Story of My Brother is nearly as refreshing. Sacre, inhabiting a host of relations from his half-Irish, half-Cuban family, unfurls the true tale of his younger brother Henry. Sacre follows Henry from overweight spaz to surly teen to successful bookie to accused drug dealer to triathlete competitor. A five-time Fringe participant, Sacre infuses his stories with considerable humanity and affection. The script skates too lightly over the bad old days and the narrative often gets sidetracked, but the eddy and swirl of voices and Sacre's great love for his brother emerge intact.
Sometimes, however, love isn't enough. I would bet that adapter-performer Kevin Mitchell Martin, of A Touch of the Poe, profoundly loves our E.A. But the necrophiliac result plays out like a very bourgeois tribute band. Did we really need every stanza of "The Raven"? Nevermore. And playwright Lucas Rockwood must have loved last year's news story about an airline passenger killed by other passengers in a fit of air rage. But Fifty Minutes doesn't flyit spends nearly an hour and a half watching people type messages into a chat room. I began to echo their sentiments: "I keep hoping things will change." "God I'm lost." "Help."
Speaking of help, several plays appeared so misguided as to be beyond it. Life's Call promised to be a rarely performed Arthur Schnitzler melodrama, but as almost no line proved intelligible, I can't say for sure. Director Brian Rogers's production, with its frenetic pacing and assaultive soundscape, obliterated the text almost entirely. If this is indeed Life's Call, it's a damn poor connection. Similarly, playwright George Bennett offers a very tenuous connection between any aspect of The Toothless Virgin and coherence, interest, or sense. In a word, Toothless bites.
More toothsome, but still half-baked, was the Aporia Players' adaptation of the Alan Lightman novel Einstein's Dreams. Paul Stancato directs and choreographs a relatively accomplished performance, and the cast all look handsome in their white outfits. But with all Einstein's talk of energy, some should have found its way into the production, cutting through the preciousness and quickening the languid pace. Another patience-tester is Daniel Kleinfeld's A Little Piece of the Sun (I left after the first actan hour and 15 minutes!). Kleinfeld fascinatingly juxtaposes the activities of Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo with the Chernobyl disaster. The script of this documentary play has real potential, a potential Kleinfeld might realize if he'd content himself with only one stage action or sound at a time. (Hey, isn't that what serial means anyway?)
New musicals have potential all their own, typically potential for disaster. In Jesus Gets the Blondea confused tale of gangsters and transsexuals in the afterlifethe sweat-stain Rorschach patterns on the actors' shirts proved the most interesting element. A misguided parody, The Elephant Man: The Musical has its own share of sweat stains and transgressions, but it does boast one amazing song that rhymes the titles of every musical in recent memory. Not since Tom Lehrer crooned the periodic table has a single tune covered so much inert material. A bit better, if poorly sung and unevenly plotted, was the Key Theatre's Two Girls From Vermont, a "dirty pop" adaptation of Two Gentlemen of Verona dotted with teeny-bop tunes. Should its creators rewrite and recast, then I hope they, oops, do it again.
I hope the Fringe producers, oops, do it again as well. Heat and ham-acting aside, I have a soft spot for the Fringethe morass of shows, the under-rehearsed plays, the environmentally unsound theaters. I trust that it will flourish.
Now, will someone please go rescue Trav S.D.'s baby?