Deviants and Damons

Slurry With the Fringe on Top

Another—more successful—form of hero worship arrives in the form of Beat, writer-director Kelly Groves's mash note to Allen Ginsberg. This piece of documentary theater—centered around the Howl obscenity trial—offers clever editing, energetic performances, and polished staging, but takes its subjects far too reverently. How can you hold a mirror up to nature when you've made it all steamy? Like several Beat anthologies, the play also pretends women were absent, a fault Gregg Tomé's one-man show Babylon, Long Island shares. Recalling suburban teendom, Tomé performs a coterie of 1970s stoners and slackers with some aplomb, but the repetitiveness of the monologues and the oddly moralistic ending don't make Babylon captivate.

More captivating, as far as one-person shows are concerned, is Tonya Canada's aptly-named It's All About Me. Recounting a term as a Portland Rose Princess, employment at a menacing law office, and a disappointing date with Robert De Niro, the insouciant Canada wears her egotism as well as her miniskirt. Patrick Tull doesn't wear miniskirts (as he's a burly 61-year-old this is no hardship), but still commands attention in The Hero of the Slocum, a record of a 1904 inland waterway disaster. Though somewhat static, it does provide an engaging narrative and proves that corporate greed isn't a contemporary invention. Downsized explores a similar topic—here the greed is made manifest in the 500 pizzas a beleaguered boss orders as he forces two underlings to pass the night with him.

The two young men who pass the night in Christopher Shinn's onanistic The Sleepers are just jerking around in comparison to the two white-garbed women of the one-act they're paired with, David Greenspan's extraordinary Five Frozen Embryos. Greenspan confirms his talent for the deceptively simple and artlessly devastating as the women graciously quibble over syntax and language as they reconstruct a court decision barring a woman from impregnating herself with embryos fertilized by her ex-husband.

I'll be brief: getting cheeky at the Fringe Festival's Spanked!
photo: Cary Conover
I'll be brief: getting cheeky at the Fringe Festival's Spanked!

In the "boy band pop musical" All American Boy, a Svengali named Sven Gali attempts to bring an embryonic boy band to term despite myriad scandals and gay romances. Though the ultra-asinine lyrics ("Love you like you love me when you love me like you like me") do provoke an occasional titter, the book wants rewriting and many of the roles recasting with performers who can actually dance and sing (Kellie Overbey providing a welcome exception). All the performers of the revue The Joys of Sex have the requisite chops, but neither they nor Jeremy Dobrish's brisk direction can rescue the piece from its bourgeois smarm. It pretends to celebrate kinkiness and candor before insisting that only the married, heterosexual, baby-making paradigm really gets you off. In Sophie Rand's uneven and earnest Deviant, however, it's insect squishing, doll humping, amputees, aliens, and the vegetable drawer that provide the turn-ons.

As any catalog of extreme sexual practices suggests, there is satisfaction to be found in unexpected places. And even if few shows in this year's Fringe proved entirely gratifying, many were not without attractive aspects: a breath of innovation, a breeze of genuine comedy, the feel of the air conditioner before the crowds have made it ineffectual, the discovery that the deli around the corner carries the energy cookie you're infatuated with. If the Fringe is dead, long live the Fringe.

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