Trash and Vaudeville

A Guide to the New York International Fringe Festival's Recycling Program

New York City throws out enough garbage every day to fill the Empire State Building. Happily, however, our "diversion rate"—the percentage of trash diverted for recycling instead of becoming pure waste—is roughly 17 percent and rising.

Turns out the city's theater has its own version of adaptive reuse. For 16 days starting Friday, the Ninth Annual New York International Fringe Festival will present 180 emerging acts from eight countries and 22 U.S. states, including Korea (Animal Farm Project I—Version White: Funny Pigs) and Hawaii (Unexceptional Tricks). But what's striking about so many of the entries this year is their reliance on previously manufactured materials—movies, celebrities, even reality TV. The festival seems as fascinated with mainstream culture as Broadway. Let's hope it still has the sass and brains to critique, instead of merely capitalize on, brand-name subject matter.

Whether any of the post-consumer content of 2005 Fringe shows turns up, as Urinetownand Matt & Ben did, in more sustainable ven ues—well, only ticket buyers can determine that particular diversion rate. Below, a guide to some potentially ingenious recycling:

Melissa Rauch in The Miss Education of Jenna Bush
photo: Winston Beigel
Melissa Rauch in The Miss Education of Jenna Bush

Details

New York International Fringe Festival:

  • Musto's Guide to the New York Fringe Festival
    by Michael Musto

  • Chicagoans Take the Fringe by Storm
    by Kerry Reid

  • This year's Fringe festival runs from August 12 to 28 and features over 200 shows from around the world. Tickets ($15 per show, with package rates available) can be purchased online at fringenyc.org or by calling 212-279-4488.

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    Public Names, Private Acts

    Patty Cake
    Identity Crisis Productions presents an absurdist encounter between captured heiress turned terrorist Patty Cake and the hapless sap hired to defend her. But does Patty need a lawyer or an exorcist?

    MOST PROMISING FEATURE: Actress Laura Caputo, who garnered raves in L.A. for her multiple-personality Patty.

    Sex With Jake Gyllenhaal and Other Fables of the Northeast Corridor
    Any project with a Gyllenhaal as a guiding muse can't be all bad; playwright Anthony Giunta serves up eight one-acts on the frustrations of desire and departure (from love affairs and Penn Station).

    MPF: The title.

    Dead Northern European Playwrights

    Fucking Ibsen Takes Time and The Last Two Minutes of the Complete Works of Henrik Ibsen
    For every woman who's wanted to burn a manuscript; for every guy longing to call his girlfriend a squirrel. These two Cliffs Notes vaudevilles from theater companies Carbs & Dairy and the Neo-Futurists aren't likely to come close to last season's sublime Hedda Gabler at New York Theatre Workshop, but they might coax the ridiculous from Henrik's twisted drawing-room dramas.

    MPF: The staging of the avalanche from When We Dead Awaken.

    Seduction. . .
    England's Shamelessboyz Theatre Company presents a gay adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's fin de siécle erotic fable La Ronde. A hit at last year's London Fringe, but then again, grooming standards in the U.K. hardly match those in Chelsea.

    MPF: Lots of male nudity.

    Drug-Taking Celebrities and Their Offspring

    Aquarium
    In Los Angeles playwright Robin Maguire's drama, a visionary architect constructs a giant aquarium, only to have his dream come crashing down. A kind of Master Builder: The SeaWorld Version.

    MPF: The cast includes Jennifer Grant, the daughter of Dyan Cannon and Cary Grant (who dabbled in psychotropic drugs).

    The Miss Education of Jenna Bush
    Melissa Rauch of VH1's Best Week Everplays the zaftig first daughter (sans fat suit).

    MPF: An orgy of Bush twin jokes.

    Unspeakable: Richard Pryor Live & Uncensored
    The story of an orphan raised in a brothel, his fearless comic talent, and his love affair with cocaine.

    MPF: Dish on the rivalry between Pryor and Bill Cosby.

    Reality TV

    Bridezilla Strikes Back!
    Cynthia Silver recounts how her lavish wedding, which was supposed to be part of a British documentary on Manhattan brides, ended up being satirized on a Fox reality show flatteringly titled Bridezillas. Survivor Silver tries to set the record straight, describing her one-woman show as "an exploration of the allure of instant fame, as well as our culture's obsession with the wedding day itself, which often happens at the expense of the relationship it's meant to celebrate."

    MPF: Vicarious thrills and a dash of schadenfreude.

    Faker
    Karen Weinberg's satirical musical about the lengths—and bra cup sizes—to which a Jewish lesbian will go to achieve stardom takes aim at those plastic surgery commercials otherwise known as Extreme Makeover and The Swan.

    MPF: Weinberg herself: She co-authored the Neo-Futurists' Chicago hit 43 Plays for 43 Presidents.

    Cult Films and TV Shows

    Little House on the Parody
    Chicago's Single Box Turn Productions and Playground Theater bring their musical send-up of the Laura Ingalls Wilder–based TV series to New York.

    MPF: A song that finally lays bare the dark secrets of the Oleson family.

    Silence! The Musical
    Well, the original Silence of the Lambs veered toward camp. After a couple of pre-show glasses of Chianti, you'll doubtlessly be cracking up at Buffalo Bill and Catherine's moving duet, "Put the Fucking Lotion in the Basket."

    MPF: Silence! is directed by Christopher Gattelli, who won a Lortel Award for his devoutly witty choreography in Altar Boyz.

    Last but not least, there are even two festival entries that are actually about solid waste:

    Basura!
    You always suspected your recycling had an inner life. In this 40-minute, wordless puppet piece, Marylander Colette Searls choreographs a sea of newspapers, plastic bags, and other debris into a passionate world of music and movement.

    MPF: A love scene between two pieces of packing tape. (And you thought you had lubrication problems.)

    Trash
    A story of HIV and "white goods" (that's recycling talk for obsolete appliances) by Missouri's Immanent Eye Theater Company.

    MPF: A chance to see theater made in a red state without having to leave Manhattan.

     
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