Fringe Elements

Huge ensembles and one-person shows, history and the future, dada and packing tape


Sex With Jake Gyllenhaal
13th Street Repertory Company
50 West 13th Street
Through Saturday In Sex With Jake Gyllenhaal, four actors tease the audience, hiding naked behind sheets or robes, dressing onstage in the dark. In eight vignettes, characters begin and end relationships—always with physical violence. The scenes, set between 1962 and 2019, each coincide with a pivotal world event: plane crashes, wars, and presidential scandals. The couples acknowledge the historic moment and then proceed to the more consuming business of flirting, fighting, or screaming. In the final scene, they morph into birds ("Everything in the world starts with two," chirps one). Flying in perfect pairs, they peer down at the world and its faraway problems. R.A.


Edna St. Vincent Millay Speaks to the Committee on Immortality
Collective: Unconscious
279 Church Street
Through Saturday

Jennifer Gibbs (playwright and Millay) hits up a jury of audience members on the question of immortality—poetic, though at times we also suspect corporeal. This one-woman boudoir exorcism reaches for and misses the ferocity and elocution of the real E.St.V.M., who could toss off a line like "Or trade the memory of this night for food" in a closing couplet and still earn the sonnet's shudder. But some comedy slips through the morphine-and-mother-complex meat of it—like a flashback to 1918 Greenwich Village and the dinner-for-sex quandary of the female poor, in which Millay, with "sadistic patience," sits back "unconcerned" as her date attends to her with "moist manipulations," before she steps into a cab. Phyllis Fong


Beyond: A Little Night Opera
Connelly Theater
Closed

Here's another play that messes around with skirting death, this time a chamber opera for Catherine Gayer, formerly of the Deutsch Oper Berlin, by son and composer Danny Ashkenasi from a German libretto by Helga Krauss. After a car crash, a soprano is escorted by two angels (David L. Carson and Lance Olds), who take on multiple roles (son, lover, therapist, etc., via the switching-hats school of tripling onstage) as a life goes its course. But this life's bends are too tame and inexact to give pause, and while the score's often lovely, there's also text like "Chocolate chip brownies—I put in walnuts, sometimes almonds" set to music. One angel's comment must apply: "Artists are always the worst; they imagine they're something special." P.F.


Silence! The Musical
Lucille Lortel Theatre
121 Christopher Street
Through Sunday

Those with a taste for the macabre may take some pleasure in John Kaplan, Al Kaplan, and Hunter Bell's musical parody scarefest The Silence of the Lambs. Bad Southern accents, songs with unprintable titles, and a chorus of dancing lambs abound. Unfortunately, this promising concoction manages to be grotesque without being clever. There's not much sensibility or purpose behind its gross-out humor, and the piece offers little in the way of knowing satire or innovative mayhem. David Kornhaber

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