Fringe Cringe

Another year of weak work at NYC's biggest theater fest

You might want to be Leon Theremin, the subject of Duke Doyle and Ben Lewis's Theremin. Though it needlessly complicates Theremin's fascinating biography with ramblings from a straitjacketed Brian Wilson, the show does feature lots of live theremin playing, which sometimes sounds gloriously space age and sometimes like a bear in considerable pain. More painful: The Ladies of Eola Heights, though it received a bewilderingly enthusiastic response. The drag comedy follows a family of incest survivors who come home to bury their bad daddy. It also features lip synching by the lovely Miss Sammy of such songs as "Good Morning" and "People."

People who saw next afternoon's Notes to the Motherland weren't the luckiest people, nor the unluckiest. Paul Rajeckas discovers that his beloved mother worked for the Gestapo. A remarkable story, though endless digressions and directorial interventions nearly prevent him from telling it. Another one-man show, Semi Permanent by celebrity hairdresser Rick Gradone, also loses volume and shine. Gradone and director Johanna McKeon plump for an unnecessary framing device—a Learning Annex lecture—instead of allowing the voluble Gradone a more natural style.

Orientarhythm: rare FringeNYC cool, Japanese-style
photo: Dixie Sheridan
Orientarhythm: rare FringeNYC cool, Japanese-style


New York International Fringe Festival
Fringe Central
80 Carmine Street

Perhaps Gradone could have volunteered his aesthetic skills at Lost in Hollywoodland, or The Slug Woman From Uranus. In this earnest but rather unstylish musical set amid monster movies in 1950s Hollywood, writers, directors, and stars sell their souls to the devil to achieve fame. At this point, I might have struck a Mephistophelian deal just to be in my bed before midnight, so my attention may have wandered. It briefly returned for the above-mentioned Orientarhythm, a fusion of martial arts and hip-hop dance hailing from Tokyo. Wearing Asics sneakers and kimonos, the cast punched, kicked, leapt, and pop-and-locked to taiko-drum 'n' bass. Their program claims, "Everyone, young and old, can enjoy our show and experience 'Japanese Cool'!!!" If only more Fringe shows so earned their exclamation points.

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