By Alexis Soloski
By Molly Grogan
By R. C. Baker
By Christian Viveros-Faun√©
By Alexis Soloski
By Alexis Soloski
By Lilly Lampe
There may be some inadvertent significance in the fact that the new musical Usher (Schimmel Center)based on Edgar Allan Poes short story The Fall of the House of Usheris the 13th production I've seen in this years Fringe. At any rate, the number turns out to be luckythis is far and away the best show I have seen in the festival.
Unlike the manse in Poes story, Usher rests on very solid foundations. As revised by recent Yale grad Molly Fox, this story of a reclusive brother and sister, and the young friend who literally tries to bring light into their lives, would be more accurately described as inspired by the famous Poe tale than based on." At once darker than the source material and unexpectedly funny, Foxs version possesses a Gothic gallows-humor not unlike the cartoons of Charles Addams or Edward Gorey, augmenting a story that already contains a scary mansion, a morbid hypochondriac, a dying woman, and a premature burial, with incest, psycho head-games, and poisoning thrown in for good measure. The result is less oppressive than the original, and arguably more enjoyable.
But it's Sarah Hirschs music that truly pushes this tale of sublimation into the sublime. Mixing elements of modern pop music with brooding Romantic strains, tinkly vocal trills you might expect to come out of the mouth of Jenny Lind, and silly duets that evoke Gilbert and Sullivan, Hirsch astonishes repeatedly with the creative resources on tap (not the least of which is the ability to pen tunes that are both moody and catchy). Director Becca Wolff and a very solid cast deliver these treats with confidence, care, and gustothere aint a turkey in the bunch. They even got the costumes right. That may be a Fringe first. TRAV S.D.
If Krapps Last Tape is a little white pill of Samuel Becketts concoction, then Michael Laurence has swallowed it whole. But as we watch Laurence, wracked bodily by the dramatic prescription, it becomes plain that his Krapp, 39 (Schaeberle Studio Theatre/Pace) is no mere Beckett riff its a thoughtful response, a valuable contribution. On his 69th birthday, Becketts Krapp sits alone, becoming steadily drunk and revisiting tapes from his 30-years-younger self. Disarmed by the Krapp of birthdays past, who shunted love and produced writing of value equal to his name, he struggles to affirm the sad direction his life has taken.
Krapp, 39 finds Laurence (the writer and sole performer) turning 39, planning to record the monologue Krapp recorded at the same age, in the hopes that hell live to use it in a production of the Beckett one-act 30 years in the future. As Laurence ponders the imagined performance, he undergoes his own Krapp-like self-investigation: Wielding the same torturous honesty to which Beckett subjected his miserable anti-hero, Laurence videotapes himself in brutal close-up as he unearths old journals, a phone message from his dead mother, and other messy, primary-source evidence of a life about which he's profoundly ambivalent. Using Becketts play like a fun-house mirror, 39 presents a mesmerizing, distorted vision of Krapps unwholesome solitude, melded with Laurences own quirks and failings. With courageous candor and humor, Laurence enters into an eerie communion with Krapp, and the resulting work is a thing of startling, wounding beauty. RUTH McCANN
You cant tell what's going on half the time in Rose Courtneys Cycle (Spiegelworld), but you don't care. As staged by Craig Carlisle, this refreshingly sweet dream play moves so fast and fascinatingly that youre content to watch, trusting youll catch up in a minute or twoand you generally do. Courtney plays a nebbishy, bespectacled young lonely-heart named Charlotte, who plans to kill herself if she doesnt achieve success before the sun sets on her birthday. Her salvation comes in the form of a lovable and mysteriously immortal vaudeville troupe: Having uttered the name of the Scottish play, as penance the company has been hurled into the future to help her.
The interplay of this FringeNYC piece's talented sextetwho sing, dance, juggle, scrape a fiddle, and even act Chekhovcalls to mind everything from Pirandello to The Fantasticks. Unable to think of any success but the theatrical kind, the troupers thrust themselves before Charlotte in countless guises, prodding her rung-by-rung up the ladder of stardom. In the end, true success proves to be of the no place like home variety. In other hands, this journey might have been nauseating. Here, it feels like an inspired, overdue, and rather brave counterweight to a decade of edge." TRAV S.D.
Years after her yodeling sister Mary Annabel met a grisly demise, psychotherapist Creena Defoouie is still looking for "the spoon-shape-headed bastard" who murdered her. But until she finds the culprit, Creena (the lustrous Charlotte Barton-Hoare) is killing time by killing patients at her very own counseling center, Rambey House"the abode that homes half-wits who lack harmony and hormonal balance." In her feather-trimmed hot pants, thigh-high boots, and tailcoat, the shrink is a tad unbalanced herself. But if one is possessed of a sufficiently dark perspective on the humorous, it's nigh impossible to resist the perpetually grimacing Creenathat elastic face! Those lipsticked lips! Those thyridic eyes!