Fringe Festival 2008 Reviews!

Missing Man, Ariel View, Keep Your Eyes Open, and more

Brian is in therapy because, since his mom's death, he's been continually visited by the Redheaded Man (a likably stalwart Bruce Bluett), who gives Brian glimpses into the inner workings (literally) of those around him. His visions have helped his career, but doomed his social life. Brian's personal failures are a second creepily comic aspect to this promising play, which needs some therapy itself, of the dramaturgical kind. ANDY PROPST

The Alice Complex

Inspired by the true story of a student who held Germaine Greer hostage in 2002, Peter Barr Nickowitz’s crisp, provocative, and darkly humorous play The Alice Complex (Cherry Lane Theatre) fictionalizes what happened that day, while smartly examining what it means to be a feminist to different generations of women.

Krapp, 39
photo by Dixie Sheridan
Krapp, 39

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The story, which is presented as a play within a play performed by two "actors" named Margo and Quinn, begins with Rebecca (Xanthe Elbrick) unexpectedly arriving at the home of her professor, Sally (Lisa Banes), insinuating that she’s carrying in a box the penis of the man who tried to date-rape her. But when Sally goes to call the police, Rebecca, disappointed that Sally doesn’t praise her heroics, ties her up and interrogates her about why she no longer believes in the revolutionary ideas of her seminal book of 1970s feminism, The Alice Complex. (In one of the play's creepier scenes, Rebecca licks cake batter off hostage Sally's face while singing the Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go?".)

Under the taut direction of Bill Oliver, the outstanding actors—Obie winner Banes and Tony Award nominee Elbrick—expertly tackle 11 different roles, which include Margo and Quinn and two women who walk out of the play because the radical Sally reminds one of her own mother. On the contrary, it's safe to say that rather than walking out of Nickowitz's play, this fascinating work will likely be remembered as one of the best of this year's Fringe. ANGELA ASHMAN

XY(T)

Kestryl Lowrey's one-man show XY(T) (The Player's Loft) features red glitter, a neon pink dildo, and a syringe, but Lowrey's body is his most effective prop. Identifying as transgender-butch, Lowrey has sculpted it with years of testosterone, and the resulting physique is a bundle of unnerving contrasts—Botticellian thighs adjoin hairy calves; ace-bandaged breasts sit below muscled shoulders. Lowrey has a ghost of a goatee, but his voice lilts girlishly as he insists, "This is the 21st century, and we create our own genders." French performance artist Orlan, famed for her gruesome facial remodelings and philosophy of transformation, would be proud.

The show alights on abstract thought, personal confession, and re-enacted family scenes, as Lowrey grapples bravely with the impossible immensity of his subject matter—his body, his identity, gender at large. The show is earnestly enthusiastic, but it desperately needs a narrower focus and a clearer delineation between the comic and the dramatic: When Lowrey gyrates to a disco beat while sporting a strap-on, is it funny or elegiac? Hard to tell. RUTH McCANN

Julius Caesar

There's much to admire in the Guerilla Shakespeare Project’s lean and hungry production of Julius Caesar (CSV Flamboyan Theater). The script has been hewn to bone and sinew with a Roman-like efficiency, down to a tight, streamlined hour and 40 minutes. Shakespeare’s three dozen characters are merged into a very busy but solid seven. The three-quarter thrust staging is lively and kinetic, and the actors all make good sense of their speeches (which is rare enough in this reviewer’s experience). And the production (as are all those by this company) is gender-balanced, ceding half the traditionally male roles to women, with illuminating results.

This is all to say that careful thought and craftsmanship abound in this production, but it sill comes short of nailing it. Modern business dress and a smattering of oil barrels suggest some connection to contemporary world affairs, but the concept is taken no farther. Most sorely missed is the high degree of emotional intensity one would expect from Friends, Romans, and Countrymen when they begin spilling each other’s blood, Stoics or not. Still, there’s much good work here, and no one need fall on their swords. TRAV S.D.

On Insomnia and Midnight

Mexico City playwright Edgar Chias has created a chamber piece for two actors with On Insomnia and Midnight (Soho Playhouse). Like a Last Tango in Paris scripted by Nabokov, the play cryptically retraces the unnerving and erotically charged relationship of an elderly language teacher (Pietro González) and a chambermaid (Sonia Portugal) in a series of vignettes. In language that veers from the vaguely philosophical (“time is nothing more than the name of our failures”) to the obscene, Chias charts the teacher’s obsession with the young woman’s sexual experiences, even as she slowly learns of his possible involvement in another maid’s suicide.

LaMicro Theater’s spare production of the play suggests the power of Chias’s script without quite realizing it. While González develops a nuanced portrait of the predatory teacher, simultaneously creepy and vulnerable, Portugal’s stiffly mannered performance chills their interactions, a distancing effect heightened by the overly literal projections that occasionally punctuate the action. JOHN BEER

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