Welcome to our special online coverage of the 13th-annual New York International Fringe Festival. New reviews will be posted every weekday, as we hunt out the best of the fest.

Baby Wants Candy
The Players Theatre
115 MacDougal Street, fringenyc.org

Boston College Comes to New York may not have the ring of the next high-grossing Broadway blockbuster, but when performed as a one-time-only, off-the-cuff musical by the improv team Baby Wants Candy, it turns out to be a pretty amusing show. In each installment of Baby Wants Candy’s self-titled act, the seven-member ensemble concocts a makeshift song-and-dance spectacular, complete with a live band and, oh yeah, a storyline—all based around any title the audience supplies.

This particular iteration of Baby Wants Candyfeatured a gaggle of wide-eyed undergrads (“We’re from Boston College, and none of us have been in love before”), a ravenous killer puma, and a high-stakes chess tournament in Washington Square Park. Representative songs included “Buy Our Stuff” and “Double-Decker Bus”; a few lyrics from Hair snuck into a group number. After about an hour, Boston College petered out, but by then the puma had prevailed, the chess tournament concluded, and the company was extemporizing its way through a grand finale, already looking toward the next ad-libbed extravaganza. MIRIAM FELTON-DANSKY


Love Money, A Recession Rock Musical
By Thompson Davis, Lucas Kavner, and Willie Orbison
Dixon Place
161A Chrystie Street, fringenyc.org

The billions that the U.S. government has spent on banking bailouts along with the financial chicanery of people like Bernie Madoff are the targets of Love Money. And though these are apt subjects for stinging satire, the ripped-from-the-headlines topics receive a sophomorically silly treatment from creators Thompson Davis, Lucas Kavner, and Willie Orbison in a show that feels as if it's been rushed to the stage.

Love Money hinges on whether or not bank chief—and sometimes brutal dominatrix—Sarah (an iron-lunged Ali Kresch) will get a second billion-dollar government subsidy after squandering her first on, among other things, a rock band for her office and a school of pet dolphins. The humor is hardly subtle, and neither are the repetitive (when intelligible) lyrics in the insistent, though promising, rock tunes that pepper the show. Some moments in Money inspire giggles, but when a sight gag with a stuffed dog receives the heartiest laugh in a show, it’s in trouble. ANDY PROPST


Artifex
By Davide Ambrogi
Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce Street, fringenyc.org

Even for a Roman emperor, Nero led a pretty juicy life: He shipwrecked his own mother—then had her executed—watched Rome burn to the ground, and studied with the tragic playwright Seneca (that is, until he ordered Seneca to commit suicide). And if that weren’t dramatic enough, Nero was a performer too, competing in chariot races and singing original compositions for aristocratic audiences.

It’s too bad that the Italian company Artifex—whose new piece, Artifex, is a reexamination of Nero’s life, imported from Nero’s hometown—doesn’t transform this rich material into richer theater. Artifex’s conceit is that, in the moments before Nero’s death, his companions reenact his biography’s high points, performing each episode in a different style—comedy, musical theater, dance.

Unfortunately, these turn out to be an awkward jumble of tuneless chanting, haphazard choreography, and inane pronouncements about the relationships between art, power, and life. There are platitudes, pseudo-togas, and one commedia dell’arte-style mask—but little to move the piece toward theatrical coherence. Maybe the tutelage of a great tragedian would have helped. MIRIAM FELTON-DANSKY


The K of D: An Urban Legend
By Laura Schellhardt
The Cherry Pit
155 Bank Street, fringenyc.org

OK, everyone, gather ’round the campfire—playwright Laura Schellhardt has a story to tell. Called The K of D: An Urban Legend, it concerns a girl named Charlotte, whose twin brother is accidentally killed by local creep Johnny Whistler. As legend has it, when Charlotte kissed her dying brother good-bye, she obtained a lethal power—the K of D, or “kiss of death”—causing bizarre things to happen in her small lakeside town.

Exploring how rumors can take on a life of their own, the one-woman show stars the talented Renata Friedman, who gamely tackles more than a dozen parts to vivify Charlotte’s tale. Dressed like a tomboy in a dirty T-shirt and ragged jeans, she jumps on and off the set’s rickety wooden dock, rapidly switching between the very distinct townspeople—one second she’s a precocious bubblegum cigarette–smoking girl, the next she’s Charlotte’s gruff abusive father. Indeed, Friedman spins a fine yarn.

Unfortunately, Schellhardt’s spooky premise never really produces any of the spine-tingling chills or surprises you might hope for. Despite some creepy sound effects, director Braden Abraham could have exploited more of the script’s ghost-story elements to evoke an eerie mood. Where we wanted to feel goose bumps, we just felt bored. ANGELA ASHMAN


Eli and Cheryl Jump
By Daniel McCoy
The Players Loft
115 MacDougal Street, fringenyc.org

The beauty of fairy tales is that they’re simple and linear. Daniel McCoy's Eli and Cheryl Jumprevolves around one that Eli (Charles Linshaw) heard nightly as a child. This fable is about a prince who repeatedly escapes fatal accidents. But his good fortune comes at a cost—someone close to him dies in his place. The story beguiled him when he was little and has shaped his view of the world and himself.

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