McCoy reveals this tale after he's established the eponymous couple's plight: They're attempting to escape a burning building. And because doom seems imminent, we watch the play—which jets back and forth through time—not so much intrigued by how Eli has internalized his mother's story, but waiting for the moment when Eli survives and Cheryl (Cassandra Vincent) dies. Director Nicole A. Watson's elegantly minimalist staging creates some tension, and Vincent charms, playing a host of roles, from Eli's mom to a high school girlfriend—the princesses in this promising, but unnecessarily convoluted attempt at a theatrical fairy tale. ANDY PROPST


A Fine Line
By Emlyn Morinelli and Jennifer Sanders
The Players Loft
115 MacDougal Street, fringenyc.org

Emlyn Morinelli and Jennifer Sanders, the authors/performers of A Fine Line, each have extensive improv credits. Sadly, their work here retains some of this genre’s less welcome traits (awkward pauses and interruptions, half-baked sequences that overstay their welcome practically on arrival) minus the compensatory flashes of spontaneity and off-the-cuff ingenuity. The result, directed rather choppily by Gary Rudoren, is a sort of shaggy-doctor tale that mashes a publicity-mad periodontist, unrequited love, and a chipper women’s-prison inmate (she pins Cathy comic strips on her cellmate’s wall) into a scattershot and ultimately unfulfilling comedy.

Both women contribute a decent variety of characters, with Ms. Sanders showing a slight advantage in terms of versatility. And the seemingly disparate threads end up converging in a satisfying and not implausible way. But this is slim consolation given the slightness of many of these threads. A final twist implies that excessive enjoyment of one’s surroundings can tip abruptly into psychotic rage. By this standard, audience members at A Fine Line should be safe. ERIC GRODE


Candide Americana
By Stanton Wood
CSV Flamboyan Theater
107 Suffolk Street, fringenyc.org

The original Candide—an 18th-century novella by Voltaire—skewered Enlightenment-era optimism, presenting such unflattering portraits of the French government and clergy that the book was banned immediately. But Candideeluded the censors’ grasp, surviving to become a perennial vehicle for satirizing bigotry and political blindness.

Stanton Wood’s snappy adaptation, Candide Americana, fits squarely into this tradition, selecting a target closer to home: Voltaire’s trek through 18th-century Europe becomes an amusement-park ride through post-9/11 America. Wood’s Candide—naively chasing his true love, and bumping into his tutor, the unflinchingly optimistic Dr. Pangloss, along the way—escapes the Staten Island Ferry crash, an abortion clinic protest, the September 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, and an unmarked CIA detention center. “If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the other ones like?” our hero wonders.

Few of Wood’s jokes are new or unexpected, but the quick dialogue—bolstered by Edward Elefterion’s efficient direction and a boisterous ensemble—makes for an amusing, if safe, diversion. Centuries later, Voltaire’s classic is still a sturdy framework for cultural caricature and quick political jabs. MIRIAM FELTON-DANSKY


Union Squared
By David S. Singer
The Players Theatre
115 MacDougal Street, fringenyc.org

David S. Singer's Union Squared would seem to have the right elements for a zippy contemporary comedy. Brad (Levi Sochet) is having an affair with Shannon (Carlina Ferrari), his yoga instructor/masseur, but one day mistakenly sends a text to his wife Rachel (Annie Meisels) rather than Shannon. When Rachel confronts Shannon, the two realize they should join forces to teach Brad a lesson, and ultimately they embark on an affair of their own. Complicating this messy triangle is Brad's need to maintain the appearance of a happy marriage for his mother Sophie (Anita Keal). She's about to give him control of a $27 million bank account that could rescue his devastatingly bad investments.

Singer undermines the promise of Union, though, by layering on mammoth amounts of commentary about unscrupulous businessmen and addictive behavior. Director Diana Basmajian only compounds the script’s problems with a flaccid, perfunctory staging that deflates potentially zestful comic situations. The performers—particularly Ferrari and Meisels—attempt to instill some lightness into the production, but it's not enough to energize this leaden piece. ANDY PROPST


e-Station
By Théâtre du Rêve Expérimental
New School for Drama
151 Bank Street, fringenyc.org

You can leave your cell phone on during the performance of e-Station. That’s because in this dreamlike movement piece—created by Chinese company Théâtre du Rêve Expérimental—cell phones, digital cameras, and other electronic media devices are the stars of the show.

Inspired by the physical techniques of director Ohta Shogo, e-Station sets its performers’ mesmerizingly deliberate motion against technological gadgetry’s speed. With ritual solemnity, the black-clad actors drag computer keyboards along the floor, swath themselves in cable, and pan video cameras across the audience, projecting live feed onto a screen upstage. Cell phones blink like giant fireflies in the darkness.

e-Station’s sensual approach to digital devices helps us see them as objects, not just gateways to images or information. Occasionally, I wanted more from the troupe—a comment on their digital dance, or an electronic apotheosis. But technology is a constant backdrop in the world outside, and as e-Station’s performers inch out of the theater, keyboards and cables in tow, it’s clear that revealing our real-life digital surround—without conclusion or culmination—is the point. MIRIAM FELTON-DANSKY


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