Fascious, a pint-sized dynamo, creates his own sparks. His language strains at the limits of prose before bursting into impassioned poetry, which eases, with the addition of some synth and a beat, into free-flowing rap. His stories, which range from an idiosyncratic and personal retelling of Socrates' “Allegory of the Cave” to an eye-witness account of the near-fatal shooting of his father, emerge not in leaden anecdote, but in a series of glinting fragments that leave his main subjects—identity and masculinity—lurking somewhere behind them. But these penumbral glimmers are enough to alert us to the great light beyond. CHRISTOPHER GROBE


Mutti's After Supper Stories
By Iris Rose
The Cherry Pit
155 Bank Street, fringenyc.org

In Mutti's After Supper Stories, director Iris Rose tries to walk the line between the horror in the dark and twisted tales of the Brother Grimm and the safe, child-friendly packaging they usually come in, but she ends up leaning toward the latter. Rose sets a handful of the more well-known fables, including "Little Red Cap" and "Hansel & Gretel," to folksy guitar tunes by Hugh Hales-Tooke and casts an entire family of DePaulas (mom Noelle, and kids Juliet, Colin, and Lily) to enact them. The performances of the two youngest siblings as several famous Grimm characters are disciplined and promising, and the patchwork and Velcro set is refreshingly, functionally no-fi. While the stories remain more disturbing than escapist, Muttiis no Coraline. Rose, Hales-Tooke and the DePaula clan don't get very far mining the psychological depths of tales in which little ones are disowned by their parents, or terrorized simply for taking a walk in the woods. SHARYN JACKSON


Citizen Ruth
By Mark Leydorf and Michael Brennan
Minetta Lane Theatre
18 Minetta Lane, fringenyc.org

Citizen Ruth, a wickedly funny musical send-up of the abortion debate, with book and lyrics by Mark Leydorf and music by Michael Brennan, concerns Ruth Stoops, a foul-mouthed, paint-huffing mother who’s already given up four children for adoption when she lands back in jail, pregnant again. But a judge makes her a scandalous deal: He’ll drop the charges against her if she has an abortion.

Based on the 1996 film by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Citizen Ruth is scathing political satire of the best kind, evenhandedly skewering both sides—the Bible-thumping Baby Savers who want Ruth to keep her baby and the militant feminists who want her to “choose” abortion—with a script that’s hilariously over the top and up-to-date (“Ruth is one mother in our jihad!” earnestly sings a Baby Saver). Howard Shalwitz, cofounder and artistic director of the edgy Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington D.C., deftly directs the talented 12-member cast, who play more than 30 parts. Standouts include the terrific Garrett Long as the raunchy, clueless Ruth and Janet Dickinson as the new-agey feminist Diane. You’ll probably go to hell for laughing along, but it’s worth the risk. ANGELA ASHMAN


La Ronde
By Arthur Schnitzler
Here Arts Center
145 Sixth Avenue, fringenyc.org

In turn-of-the-century Vienna, sexual obsession was everywhere: While Freud plumbed the depths of human carnality, Arthur Schnitzler was writing La Ronde, a catalogue of modern desire (and a testament to his own erotic obsessions—Schnitzler reportedly kept a daily tally of his orgasms). Each of La Ronde’s stark scenes features a seduction and its aftermath, linking a series of lovers in a libidinous daisy chain: a prostitute with a soldier, the soldier with a parlor maid, and so on.

Larry Biederman’s spare production sums up the communal desperation, and the fleeting pleasures, in Schnitzler’s amorous merry-go-round. Jumbles of neon tubing light up to identify successive characters, all played by Alyson Weaver and Ken Barnett—the condensed casting succinctly suggesting the universality, and anonymity, of desire and conquest. An enormous white sheet billows upstage, by turns a projection screen, a curtain concealing dirty deeds, and lovers’ rumpled sheets. Not all of Biederman’s efforts pay off—there are unfinished voice-over experiments, and some misguided opening video—but Schnitzler’s social portrait, harsh and prescient, hasn’t lost its bite. MIRIAM FELTON-DANSKY


All Over
By Elizabeth Audley
The Actors’ Playhouse
100 Seventh Avenue South, fringenyc.com

In this one-woman show, writer-performer Elizabeth Audley describes her recent car trip across America through a series of monologues. Retracing her drive from Wyoming to Oregon to San Francisco and back across the country, Audley shares her thoughts on each locale: “Yellowstone Park is the best place I've ever been to!” “I think Utah is actually, like, magical!” and, upon drinking Dr. Pepper while looking at the Grand Canyon, “Dr. Pepper is DELICIOUS, the Grand Canyon is AMAZING!” It's not exactly This American Life.

While Audley's reflections on America and Americana aren't always profound, her confessions of twenty/thirty-something paralysis certainly feel authentic. Midway through All Over, Audley plays a tape she recorded while having an emotional breakdown somewhere out West. Her voice comes through the theater’s speakers: high-pitched and sobbing, it’s saying something we can almost understand. But we can't, so instead of words we just hear this beautiful human voice, in pain. It’s an incredibly self-exposing moment. If the writer-actress could extend this kind of direct connection beyond the one or two isolated scenes in which it occurs, as well as cut 10 minutes of the show’s 80-minute run time, we might be ready to fall over All Over. BEN BEITLER


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