America's Next Top Bottom: Cycle 5!
By Efrain Schunior
The Actors’ Playhouse
100 Seventh Avenue, fringenyc.org

Walking into America's Next Top Bottom anticipating high art is like walking into a leather bar hoping to meet a polo-and-chino-wearing preppy guy. But even with the lowest of expectations, Top Bottom disappoints. Rather than offering a comic spin on reality shows by focusing on the sexual preferences of the five contestants, the play—created and directed by Efrain Schunior—regurgitates bad queer camp.

A tacky Southern housewife and a drugged-out club refugee who’s dressed a bit like Liza M. in Cabaret, bowler hat and all, are the judges. The contestants—from the lisping, pseudo-Irish Corky Adaire to the crassly stereotyped Asian Harajuku Sulu to the new-agey Glitter—certainly seem like they'd be submissive in bed, but the show's challenges—creating poetry using three random words and plate spinning—have absolutely nothing to do with the subject. They’re there just to get cheap laughs. To their credit, the guys improvise well within the context of the lame setups, but it's not enough to elevate the piece above bottom-tier comedy. ANDY PROPST


Camp Super Friend
By Bethany Wallace
The Cherry Lane Theater
38 Commerce Street, fringenyc.org

Does it signify that, before my 14th birthday, I had attended both Christian Camp and Jewish Camp? My parents’ religious confusion aside, I don't remember much about Christian Camp—Legos, vague guilt, etc. One memory of Jewish Camp, however, survives.

On the last night of camp, a counselor named Zeke led me and 10 other painfully pubescent boys to the top of a hill. There, Zeke asked us to appreciate the beautiful stars. To savor the Northern Californian air. To partake in prayer, then in silent meditation. Finally, after the mood of serious companionship had been set, Zeke invited us to ask him any question we could think of. Any question. Go. Without hesitation, a fellow camper asked the only thing we lost, pimply Jewish boys wanted to know.

"So have you ever gotten a blowjob?"

Zeke had not. When no one raised his hand for a follow-up, we descended the hill in silence.

No such dirtiness occurs in Camp Super Friend, which is a nice show about the son of a superhero who learns to make friends while away at a summer camp for superheroes. It is part of Fringe Jr. and probably appropriate for children ages 5 through 9; it is usually performed at elementary schools; audience participation is a possibility. It would have been good if the show's promoters had made all this a little clearer before we arrived, but no hard feelings. BEN BEITLER


Some Editing and Some Theme Music
By Jean Ann Douglas & Company
Robert Moss Theatre
440 Lafayette Street, fringenyc.org

“Hi, uh, my name’s Chris? And …” The upglides, the filler, the halting syntax—we all recognize it by now—the language of the vlog. Well, it’s been nearly three years since “You” were Time’s Person of the Year, and now (what took so long?) the Fringe Festival has a play written in “your” language—except, in classic Fringe style, Jean Ann Douglas's Some Editing and Some Theme Music is actually a meta-analysis of identity in the age of YouTube, mixing live and pre-recorded video diaries with snippets of commentary on ye olde paper kind: notably, those of Samuel Pepys and Virginia Woolf.

The company’s energy can be infectious. A rapid-fire rendition, by actor Evan Prizant, of possible opening lines for his vlogs epitomizes the actors’ charm and aplomb. But the piece’s concept is too unwieldy for them to carry the whole way. When, about a half-hour into the performance, the actors began to repeat the show from the beginning, this time sotto voce and with Director’s Cut DVD-style commentary playing over the loudspeaker, deep sighs began to rise up in the audience. The point had already been made—and made, I should say, in a compelling and entertaining fashion: Nearly all naked self-expression is, in fact, painted over with layers of mediation. But now must we watch them dry? CHRISTOPHER GROBE


The Boys Upstairs
By Jason Mitchell
The Soho Playhouse
15 Vandam Street, fringenyc.org

Hilarious zingers fly in Jason Mitchell’s The Boys Upstairs, a new comedy that’s Sex in the City meets Boys in the Band. The play centers on perpetually single Josh (Nic Cory), a trust-fund baby who aspires to become the gay Carrie Bradshaw of his generation. The Bradshaw-like questions that Josh offers up about queer life between scenes are generally inspired by his two best friends, roommate Seth (Joel T. Bauer)—who’s fallen, inexplicably as far as Josh can tell, for an older guy—and Ashley (Kristen-Alexzander Griffith), who spends most evenings on the couch in Josh’s apartment. Ashley is generally waking up with the guy she picked up the night before. (David A. Rudd ably plays the tricks and boyfriends who parade through the apartment.)

Director Matthew Corozine’s zestfully speedy staging serves this light-as-air confection well. More importantly, he ensures that his ensemble delivers the characters with emotional truth—particularly Griffith, who imbues Ashley with a grand combination of Blanche DuBois’s vulnerability and RuPaul’s fierceness. Ashley has a heart of gold, and so too, does The Boys Upstairs. ANDY PROPST


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