Remember that part in Cats when the pack of feral felines maul and eat a human baby? No? Well, that’s likely because the “Cats Kill” number was considered too daring for Broadway audiences and cut during previews. But Fringe stomachs are stronger, and the song reappears in Bess Wohl’s inspired and neatly performed Cats Talk Back. Moderated by New York Times reporter Jesse McKinley, playing a smug version of himself, the faux panel aims to create “a bridge of faith between East 4th and West 42nd” by inviting five former cast members of the long-runner to participate in an audience Q&A. Though musicals proved the main distraction in this year’s Fringe Festival, some straight plays pounced on the competition, few more, um, memorably than Wohl’s.
The watertight Drip, performed by an international Lecoq-trained cast, drenched the audience in a tale of a water-conservation contest gone murderously awry. The physical comedy was fertile, yet all that talk of water in the overheated Cherry Lane studio was just cruel. (To the venue manager who sensed my torment and handed me the ice cold bottle of Poland Spring: I love you.) More sodden was Timothy Nolan’s Acts of Contrition, a preachy discussion of Catholic pedophilia and priests only partially redeemed by a forceful performance by Shiek Mahmud-Bay and—shades of the Jacobean theater—a cardinal as villain.
No shortage of villains marred Paul Sapp’s superheroine extravaganza Ashira 69 (Episode #1: Cult to the Chase!), but a juvenile sensibility proved this project’s kryptonite.
The dangerous substance at the core of Hilary Hadley Wright’s awful if well-intentioned Hysterical was the newly invented vibrator. The cast approached the material with more winks and nudges than might be found at a Tourette’s convention. While many of the characters came, I wish I hadn’t.
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