Far less avant-garde than winkily pop culture obsessed, the New York International Fringe Festival milks its creative juices from tabloid headlines, sitcom reruns, cable reality shows, and enough celebrity name-dropping to slam the last nail into the kitchen-sink drama. Even if many of the fest’s attractions cave in from the sheer lightness of their load, it’s worth wading through the uninspired and un-air-conditioned overextended sketches hoping to be the next Urinetown to arrive at the true gems that understand “satire” doesn’t mean “I sat and it was tired.” This year’s festival—the ninth annual one—spans 20 Lower Manhattan venues, with spoof subjects ranging from Silence of the Lambs to Liz and Dick to the New York nightlife underworld (the burlesque-style musical murder mystery The New Bohemia). Maybe that last one can give us some gravitas?
When the New York International Fringe Festival first began, its Present Company producers received 400 applications for 180 slots and were nationally criticized for their juried, rather than first-come-first-serve, selection process. Nine years and a new reputation for next-big-thingness later, their annual applicant pool has doubled to over 800 productions, all hoping to follow in the footsteps of Fringe legend Urinetown, which famously climbed all the way to Broadway. This year’s festival runs from August 12 to 28 and features over 200 shows from around the world. Tickets ($15 per show, with package rates available) can be purchased online at fringenyc.org or by calling 212-279-4488. Catherine Rampell