What happens every August, exhausts even the most tireless theatergoer, and features more thespians than a barrel full of bloated, budget-busting Broadway babies? FringeNYC.
Taking place August 14 through 30, FringeNYC bills itself as “the largest multi-arts festival in North America” — and backs up that boast with several dozen productions by over 200 companies from all over the world.
Now in its thirteenth year, this wildly uneven, curiously curated fest has birthed many genuine works of genius — while bestowing its seal of approval on more than one yawn-inducing, head-scratching debacle. Often rough and frayed at the edges but ultimately elegant in form and noble in function, its $15 per-show ticket price means you can take more than a few chances before your bill totals the cost of just one Broadway show. For FringeNYC tickets and information, visit www.fringenyc.org or call 866-468-7619. Discount passes to multiple shows are available.
Sight unseen, here are our totally biased, not nearly comprehensive picks of likely prospects and unusual suspects.
ALCHEMIST OF LIGHT
It’s 1914; do you know where your legendary filmmaker is? This new comic thriller is based on the life of early-era cinemagician George Méliès (whose 1902 film “A Trip to the Moon” has special effects which still amaze). “Alchemist” combines the tale of a has-been French filmmaker gunning for a comeback with screenings of legendary flicks from the first years of the last century. At The Connelly Theater. At Lafayette Street Theatre.
This serious comedy centers around two obsessive linguists, a determined child and a charismatic guru. Together, this motley crew (each with their own agenda) clash over the power and perversion of language. At The Studio @ Cherry Lane Theater.
CUT FROM THE SAME CLOTH
In this true story presented as a multi-media drama, a brother and sister salvage pages from their father’s unfinished memoir from the wreckage of a plane crash. Two generations of West Africans become linked by a shaman’s prophesy. At CSV Cultural and Educational Center.
DANCING WITH GHOSTS
A thematic companion to the previously listed show, this modern exploration of ancient performance and manipulated perception draws from shamanic lore to tell the tale of Harley Newman — named for his uncle (an adopted brother to the shaman in a tribe of headhunters). At HERE Arts Center, Dorothy B. Williams Theater.
A runaway girl and a mysterious stranger roam a post-apocalyptic landscape in search of safety —while trying to avoid border patrols and two-headed mutants. At The New School for Drama Theater.
FACE THE MUSIC…AND DANCE!
Five NYC choreographers present different perspectives on the struggles of modern life. In the process, they reveal the power of dance as an anecdote to despair. Choreographed by Tina Croll, Heidi Latsky, Maura Nguyen Donahue and Noa Sagie (and, we suppose, a fifth person not listed in the promotional blurb!). At The Robert Moss Theatre.
Old or young, gay or straight, black or white; almost every flavor percolating in the great American melting pot has been fascinated by the trappings of fame. “Groupies” starts with that pop concept-cum-conceit — then branches out with unexpected trips into the minds, passions, and sexuality of four very different people. Central to all of their psyches? Celebrity. Central to the play? Humanity, love, regret, loneliness and unexpected twists. At The Studio @ Cherry Lane Theatre.
HAROLD PINTER PAIR
Two one-acts by Harold Pinter (“The Lover” and “Ashes to Ashes”) ask the respective questions: Can a woman be both wife and mistress to her husband? Can a man reckon with his wife’s erotic sadomasochistic past? Discover the answers amongst the angst, the pauses, the menace and the humor that combine to make the signature Pinter style. At The SoHo Playhouse.
Is fiction stranger than truth? This work, much-praised during its Vancouver run, delivers a “potentially true” story about two days in the last years of the life of a playwright who’s grasping at former glories while gasping for a comeback. Is that desperate playwright Tennessee Williams or just based on his persona? The producers aren’t telling. At the Cherry Lane Theatre.
HOW NOW, DOW JONES
It’s 1968 all over again — with a 2009 twist — in this updated version of a decades-old work whose theme of financial distress seems depressingly familiar. Musical comedy helps the medicine go down as central character Kate frets over her fiancé’s decision to delay the wedding until the Dow Jones Average hits 1,000. At Minetta Lane Theatre.
I WILL FOLLOW
A Long Island girl goes on a 20-year search for truth, love and religion — helped along by the omnipresent music of U2. At The Actors’ Playhouse.
JUST DON’T TOUCH ME, AMIGO
Writer and performer Fernando Gambaroni’s one-man show turns out to be the tale of every man — and woman — who has every arrived in NYC, went to sleep, and woke up the next day with an overwhelming sense of being the new kid on the block and a stranger in a strange land. At manhattan theater source.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Alabama-based BAMA Theatre Company takes a stab at Shakespeare’s perennial summertime tale by having its eight actors magically morph from character to character with only the contents of a single suitcase to help set the scene. At The Cherry Lane Theater.
This modern take on the classic nursery rhyme tells the musical tale of a little barista in love with the Muffin Man. Can Lyla navigate the daily barrage of customers, family and friends in order to tell the Muffin Man how she feels? If you still believe in happy endings, you already know the answer. At The Lafayette Street Theatre.
Swords rip through flesh in this melding of traditional Japanese Samurai storytelling and revved up rock music. Shido stumbles through drunken battles against countless warriors in search of his way back to Bushido. At the Robert Moss Theatre.
SOME EDITING AND SOME MUSIC
Mortification used to be the normal reaction when somebody sneaked a peek at your diary. This modern trio, however, doesn’t mind putting their innermost thoughts on YouTube for all to see. Can they market their online personas while controlling their lives outside of the electronic realm? At The Robert Moss Theatre.
TALES FROM THE TUNNEL
Dirty? Hot? Sticky? Crowded? It can only be the NYC subway system in the summertime. Sit in air conditioned comfort as you hear over 150 true stories culled from people who ride in a hole in the ground. At The Connelly Theater.
This romantic comedy about a woman who falls in love with her husband’s mistress is set in Union Square and complicated by the presence of a meddling Jewish mother. At The Players Theatre.
Piper McKenzie (the theater company whose brains are the brawn behind Brooklyn’s Brick Theater) presents “Willy Nilly” — a “musical exploitation” timed to coincide with 40th anniversary of the Manson family and the Tate-Labianca Murders. This self-proclaimed “tasteless rock’n’roll spoof” tells the tale of a filthy faux-Messiah, his cult of wanton women and high Hollywood murder — through copious amounts of gore, gratuitous nudity and cruel stereotypes. The man behind this ambitious affront? Trav S.D. — a Chelsea Now contributor and prolific renaissance freakazoid. At Dixon Place.
Coming off rave reviews from its Los Angeles run, L.A.’s Gangbusters Theatre Company presents their acclaimed production of George Buchner’s classic about a mentally challenged enlisted soldier who is provoked by his superiors to kill his unfaithful lover. At Lafayette Street Theatre.
FringeNYC is a great opportunity to reconnect with (or discover) some of downtown’s most creatively ambitious theaters. Here’s information on all of the FringeNYC venues. Drop by or visit them online to discover what’s playing all year long.
VENUES #1, #2 CSV Cultural and Educational Center (Milagro) and CSV Cultural and Educational Center (Flamboyan), 107 Suffolk Street (Rivington & Delancey Streets; csvcenter.com)
VENUE #3 Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie Street (Rivington & Delancey Streets; dixonplace.org)
VENUE #4 The Connelly Theater, 220 East 4th Street (Avenue A & Avenue B; connellycenter.org/theatre)
VENUE # 5 Theatres at 45 Bleecker — The Lafayette Street Theatre, 45 Bleecker Street (at Lafayette; myspace.com/45bleecker)
VENUE #6 The Robert Moss Theatre, 440 Lafayette Street, 3rd Floor (Astor Place/ East 4th Street; 440studios.com)
VENUE #7 Manhattan theatre source, 177 MacDougal Street (8th and Waverly Place; theatresource.org)
VENUES #8, #9 The Players Theatre and The Players Loft, 115 MacDougal Street (West side of MacDougal, just south of West 3rd Street; theplayerstheatre.com )
VENUE #10 Minetta Lane Theatre, 18 Minetta Lane (6th Avenue & MacDougal Street; 212-420-8000)
VENUE #11 The Actors’ Play-house, 100 Seventh Avenue South
(Grove & Bleecker; actorsplayhouse.org)
VENUE #12 The New School for Drama Theater, 151 Bank Street (West & Washington Streets; drama.newschool.edu )
VENUE #13 The Cherry Pit, 155 Bank Street (West & Washington Streets)
VENUES #14, #15 The Cherry Lane Theatre and The Studio @ Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street, (7th Avenue & Hudson Street; cherrylanetheatre.org)
VENUE #16 The SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street (6th Avenue & Varick/7th Avenue; sohoplayhouse.com)
VENUES # 17, #18 HERE Arts Center (Mainstage) and HERE Arts Center (Dorothy B. Williams Theater), 145 6th Avenue (Enter on Dominick, one block S of Spring; here.org)