With Fringe like these . . .
The Fringe Festival is the year's best chance to see bold, creative, not-ready-for-Broadway theater ranging from brilliant to bizarre and sometimes both.
By JOSHUA TANZER
As the uptown crowd is just starting to notice, some of the best theater of the year will be going on for the next two weeks at the downtown Fringe Festival. With the 1999 Fringe hit "Urinetown" headed to Broadway next month, more eyes than ever are on the festival to see what unexpected corner the next hit will come from.
But scouting for the next "Urinetown" is a slightly misguided way to attend the Fringe. The festival is not just a minor league for Broadway it's a theatrical treasure hunt that includes works of such brilliance you can't believe they're only here for two weeks and then, maybe, gone forever. (Like the best play I saw at last year's festival, "Finally," or a 1999 standout called "Minha Rosa.") So rather than look for the next big hit, be brave have an adventure looking for those unexpected flashes of genius.|
So with 198 plays and dance performances on the schedule, how do you find the buried treasures? As noted last year, this is the chance for almost anybody with a far-out idea to stick it on stage, so the first thing to watch for is shows trying to shock you. In general, they're bad. A play with a name like "Fuck You or Dead Pee-Holes" is obviously trying so hard to be outrageous that you have to suspect it's covering for a lack of real inspiration.
The best shows don't tell you everything in the title and description; they intrigue you with the promise of something to be revealed. Often, they're not on Broadway for a reason because they tell a story nobody was expecting to hear.
With that in mind, here are some of the shows we're looking forward to at this year's festival.
21 Dog Years: While Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos was being celebrated as Time man of the year, Mike Daisey (that's him at the top of the page) was helping grow the company as a customer-service phone answerer. The worst one in the company's history, to hear him tell it. Daisey got raves during the show's run in Seattle.
Debbie Does Dallas: This is the same "Debbie Does Dallas" that's one of the top porn films ever the same script, that is, given life on the stage by producer Susan Schwartz. Schwartz called up the film's original producer in California to ask for the stage rights and was told, "Um, you do know it's a porn film, right?" This kind of experiment could go horribly wrong, but we're betting it will be a campy, good-natured, raunchy good time.
Take: Director Timothy P. Jones and actress Susan O'Connor have scored big Fringe hits with Daniel MacIvor's plays "Never Swim Alone" and "See Bob Run." Now Jones writes and directs O'Connor in "Take," the story of a wife who discovers that her husband is gay, and has been familiar with many of her male friends.
Waiting for Godot: The star of this production of the surreal Beckett classic will be the surreal setting. The East River Park Amphitheater is one of the city's most picturesque venues now half destroyed, overgrown with grass and covered in graffiti.
Doing Justice: This one-woman show combines last year's Fringe most noticeable trend, Anna Deavere Smith-style documentary theater, with this year's top obsession, school violence. Adina Taubman bases this show on interviews with people connected with the Columbine, Colo., high school massacre.
Break the Floor: A tap-dance extravaganza set to rock music and featuring participants in a winter tap workshop, including a cast of clomping kids. Musicians include veterans of "Stomp," and the show could be a hit with fans of the city's other noisefests when it moves to the Apollo later this year. For a sample, see the video.
|AUGUST 10, 2001|
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