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    2008-2009 reviews:
  • Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell
  • ANGER/NATION
  • beast: a parable
  • Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire
  • Blasted
  • Buffalo Gal
  • China: The Whole Enchilada
  • The Corn Maiden
  • Crawl, Fade to White
  • Doruntine
  • Extraordinary Rendition
  • The First Breeze of Summer
  • Fringe Festival 2008
  • Fringe Festival favorites
  • The Glass Cage
  • Hair
  • Hidden Fees* (A Play About Money)
  • Jailbait
  • King of Shadows
  • The Longest Running Joke of the Twentieth Century
  • Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
  • Macbeth
  • The Master Builder
  • Missa Solemnis, or The Play About Henry
  • Mourn the Living Hector
  • A Nasty Story
  • Nowadays
  • the october crisis (to laura)
  • Oresteia
  • Other Bodies
  • Prayer
  • Psalms of a Questionable Nature
  • Raised by Lesbians
  • Reasonable Doubt
  • Sleepwalk With Me
  • Small Craft Warnings
  • Something Weird . . . in the Red Room
  • Soul Samurai
  • The Sound of One Hanna Clapping
  • Southern Promises
  • The Third from the Left
  • Twelfth Night
  • Voices from Guantánamo
  • The Wendigo
  • Zombie

  •  FESTIVAL: FRINGE FESTIVAL 2008

    Cortney Bergin in Symphony Pastorale at the 2008 New York Fringe Festival. in Fringe Festival 2008
    Cortney Bergin in "Symphony Pastorale" at the 2008 New York Fringe Festival.

    Fest cheap and out of control

    We can only guess at what to see and what to avoid at the latest edition of the New York Fringe Festival.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    I am about to not reveal the best show at this year's Fringe Festival.

      
    FRINGE FESTIVAL 2008

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    Fringe Festival 2008
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  • Reviews:
  • Anaïs Nin Goes To Hell
  • beast: a parable
  • Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire
  • China: The Whole Enchilada
  • The Corn Maiden
  • Extraordinary Rendition
  • Hidden Fees*
  • The Longest Running Joke of the Twentieth Century
  • Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising
  • Mourn the Living Hector
  • A Nasty Story
  • the october crisis (to laura)
  • Other Bodies
  • Prayer
  • Psalms of a Questionable Nature
  • Raised by Lesbians
  • Reasonable Doubt
  • The Third from the Left
  • Zombie
  • In fact, I am uniquely qualified to not reveal this highly sought-after information, because, with relentless dedication, I haven't been to the last three consecutive festivals. This makes me something of a non-expert.

    But I have been to a LOT of past New York Fringes, and I know a few things.

    The first thing is, there is a schedule. In it are the names and inscrutable descriptions of about 200 shows, many of which claim to have been the runaway hit of East Stroudsburg Theater Appreciation Month and have a press quote warning you, "DON'T MISS IT!"

    The cast of Perez Hilton Saves the Universe (or at least the greater Los Angeles area): The Musical. in Fringe Festival 2008  
    The cast of "Perez Hilton Saves the Universe (or at least the greater Los Angeles area): The Musical."
      
    From these crumbs you can sometimes assemble a whole, but speculative, loaf.

    The Fringe has some good and bad tendencies. Bad tendencies include: people who are obviously trying too hard and people who are obviously trying to have themselves beamed directly up to Broadway. Anyone trying to produce the next "Urinetown," you may safely ignore. Any show hinting at provocative people having zany madcap fun, you may assume will be excruciating. Nicknames are a terrible sign. One show features a character named "Superintendent Hardon" — I say, cross that one off your list right now. Similarly, avoid those who use the now-tired publicity gimmick of putting the names of celebrities — from Britney Spears to Anna Nicole Smith to Perez Hilton — in the titles of their shows. The more outrageousness promised upfront, the less delivered onstage.

    There will be greatness at the Fringe, but it is almost certainly not announcing itself floridly in the schedule. What makes a great Fringe show? Well, think of it this way: These shows have 15 minutes to put up and take down their sets, props, makeup, sound, lighting, whatever, so minimal is not a disadvantage here — it's the way to go. Venues have gotten bigger along with the festival, but it still isn't easy to put on giant musical numbers with casts of dozens.

      Rebecca Lingafelter and Rachel Jablin in Mourn the Living Hector. in Fringe Festival 2008
      Rebecca Lingafelter and Rachel Jablin in "Mourn the Living Hector."
    Think the opposite way — what can be done with one, or two, or three actors in a tight, black-walled space where the action is practically in the audience's face? What can be done is this: intensity.

    In the earlier years, guided by this idea, I saw some amazing shows: One about a Bosnian woman's drawn-out dance of death with a murderous soldier. One verse play about the struggle between a country girl and an agent of the devil, set to quirky original songs and featuring incredibly creative lighting from three flashlights. One about motel-room trysts between a Catholic-raised prostitute and a priest, bound tightly together by the shared knowledge that the Lord didn't want either of them there.

    The key is intense situations plus brilliant writing — the kind of play that a lone genius has been working on at 2 a.m. for a year. So that's easy — you just figure out which playwrights are the geniuses, and go. How hard can that be, right? But this is a guessing game with many wrong answers and some precious right ones.

    AUGUST 11, 2008
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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