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Hy on the Fringe:

2010 New York International Fringe Festival

And FringeNYC Encore Series Reviews

This Page Was Most Recently Updated: Thursday, December 2nd 2010


72 shows rated & ranked, 31 reviewed

For the best comedy shows tonight—and every night year-round—please visit this site's home page at, which is updated daily.



Hy Bender

Jennifer Coolidge


Covering the 14th Annual FringeNYC, Which Ran August 13th-29th;

and the FringeNYC 2010 Encore Series, Which Ran September 9th-26th

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Please click the links below to jump directly to what you're after:

Introduction to FringeNYC 2010

Festival Show Rankings

FringeNYC 2010 Encore Series

Show Reviews

Encore Show Rankings

Best Video Promos & Sneak Peeks

What's In A Name?

Notable Comedy Shows

Notable Gay-Themed Shows

Shows With Stars

Previous Fringe Currently Playing Off-Broadway

Festival News & Buzz

FringeNYC 2010 Award Winners

Shows That Sold Out Performances

Shows That Received Added Performances

Canceled Performances

Key FringeNYC 2010 Info

Fast Food Recommendations


FringeNYC 2009 coverage

FringeNYC 2008 coverage

FringeNYC 2007 coverage

FringeNYC 2006 coverage

FringeNYC 2005 coverage


Best NYC Live Comedy

Comedy Club Discounts Insider Freebies & Discounts


Hy on Theatre

Hy on Theatre Discounts


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Copyright © 2010 Hy Bender




Introduction to FringeNYC 2010


From relatively humble beginnings, the New York International Fringe Festival has grown to become a major force in New York theatre...and an absolutely wonderful event for anyone who loves vibrant live shows.


The largest multi-arts festival in North America, this 14th annual FringeNYC offered 197 productions running from August 13th through August 29th. The festival's shows played in 18 Lower Manhattan venues —including such superb spaces as the Lucille Lortel Theatre, Soho Playhouse, HERE Arts Center, and Connelly Theatre—totaling over 1,100 performances. And they attracted more than 75,000 people.


A scene from Shine: A Burlesque Musical, one of the 197 productions at this year's FringeNYC

Why get excited about the Fringe? Because unlike so many commercial productions tailored to inoffensively appeal to mass audiences, Fringe shows tend to be quirky, individual, and passionate. Thanks to the efforts of Producing Artistic Director Elena K. Holy, and the wonderful Fringe staffers and volunteers, the festival virtually shimmers with fresh artistic approaches, a wide range of voices and styles, high energy, and delightful surprises.


A scene from Eternity in an Hour, a dance/drama about William Blake

While Fringe productions are both low-budget and inexpensive to see ($15 per ticket in advance—and even less if you buy in bulk—or $18 at the door), the best of them are as fine and memorable as the priciest play. And they're likely to take you to places that no show in midtown ever will. (This was epitomized by a teen visiting the Fringe a few years ago who told wealthy parents trying to lure her uptown, "But I don't want to see a show on Broadway. I want to see something cool.")


The cast of the FringeNYC 2010 acrobatic dance production Living On the Edge

There's also more to the Fringe experience than what's being offered on stage. The festival gives you the opportunity to enjoy the people it attracts—which includes some of the most enthusiastic theatre-goers in New York. Talk to people standing in line, chat with the venue directors and volunteers, engage with the hundreds of artists handing out cards to plug their shows—and try to be open to everyone. You may well make some lifelong friends.



Some of the performers in the FringeNYC 2010 puppet indie rock musical The Princes of Persuasion

Of course, the untamed nature of Fringe shows means they're not for every taste...and in some cases, not for any taste. One of the most exciting aspects of the Fringe is that it positively encourages productions to take huge risks—which inevitably results in some jaw-dropping failures.


A memorable example is a late-night Fringe play I attended with a composer and an actress several years ago. Although the show lasted only an hour, it felt like days...and as soon as we left the theatre, the actress muttered her opinion dazedly in one succinct phrase: "I wanted to kill myself." She repeated this assessment—"I wanted to kill myself"—over and over for the next two blocks, until we finally managed to calm her down. And this production wasn't even the worst at that year's festival...I personally witnessed three others even more mind-wrecking.


On some level, there's a perverse thrill in seeing a show so bad that you can't believe your eyes. But more to the point, falling prey to one of these dark beasts makes you more fully appreciate the productions that are truly great—that accept the Fringe's challenge to take huge risks with brilliance and actually succeed beyond all expectations.


Poster for the edgy FringeNYC 2010 drama Prey

It's the latter that make the festival most worthwhile. And there's a real joy to hunting for these treasures, finding them...and thoroughly enjoying them.


Starting August 13th, the hunt was on...

The poster for FringeNYC 2010 comedy Pope! An Epic Musical

I've developed a habit of catching lots of FringeNYC shows—75 in 2002, 77 in 2003, 66 in 2004, 58 in 2005, 65 in 2006, 66 in 2007, 71 in 2008, and 76 in 2009. As usual, in 2010 I'll rate and rank every show I see, providing you with an at-a-glance guide to what's worth catching and what you might consider avoiding—including every show in the September Encore Series. I'll also write reviews of as many of these shows as my body allows.



Scenes from the FringeNYC 2010 musical Dream of the Marionettes and comedy Evan O'Television in Double Negatives

Of course, there are a number of other sources of reviews besides this Web site. For example, you can find smart (albeit limited) coverage of FringeNYC via The New York Times, which can be read online at


In addition, there's a comprehensive collection of FringeNYC reviews available via (You can also find an extensive collection of previews by clicking here.) Spearheaded by the site's founder, Martin Denton, this is an invaluable resource for learning about every single Fringe production.


Also admiringly taking on the task of reviewing every single FringeNYC show—for the third year in a row—is Time Out New York, NYC's invaluable guide to—well, pretty much everything.To read TONY's coverage, please click here.


The only downside is that employs a squad of 70 people to cover all the shows, and TONY uses a small army of writers as well. That can make it hard to get a fix on the tastes of any one reviewer and figure out whether they jibe with your own.


If you read what follows, though, you'll quickly get a sense of my tastes, which is likely to help you in judging my comments about any particular show. (For example, if you discover that you love everything I dislike and can't stand everything I recommend, that still means I'll be providing you with helpful guidance—simply believe the opposite of everything I say...)


Scenes from the FringeNYC 2010 art production Ground to Cloud and the silent comedy Hamlet Shut Up!

I hope you find this site useful, that you thoroughly enjoyed the festival; and that you also enjoy the Encore Series, which will be fully covered here. I also hope to have the pleasure of bumping into you at some point during these shows so you can tell me which ones you liked best.


Warmest regards,


Hy Bender



Book Proposal Site:

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Comedy/Theatre/TV/Video Site:

NYC Comedy Blog:


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Best FringeNYC 2010 Video Promos & Sneak Peeks

A scene from the video promo for Shine: A Burlesque Musical

Shine: A Burlesque Musical

Faye Lane's Beauty Shop Stories

Bunked!: Shantini Klaassen singing "Trust"

FringeNYC 2010 Promo

Evan O'Television in Double Negatives

Classically Trained, Practically Broke

Viva La Evolucion

Playing by Air

Bunked!: Morgan Karr & Autumn Hurlbert singing "Leave It All Behind"

Hamlet Shut Up

Ah Kua Show

Omarys Concepcion Lopez Perez Goes to Israel

William and the Tradesmen

Eli James of William and the Tradesmen: "I Mean It This Time"

Bunked!: Morgan Karr singing "Selfishly"

The Princes of Persuasion

Eternity in an Hour

Dream of the Marionettes

Daddy Day

Bunked!: Nina Sturtz & Cortney Wolfson singing "Open Your Heart"

The Pig, the Farmer, and the Artist

Scared Skinny


Bunked!: Cortney Wolfson singing "Self-Fulfilling Prophecy"

The Height of the Eiffel Tower

Amsterdam Abortion Survivor

The Nightmare Story

Getting Even With Shakespeare

Bunked!: Autumn Hurlbert singing "Trust"

The Tim & Micah Project: Selection

Butterfly Butterfly Kill Kill Kill!

When Last We Flew

Friends Like These

Rites of Privacy

Hip Hop High

Ground to Cloud


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What's in a Name?—FringeNYC 2010 Show Titles


Pope! An Epic Musical, Terms of Dismemberment, and Hamlet Shut Up!

We're told to not judge a book by its cover.


When there are nearly 200 shows to choose from, though, it's hard to resist flipping through the FringeNYC catalog and picking out the productions with the coolest names.


In fact, the single most important marketing decision a Fringe show can make is what to call itself.


For example, there are a number of productions in this year's Festival springboarding off the works of William Shakespeare. Most are likely to instantly grab any fan of the Bard with their titles: Getting Even With Shakespeare (about legendary characters suing their maker); Hamlet Shut Up (the classic tragedy performed as silent comedy; for a video teaser, please click here); Hamlettes (about three girl tweeners staging Shakespeare's greatest play). And then there's In Loco Parentis (about a high school girl studying Hamlet in the wake of the death of her mom). If I wasn't mentioning the latter here, would you have noticed this show?


An obvious, but risky, way to grab attention is to have a very long name. The winner this year is Love in the Time of Swine Flu: A Comedy about Sex, Dating, and Everything Else Terrifying. It's from a sketch comedy troupe, Stupid Time Machine, and so can be somewhat forgiven for excessive silliness. But based on the show's disappointing teaser video, this production might not be funny enough to live up to its 16-word title.


The runner-up for length is Omarys Concepcion Lopez Perez Goes to Israel (to speak to God at the Wailing Wall), a one-woman show from Leila Arias about a Puerto Rican gal who travels to the Middle East for a chat with Our Creator. This one has potential, as indicated by a superior teaser video; and by Arias having performed it at UCBT-LA.


At the other end of the spectrum, the show with the shortest title this year clocks in at two letters: P.O. It's about a couple of postal workers who learn they'll soon be replaced by automation. The playwright/co-star has Broadway credits, which bodes well.


Another great attention-grabber is a title which is simply fun. This year's winners include:


Good Good Trouble on Bad Bad Island: A comedy about achieving seemingly impossible tasks.


Butterfly Butterfly Kill Kill Kill!: A parody of and homage to Japanese director/writer/actor Seijun Suzuki’s jarring, zany movies. For a video teaser, please click here.


Terms of Dismemberment: A Musical with Heart...and Other Body Parts: A mother with huge debts to the Mob contemplates selling off her daughter's body parts to come up with the cash. Many songs ensue.


Magical Exploding Boy: A mime who reportedly has both superb control over his body and a sharp sense of humor.


A Raisin in the Salad: Black Plays for White People: Your guess is as good as mine; but it sounds promising.


South Pathetic: "An unemployed comedian directs North Carolina's worst community theatre in A Streetcar Named Desire"—as a one-man show! For my review, please click here.


Eternity in an Hour: If this title sounds exceptionally well-written, that's because it was crafted by William Blake: “To see a world in a grain of sand, and Heaven in a wild flower; hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, and eternity in an hour.” This production attempts to tell Blake's story through song and dance.


Another popular Fringe strategy is including a celebrity in the title. Among the most notable examples this year are MacChin: The Lamentable Tragedie of Jay Leno; Picking Palin; Just in Time: The Judy Holliday Story; Marilyn Monroe: Wouldn't It Be Fascinating; and Pope! An Epic Musical. While this is a gimmick that can easily be abused, I actually have high hopes for every single one of these productions. (Post-festival, it turns out I was half-right; Just in Time, Picking Plain, and Pope! were winners...)


Then again, some folks just aren't much good at titles. FringeNYC 2010 includes these instantly forgettable examples: Have a Nice Life; Lost and Found; Perspectives; and Hello, I Must Be Going.


That said, two of my favorite one-woman shows ever are Eileen Kelly's My Pony's in the Garage (FringeNYC 2005) and Elna Baker's If You See Something, Say Something (FringeNYC 2006). These bland, forgettable titles initially kept me away, and it was only the recommendations of others that led me to see the productions. But I'm so grateful I did, as Eileen and Elna are two of the most wonderful women on the planet, and their shows are memories I treasure to this day.


So enjoy this year's cornucopia of titles. But make your final buying choices based on content descriptions, the talent involved, videos, production photos, buzz, and reviews...including the ones I'll be providing here.


Finally, speaking of names: There's quite a bit of star talent at the Festival. To learn more, please read the next section, Shows With Stars.


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Notable Comedy Shows

If you visit this site during the rest of the year, you're probably a comedy fan. Therefore, please be aware there are lots of funny shows at the Fringe. They include the following, some of which are by stellar members of the vibrant comedy community here in NYC:



Katharine Heller (My Dad's Crazier), Faye Lane (Beauty Shop Stories), and Lauren Olson (Our Condolences)

Faye Lane's Beauty Shop Stories: Faye Lane is one of the most beloved and respected storytellers in NYC. Lane's won the prestigious Moth StorySlam; been featured on NPR’s Cityscapes, The Moth Radio Hour, and Kevin Allison's Risk!; and has toured the country as a regular member of NYC's wonderful The Liar Show. A previous version of this FringeNYC show led New York Magazine to gush, “She had them gobbling from the palm of her hand. They were howling, crying, falling in love with her.” For my review, please click here.


My Dad's Crazier Than Your Dad: A Scientific Inquiry: The lovely and immensely talented Katharine Heller has been in two previous FringeNYC shows, including the spectacular Naked in a Fishbowl. This is her first solo show, and it was decades in the making: "After her parent's difficult divorce when she was 11, Katharine has spent a long time trying to understand her father's strange behavior. She conceived of the show a few years ago after some convincing from friends who were equally fascinated with stories about her father. Utilizing the classic scientific method with photos, videos, and anecdotes as proof, this presentation goes beyond you average lecture. As the audience is a major part of proving said theory, the show will differ from performance to performance." For my review, please click here.


Our Condolences: Lauren Olson is a vibrant young comic whose show I experienced last year at NYC's Magnet Theatre...and can happily recommend. She describes it as follows: "My mom died. Yours will too. Relax! We all say the wrong thing. The awkward, uncomfortable, and unintentionally hilarious situations we're all faced with when someone we love dies." It's all that, and more. Plus the charming and highly talented Olson is worth discovering. For my review, please click here.


Evan O'Television in Double Negatives: Evan O'Sullivan records himself in advance, and then performs a two-man show with his on-screen doppelganger! The level of comedic timing this requires is impressive, and the show is smart and funny (for a sample, please click here). A lot of FringeNYC productions claim to be comedy but lean towards clueless. This looks to be the real deal. For my review, please click here.


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Notable Gay-Themed Shows

FringeNYC has consistently been one of the strongest supporters of gay-themed theatre in the country. This year is no exception; there are numerous gay- and transgender-related productions, ranging from drama to comedy to the indescribable. The following are some that appear especially promising:



Posters for Missionary Position and The Twentieth-Century Way

The Twentieth-Century Way : "Based on a little-known incident in Southern California history, this theatrical thrill ride explores the collision of reality and fantasy as two actors juggle various roles to entrap homosexuals for 'social vagrancy' in public restrooms in 1914 Long Beach." Beyond the outrageousness of the facts, this is a tale about seeking truth. For an interview with the playwright, please click here. For my review, please click here.


Veritas : Like the play above, this production is about a historical witch-hunt for gays. However, this story occurred in the 1920s at Harvard University. For my review, please click here.


Lost and Found : "A brutally funny and poignant story about a Boston family of cops whose lives are thrown upside down when a mysterious stranger appears on their doorstep, forcing them to confront issues of love, grief, homophobia, and regret." For my review, please click here.


Dear Harvey : "Intimate, surprising stories of Harvey Milk based on interviews with his nephew Stuart Milk, his campaign manager Anne Kronenberg, AIDS Quilt founder Cleve Jones, and other friends and activists." For my review, please click here.


Missionary Position : The second part of Steven Fales' one-man show trilogy, which began with his smash hit Confessions of a Mormon Boy and concludes with Who's Your Daddy? To check out Fales' blog, please click here. This isn't as good as Confessions, but its insider look at Mormon missionary work is worth the time.


By the way, if you're interested in the issue of gay marriage—and aren't easily offended—please check out a brand new song from my NYC comedy friends Shayna Ferm and Carolyn Castiglia by clicking here. If you like it, pass the link along...


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Shows With Stars

Reiko Aylesworth Bruce Sabath Stephen Wallem

Reiko Aylesworth (Lost and Found), Bruce Sabath (Platinum), and Stephen Wallem (The Hurricane Katrina Comedy Festival)

Having established talent in a production is no guarantee it'll be worth seeing.


But it doesn't hurt, either.


With that in mind, here are some of the FringeNYC 2010 shows notable for the TV, film, and/or Broadway veterans involved:


Platinum: Co-stars Broadway performers Bruce Sabath (Company—and a stellar FringeNYC veteran), Jay Wilkison (Rent), Sarah Litzsinger (Beauty and the Beast, Amour), and Donna Bullock (A Class Act, Ragtime).


Lost and Found: Co-stars Reiko Aylesworth (Michelle Dessler in FOX's 24, Rachel Tobin in FX's Damages) and Geraldine Librandi (Patty Leotardo in HBO's The Sopranos). For my review, please click here.


The Hurricane Katrina Comedy Festival: Co-stars Stephen Wallem (Thor Lundgren on Showtime's Nurse Jackie).


Just in Time: The Judy Holliday Story: Stars Marina Squerciati (Eva in 2008 Broadway production of To Be or Not to Be; also acted in CBS' The Good Wife, FX's Damages, NBC's Law & Order: CI). For my review, please click here.


Picking Palin: Co-stars Bill Timoney (Alfred Vanderpool on ABC's All My Children, and the voice of a wide range of characters for such anime as Pokémon).


When Last We Flew: Co-stars Karen Pittman (Mother in the 2008 Broadway production Passing Strange).


P.O.: Written by and co-stars Scott Klavan (2009 Broadway production Irena's Vow).


Prey: Co-stars Sean Patrick Reilly, who's acted in such feature films as Jerry Maguire, Fair Game, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and the upcoming Something Borrowed; on TV soap operas As the World Turns and Guiding Light; and in the 2009 Broadway production Superior Donuts.


Scared Skinny: A one-woman show by Mary Dimino, who won the 2008 Gracie Allen Award, and was nominated for the 2009 MAC Award for Outstanding Female Stand-Up. Dimino's many credits include David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, and The Chris Rock Show. For my review, please click here.


Faye Lane's Beauty Shop Stories: In addition to Faye Lane herself being renowned in the NYC storytelling community, her show's musical director is Andrew Graham—whose day job is Musical Director and Conductor of Broadway's Avenue Q. Graham's previously worked on such other Broadway productions as Spamalot, Fame, Seussical the Musical...and Hair (a fun coincidence—even though the latter had nothing to do with beauty salons...). For my review, please click here.


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Previous Fringe Shows Currently Playing Off-Broadway

In addition to the wonderful selection of shows at this year's Festival, there are several previous Fringe productions enjoying commercial runs right now. Even though they're technically playing outside the Festival, I recommend making these proven winners part of your FringeNYC experience.


Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party, my pick for best show of FringeNYC 2009...


...Puppetry of the Penis, a huge success spawned from the 2000 Edinburgh Fringe Festival;
and Naked in a Fishbowl, my pick for best show of FringeNYC 2007

Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party: Most critics—including me—considered this to be the best show at last year's FringeNYC. On July 27, 2010 it began an off-Broadway run at the Acorn Theatre on Theatre Row (410 West 42nd Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues), and is slated to keep going through September 5, 2010. The retail price for tickets is $51.25, but you can nab a seat for just $29.95 using discount code BBOX. For a brief New York Times review, please click here. If you're seeking great Fringe shows, I highly recommend adding this entertaining mix of comedy, history, soap opera, and social commentary to your list.


Naked in a Fishbowl: My pick for very best show of FringeNYC 2007, Naked in a Fishbowl consists of a wonderful group of actresses/improvisors portraying characters as if they were in a play, but improvising everything they say and do. The luminous performers include Katharine Heller, Brenna Palughi, Lynne Rosenberg, and Lauren Seikaly, each of whom is immensely appealing and quick-witted. Further, they have an intimate, lovely chemistry with each other; and they've all committed to baring their personal lives, thinly disguised via their characters (hence the title's Naked). As a result, this is one of the most honest and nuanced improvised shows you'll ever see. Please read my reviews from August 2007 by clicking here; check out some videos of previous episodes here; and then go see the current run every Monday night at 7:00 pm at the Soho Playhouse. The retail price is $35, but you can buy tickets for just $17.50 online using discount code NIFF.


Puppetry of the Penis: This unique production originated at the 2000 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and has grown to become a tremendous international success. It's also a show for which I have enormous affection; although my joy came from watching not only what occurred on stage, but the faces of the women in the audience turning stonier and stonier as they visibly projected the thought, "Dick tricks? This entire show really consists of dick tricks? All my suspicions about men have just been confirmed..." If you cherish bravery in performers, go forth to the 45 Bleecker Theatre (right next to the #6 subway's Bleecker Street stop) and experience the current NYC run, which is slated to play through September 4, 2010. Tickets retail for $49.50 and up, but you can purchase them for $19.50 using discount code 8PUPPET.


Tales From the Tunnel: I ranked this FringeNYC 2009 show an impressive #15 out of the 79 productions seen last year—for my review, please click here. The chances are this collection of scores of true-life scenes from the New York City subway system has gotten even better since then. The show is playing through September 5, 2010 at the 45 Bleecker Theatre (right next to the #6 subway's Bleecker Street stop). Tickets are normally $51.50, but you can buy them for $31.50 using discount code BOXTALES.


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Festival News & Buzz

Poster for the FringeNYC 2010 show The Battle of Spanktown

This News & Buzz section provides show recommendations I hear from reliable sources, FringeNYC 2010 news, and various tips to make your time at the festival as much fun as possible.


Extra FringeNYC Extension (9/7/10): The acclaimed FringeNYC 2010 production Miss Magnolia Beaumont Goes To Provincetown announced that it's arranged for its own extension running concurrent with the Encores. This winner of a FringeNYC Award for Outstanding Solo Show will be playing at Stage Left Studios, 214 West 30th Street (off Seventh Avenue), on the 6th Floor. The showtimes are Sunday 9/19 at 7:00 pm; Monday 9/20 at 7:00 pm; Sunday 9/26 at 7:00 pm; and Monday 9/27 at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $20 at the door, or $22 online. The latter is recommended as insurance against a sell-out.


8/30/10: The Festival is over, but 21 of its shows will still be running. For detailed info on the FringeNYC 2010 Encore Series, please click here.


And for a complete list of winners of the FringeNYC 2010 Awards, please click here.


The FringeNYC closing night party & awards ceremony is free and open to all

Recommended shows for the final days of the Festival:

8/29:The double-bill 23 Feet in 12 Minutes: The Death and Rebirth of New Orleans and The Hurricane Katrina Comedy Festival—on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It was an amazing way to end the festival.

8/28: Dear Harvey, Evan O'Television in Double Negatives, Our Condolences, The Pig, The Farmer, and the Artist, and A Separate Peace.

8/27: My Dad's Crazier Than Your Dad: A Scientific Inquiry, Picture Incomplete, Lost and Found, Burning In China, Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical, and A Separate Peace.

8/26: Dear Harvey, Burning In China, Lost and Found, and The Princes of Persuasion.

8/25: My Dad's Crazier Than Your Dad: A Scientific Inquiry, Our Condolences, Picking Palin, and The Princes of Persuasion.



A Diva Double-Bill (8/14/10): If you haven't yet picked the FringeNYC shows to see on Sunday, I'd like to recommend two productions about Hollywood legends...that just happen to be running back to back. From noon to 1:15 pm is Marilyn Monroe: Wouldn't It Be Fascinating at Venue #13: The New School for Drama Theatre. This show has received zero buzz that I know of, but the subject is so fascinating that I'm hopeful the production will be too. And at 1:45 pm is Just in Time: The Judy Holliday Story at Venue #16, The Soho Playhouse (reachable by racing from Venue #13 to the E/C subway at 8th Street & Sixth Avenue and taking it to the Spring Street stop...which is right across the street from Venue #16). The Judy story has gotten a great deal of attention, particularly thanks to the actress playing the lead, Marina Squerciati. I'll be following my own advice, so will let you know what I thought.


Postscript: I was half right; the double-bill featured both the very worst and very best shows of the Festival I've seen so far. To view the ratings & rankings, please click here.


Selling Out (8/8/10): The FringeNYC 2010 show A Personal War: Stories Of The Mumbai Terror Attacks has already sold out its opening night performance. This production has a history of attracting large audiences—e.g., it had to turn away large crowds when it played at the Edinburgh Festival. If you're interested in seeing it, I suggest grabbing tickets now by clicking here.


Another production that's sold out its opening is Hip Hop High:The Musical. This doesn't necessarily indicate a trend, though; the show reportedly bought a large block of tickets itself to give away to high school students.


And a third sellout is the debut performance of Scared Skinny, the one-woman show from sharp comic Mary Dimino.


For a complete list of FringeNYC 2010 shows that have sold out performances in advance, please regularly click here.


FringeCentral Announced (7/30/10): The location of FringeCentral—the key spot for both ticket buying and Fringe info—is 1 East 8th Street, at Fifth Avenue. This heart-of-the-West-Village spot is the most convenient location for a FringeCentral ever, and a cause for celebration. It opened for business on July 30th at noon. To learn more, please click here.


Navigating this Site's FringeNYC 2010 Coverage: There are a number of sections in this site to help you get the most enjoyment out of this year's festival.


For key info, including where to find show descriptions, how to catch live sneak peeks of shows, where to see free outdoor shows, how to buy tickets, and much more, please click here.


For notable video sneak peeks at shows, please click here.


For notable comedic shows, please click here.


For shows for movie, TV, and/or Broadway veterans, please click here.


After the festival's begun, to jump to a list of the FringeNYC 2010 shows I've seen from beginning to end, rated and ranked in rough order of preference, please click here.


After the festival's begun, to read reviews of shows I've seen, please click here.


For a list of shows that have sold out one or more performances via advance sales, please click here.


And to learn about great places to grab food in the neighborhoods that host the shows, please click here.


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Festival Show Rankings


This section lists the FringeNYC 2010 shows I've seen from beginning to end, in rough order of personal preference, with each production assigned one to four stars using the following rating system:


**** = Transcendently Great

*** = Solid & Worth Seeing

** = Unless Your Relatives Are in the Cast, Think Twice

* = "I Wanted to Kill Myself"


If a title is underlined, you can click it to jump to my review.


If a title isn't underlined, I haven't written the show up. I won't review every show seen, but will strive to review as many as humanly possible.


To view my list of rated & ranked shows in the FringeNYC 2010 Encore Series, please click here.


Just In Time: The Judy Holliday Story ****

Saving Throw Versus Love ****

Dear Harvey ***½

Made in Taiwan ***½

Faye Lane's Beauty Shop Stories ***½

My Dad's Crazier Than Your Dad: A Scientific Inquiry ***½

Picture Incomplete ***½

Evan O'Television in Double Negatives ***½

PigPen Presents: The Nightmare Story ***½

The Pig, The Farmer, and The Artist ***½

The Twentieth-Century Way ***½

Our Condolences ***½

Lost and Found ***½

Manon/Sandra ***½

Burning in China ***½

Scared Skinny: A One (Hundred Pound Lighter) Woman Show ***

Trick Boxing ***

The Hurricane Katrina Comedy Festival ***

23 Feet in 12 Minutes: The Death and Rebirth of New Orleans ***

Hamlet Shut Up ***

Friends of Dorothy: An Oz Cabaret ***

Butterfly, Butterfly, Kill Kill Kill! ***

Picking Palin ***

A Separate Peace ***

Richard 3 ***

The Princes of Persuasion ***

South Pathetic ***

Missionary Position ***

West Lethargy ***

Prey ***

Pope! An Epic Musical ***

Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical ***

Bunked! A New Musical ***

Viva Los Bastarditos! ***

Shaheed: The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto ***

Violators Will Be Violated ***

Over There: Comedy is His Best Weapon ***

Driving the Saudis ***

Jen and Liz in Love ***

When Last We Flew ***

William and the Tradesmen ***

The Battle of Spanktown ***

Veritas **½

How My Mother Died of Cancer and Other Bedtime Stories **½

Playing By Air **½

Passchendaele **½

Did You Do Your Homework? **½

Living on the Edge **½

Platinum **½

Monetizing Emma **½

Omarys Concepcion Lopez Perez Goes to Israel **½

Hearts Full of Blood **½

Cookie **½

Classically Trained, Practically Broke **½

Art of Attack **½

Standing Up: Bathroom Talk & Other Stuff We Learn From Dad **½

A Woman of No Distinction **½

Getting Even With Shakespeare **½

The Secretaries **

Spellbound: A Musical Adventure **

The Tim & Micah Project: Selection **

Amsterdam Abortion Survivor **

The Hyperbolist **

Eternity in an Hour **

Terror Superhighway **

Over and Over **

Ah Kua Show **

MacChin: The Lamentable Tragedie of Jay Leno *½

Faster Than the Speed of White *½

Dream of the Marionettes *½

Have a Nice Life *

Marilyn Monroe: Wouldn't It Be Fascinating *


Reviews of underlined shows appear directly below.


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Show Reviews


I assign all reviewed shows one to four stars, using the following rating system:


**** = Transcendently Great

*** = Solid & Worth Seeing

** = Unless Your Relatives Are in the Cast, Think Twice

* = "I Wanted to Kill Myself"


Each review includes a show's Web site address and a representative photo. Clicking the address will open a new browser window taking you to the show's official site. Clicking the photo will open a new browser window taking you to the show's listing on the FringeNYC site. You can use the latter to read the official description of the show, and see when and where it was playing during the festival.


Please keep in mind these reviews have to be written in a hurry. If you spot any factual errors, please don't hesitate to let me know by emailing I'm always happy to make corrections and updates.


1. Just In Time: The Judy Holliday Story


Rating: ****

Marina Squerciati


There are a number of reasons to see this wonderful bio-play: an exceptionally smart script, a vibrant cast, crisp direction, and a tale of Hollywood past that's every bit as relevant today.


But the main reason can be summed up in two words: Marina Squerciati.


To successfully pull off the ditzy blonde created by Judy Holliday is an enormous challenge. Holliday's Billie Dawn is one of the most beloved characters in film history—e.g., she beat out Gloria Swanson's Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard and Bette Davis' Margo in All About Eve for the 1950 Academy Award.


Marina Squerciati manages this feat with such grace that it seems effortless.


But even more importantly, she digs deeper and evokes the real Judy Holliday—a complex woman who thought and felt deeply, and wanted to be a writer/director because "Acting is a very limited form of expression, and those who take it seriously are very limited people." The play shows us the value of making audiences laugh...and of sharing who you are with the world.


I could say a whole lot more about this production; but really, just see it.


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2. Saving Throw Versus Love


Rating: ****

Kerry Flanagan


This is the most consistently well-written comedic play in the festival.


It's also the most perfect play about the world of gaming I've ever seen. (And I've experienced some really good ones...) Playwright Larry Brenner hits all the right notes, crafting a story that can be enjoyed by anyone, but will provide extra levels of pleasure to the tens of millions of fans of SF/fantasy.


The excellence doesn't stop with the script, either. Dan McCabe, Michael "Tuba" McKinsey, and Matthew Hammond are so perfectly cast that you're likely to forget they're actors and see them as genuine gamers. Rob Marnell does a terrific job of straddling the worlds of mainstream and genre. And Kerry Flanagan (above) is simply breathtaking as a "normal" woman who finds herself dealing with situations she'd never expected from the man she loves.


Kudos also go to director Dann Fink, who ensures every scene is both believable and thoroughly hilarious, making the show's 100 minutes fly by.


This production not only merits a theatrical commercial run, but a translation to a feature film. (Late 2010 postscript: Shortly after the Festival ended, Larry Brenner learned he'd placed third in the Final Draft Big Break Contest with a brilliant screenplay about vampires vs. zombies, beating out thousands of other screenwriters. Brenner quickly nabbed a Hollywood agent from the win, and a production company that's put his movie into development; so he's more than capable of turning this comedy into a film...)


I'm sorry to have missed discovering this gem until its final performance at the festival. However, I'm told there's a good chance it'll be included in the Encore Series in September, so please stay tuned to this site for news about additional performances. (Postscript: It was indeed an Encore pick, and is currently seeking a well-deserved commercial run.) If you have any interest in Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars, or Klingons, Saving Throw Versus Love is not to be missed.


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3. Dear Harvey


Rating: ***½


I've seen thousands of NYC stage productions. None has radiated more love than this one.


The show is a vibrant memorial to Harvey Milk, who became the first openly gay man elected to a major public office in the US when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. To understand what an achievement this was, recall that it wasn't until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.


Milk's service was short; both he and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White only 11 months later. But Milk's life and death galvanized the gay community nationwide, making him to this day an iconic figure who inspires the LBGT community to fight for its civil rights.


You might think this show would be superfluous in the wake of the excellent 2008 film Milk starring Sean Penn. But writer Patricia Loughrey took a different approach by interviewing over 30 people who were close to Milk and sharing their words with us. What emerges is an intimate portrait with a beating heart. Here are some samples, starting with a speech from Milk himself:

My name is Harvey Milk, and I want to recruit you! Recruit you in the fight for Democracy. The Anita Bryants and the John Briggses are trying to constitutionalize bigotry. We will not allow that to happen. You must make your commitment. Without it you are just occupying space!

From Alan Pettit:

It was a great time to be in San Francisco. Progressive. Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk, those guys were like the souls of the best things in the Bay area.


And there was disco! One night this guy comes up and starts dancing with me. T-shirt and jeans. We start to chat, tearing our lungs out to be heard above the music. I knew who he was; you couldn't live there and not recognize him. He was so open and rational, I didn't have time to get nervous. He was a great dancer; he could move. And he was so friendly, talking about the neighborhood. We had a regular conversation for two hours while we danced our asses off. He made me feel at ease.

From Cleve Jones, founder of the Names Project/AIDS Quilt:

He wasn't a genius. He wasn't a saint. He had all sorts of personal failings—like we all have.

We tend to look at these historic figures and put them up on this pedestal and create these mythologies around them. But I've met Rosa Parks. I've met Cesar Chavez, I've met Nelson Mandela. And I'm struck by, really, the ordinariness of these people. You can be a totally ordinary person with a fucked up life. But if you have courage and speak the truth, and are willing to stick it out, it's amazing what you can do.

From activist Robin Tyler:

Harvey Milk was a great gay visionary whose politics extended way beyond the gay community. He was progressive, he was daring, he was unapologetic, he was forceful, and he was right—most of the time.

Frequently our gay and lesbian community would say Wait. But Harvey didn't want to wait to do it the "right way." And I didn't want to wait So what we had in common was this kind of energy that just won't take no for an answer. And you either have it or you don't.


The leaders who came out of that time were visionaries. And it wasn't because they headed organizations, and it wasn't even because anyone believed in them. It was because they believed in what they were doing, passionately. Harvey Milk, Troy Perry—there was a group of us, a very small group of us, who just had the guts to keep going. And what we had in common was the passionate belief that gays and lesbians deserve to be free people, that we deserve civil rights.

And that belief didn't come from hate, or anger. It came from love.

The actors who bring these voices to life are all shapes, sizes, colors, and sexual orientations; and they're all marvelous. (A shout-out to Lynne Rosenberg, a member of one of my favorite improv troupes Naked in a Fishbowl, who is perfectly cast as Robin Tyler.) If this show goes on to a commercial run, though—and it absolutely should—stars could just as easily step into any of the roles, and on a rotating basis (à la The Vagina Monologues or The Exonerated).


One performer worth special mention is composer Thomas Hodges, who knew Harvey Milk, and whose evocative piano playing is a major factor in making the show so effective.


My only warning: Bring some tissues. By the show's conclusion, there might not be a dry eye in the theatre.


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4. Made in Taiwan


Rating: ***½


This autobiographical one-woman show begins in the dark. All we hear is the sound of rapid slurping.


Then the lights come on, and we see it's Michelle Krusiec—barefoot, in a plain black outfit—miming the eating of noodle soup with chopsticks. And before we're even consciously aware of it, our bodies understand that she's consuming the meal with the nervous quickness of someone who doesn't own much, and is in the habit of having even that little bit periodically and abruptly snatched away.


This simple opening tells us volumes about the Taiwan where Krusiec was born; and especially about the adoptive parents who dominated her childhood. For example:

Once I mentioned to my dad, "I'm bored."


He made me scrub the whole kitchen.


"Are you bored now?"




After that I didn't say much around my dad...

As for Krusiec's mother, she offers such advice as, "You tell your boyfriend if he love you, he got to buy you a car!"


And when Krusiec admits she's had sex, her mom is furious: "Are you crazy? You give away your cherry so easy! And what he give you? Nothing! In Taiwan, if you a virgin man have to give you a house!" Her mother then calls over her friends to closely examine Krusiec's vagina and determine whether she might still "pass" for chaste. This is enacted by Krusiec in an unforgettable scene in which she bends over and then uses her hands as puppets to represent her probing relatives and their caustic comments: "He a big boy, huh? You definitely not a virgin. No more second chance for you!"


Another highly memorable scene is when Krusiec moves away to college, and she expresses her feelings of freedom in a dance of pure joy.


In fact, Krusiec is a professional dancer, and that's made evident by the skill with which she expresses so much with her body—continually moving to make full use of the stage, posing in comedic angles to represent the eccentric characters she imitates for us...and eventually making us feel her own anguish through a silent scream when her mother refuses to let go.


Arthur Miller said, "The more specific it is, the more universal it is." Krusiec understands this; and by giving us scores of small human details, she paints a picture of the relationship with her mom than goes beyond being Taiwanese, or Asian, or even female. These tales about growing up with the baggage parents bring with them, and struggling to not have one's spirit crushed under that heavy weight, are likely to speak deeply to everyone.


This is the finest one-person show of FringeNYC 2010. It's also among the most polished and best-staged of any production in the festival—so much so that it's ready to transition to a commercial run as is.


Made in Taiwan is currently playing in the Encore Series at the elegant Lucille Lortel theate...and is a must see.


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5. Faye Lane's Beauty Shop Stories


Rating: ***½


This one-woman show by storyteller/singer Faye Lane—who's one of the most beloved performers in NYC's comedy community—focuses on her growing up in her mom's beauty salon in Texas. Lane was "a fat little girl in a glittered-up Burger King crown dreaming of being rich and famous, and having a life filled with travel and adventure."


But first she had to contend with the cruelty of her schoolmates, who made fun of her weight because, as Lane eloquently explains, "children are evil bastards."


And then there were her teachers, who for a school play made her dress up as a vegetable and sing this:

I'm a teeny weeny bean

Growing in a garden green.

From my smallest beany gene

To my teeny weeny spleen,

I am healthy through and through.

Eat me!! I'll be good for you!!

Constantly supportive of Lane, though, were the beauty shop's clientele, who were like over-indulgent grandmothers but with a Texas twist:

Baby, do you want a moon pie? Okay, darlin', go look down at the bottom of my purse, there's a banana moon pie with your name on it. But be careful, baby, my gun is in there. And I cain't remember if the safety is on.

They also had sage advice to offer:

Baby, if a man ever tells you that you're too good for him, you better believe it and run like hell.


You know what, baby? Sometimes you just have to take a leap, believing a net will appear.

Lane recalls:

I thought that was so wise. But I wondered, "Who's Annette?"

The best tip of all, though, came from her mom:

Darlin', there's two types of people in this world. There's the kind who writes her own story. And there's the kind who accepts the story life wrote for her. I want you to promise me that you'll write your own story.

Lane did.


And the choices Lane made because of it, and the responses life handed her, are ones you'll never expect.


Lane relates her journey with extraordinary wit, charm, and subtle power, resulting in a performance that's unforgettable.


She's aided by songs beautifully written and composed by Keith Thompson, Larry Rosen, and Carol Hall, and directed by Andrew Graham—the Music Director for Avenue Q, who's on stage with Lane playing the piano!


This marvelous show's remaining performances are close to selling out. I highly recommend buying tickets in advance by clicking here. (And if you run across Lane during the Festival and show her your ticket, she'll actually give you a moon pie...)


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6. My Dad's Crazier Than Your Dad:
A Scientific Inquiry


Rating: ***½

Katharine Heller


Luminous writer/performer Katharine Heller is a FringeNYC treasure. She's a member of the all-gal improv troupe Naked in a FIshbowl, which blew the roof off FringeNYC in 2007 and was my pick for #1 show. Naked is still going strong; it's running every Monday night at 7:00 pm at the Soho Playhouse (to learn more, please click here).


Heller returned to FringeNYC in 2008 as playwright and star of The Boy in the Basement, a raucous sex farce.


But it's with this new solo show that Heller is fully exploring her formidable powers as a razor-sharp and organic comedic artist.


The subject is stated bluntly in the title: Heller was not blessed with an ideal father. Unsettling things Heller says he did during her childhood include consistently driving off and leaving her stranded if she was even a minute late; planting a dead rat for her and her mom to discover in the sofa; having someone send emails to his relatives claiming that he'd passed away (to see how they would react?); having a companion carry around a cane so they could sit in the less-populated handicapped section of events—which Heller notes was in this case also a section for the "emotionally handicapped;" and, after a teen Heller once exclaimed in frustration "I hate you!" during an argument, responding by cutting off contact for years. (And they're still not speaking...)


Adding insult to injury was that her dad, Richard F. Heller, became an enormously successful author of over 20 books. These include a slew of titles based around The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet; children's books, though Heller's show indicates her dad isn't on great terms with any of his kids; and most on point, the 2005 self-help guide Healthy Selfishness: Getting the LIfe You Deserve Without the Guilt, which explains that you shouldn't hesitate to cut out toxic people from your life—including, if necessary, your children.


This is grim stuff; but Heller provides both us and herself with some distance from the raw emotions by putting on a lab coat and trying to approach the facts scientifically...and hilariously. The magic of this show is that it's packed with laughs from beginning to end; and yet its core is an exceptionally smart, sensitive woman who's been deeply hurt by the deprival of what most of us consider a birthright: unconditional love from one's father. Heller's healing that pain with art is not only therapeutic for her, but for the audience carrying around its own childhood traumas.


Quite simply, this is an act of bravery. And also gutsy is Heller's devoting five minutes to interviewing an audience member about his or her dad, effectively providing space for an improvised segment within a tightly scripted show.


If you're curious to learn more about Richard F. Heller—not to mention, his obsession with Disney World—you can visit his Web site at


And if you're curious about Katharine Heller, come and enjoy her lovely, revealing, and very funny show...which I highly recommend.


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7. Picture Incomplete


Rating: ***½


This one-man musical performed by Trent Armand Kendall—backed by a superb three-man band—isn't particularly original or insightful.


But man, can Kendall sing.


This powerfully compelling showman delivers showstopper after showstopper over the course of 90 minutes. The time flies by; and at the end, you'll probably feel like you wouldn't mind hearing the songs all over again.


Which is not a problem, because Kendall has wisely created a CD version of the production. To sample and/or purchase the songs, simply click here.


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8. Evan O'Television in Double Negatives


Rating: ***½

Evan O'Sullivan


Evan O'Sullivan records himself in advance...and then performs a two-man show with his on-screen doppelganger! O'Sullivan has been doing this for 15 years. He initially called it performance art, but then relabeled it comedy "so people would actually come to see it."


In fact, it's wonderful comedy. While at first blush this sounds like a one-joke show, O'Sullivan has a world-class sense of timing, and he develops a patter with his video twin as funny as that of such classic duos as Abbott and Costello—or, more on point, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. (For a sample, please click here.)


O'Sullivan periodically reminds us he's talking to a recording of himself via self-referential jokes that play with time and space. In lesser hands, this could damage the internal reality of the show; but O'Sullivan does it with such finesse that it instead adds an extra dimension making the whole experience magical.


For example, when the video O'Sullivan convinces the live version to behave in inappropriate and embarrassing ways, it's an eerie externalization of how our own inner scripts make us do dumb things that we rationally can't justify.


And when O'Sullivan starts playing a celebrity on a second video screen for both him and his comedy partner to interview, you may feel like your head is about to explode from O'Sullivan's dizzying juggling act.


I especially appreciated O'Sullivan being willing to improvise within a show timed to the split second—including a highly memorable audience participation segment.


This is the funniest one-man—and two-man—show at the festival.


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9. Pigpen Presents: The Nightmare Story


Rating: ***½

PigPen Pressents The Nightmare Story


Using the simplest of props—a lamp, silhouettes, pieces of cloth, silly Ukrainian accents—five students from Carnegie Mellon University have crafted one of the most delightful productions you're likely to see anywhere this year.


The show begins with a woman who is cursed with nightmares...and feels compelled to share them in the form of stories. A couple of typical examples:

Two men traded one part of each other's body every week. Once they had swapped bodies completely, they both saw what they looked like from the ouside...and they both became very depressed. So they agreed to kill themselves together. They did this by taking each other apart, piece by piece. And that's the end.


A momma bird built her nest inside of an old man's rib cage. She fed him every day, just the same as all of her children, because he was warm, and the beating of his heart would rock her children to sleep at night. But no one ever visited the old man; so he was trapped for years and years and years, just a house for birds. And that's the end.

Unfortunately, these tales drive most people away, making the woman very lonely. Then one day she encounters an abandoned baby who actually likes her stories. She adopts him, and raises him as her own, and they're both happy. But when he grows to be a teen, the lad decides he doesn't like the stories after all. And that's when the trouble begins...


The five writer/performers—Alex Falberg, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen, Ryan Melia, and Arya Shahi—are uniformly terrific as cartoonish actors, skilled musicians, and subtle puppeteers. The show isn't perfect, as the energy starts to lag about halfway through. But overall, it's a unique celebration of both storytelling and horror...and definitely worth experiencing.


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10. The Twentieth-Century Way


Rating: ***½

PigPen Pressents The Nightmare Story


In 1914, two actors who desperately needed work convinced the Long Beach, California police department to hire them to hang out in public restrooms and locker rooms to entrap homosexuals for "social vagrancy." This outrageous historical footnote forms the basis of one of the smartest, best-acted, and best-directed dramas at the festival.


The title, The Twentieth-Century Way, refers to an act which became more prevalent thanks to the advances of modern civilization. As one character explains to the other in this two-man tour de force:

Warren: Tell me about your grandfather's dick.


Brown: Beg pardon?


Warren: Your grandfather's dick. Did you ever see it?


Brown: No! Why would I?


Warren: You will get nowhere as an actor if you have the imagination of a schoolmarm. Improvise!


Brown: Wrinkly. And pale. (beat) But really, really big. It runs in the family.


Warren: Did you ever see him clean it?


Brown: No!


Warren: As public hygiene improved in the 20th century, smegma went into retreat. Public bathing facilities for the unwashed masses, and widespread residential plumbing, resulted in clean dicks. Clean enough to eat off of.


And while fellatio appears throughout recorded history, with the demise of the cheesy dick new life was breathed into old vice. Oral satisfaction is distinctly more convenience than anal penetration.


Brown: Anal penetration? I suspect you are no longer speaking of men and women.


Warren: I never was...

A few minutes later, Warren identifies the other technological breakthrough that revolutionized modern life:

Warren: Behold! It's a separable fastener, invented just last year by Gideon Sundback. Zip, zip, zip...a purring sound. And much faster than trouser buttons. I can see in your eyes you realize the implications.


Brown: Access to the genital regions.


Warren: Exactly! The masses are already rushing to purchase this wonder. And a tidal wave of perversion is poised to crash on our shores.

The witty, crackling dialogue of playwright Tom Jacobson (for an interview, please click here), thoughtful direction from Michael Michetti, and razor-sharp acting by Will Bradley and Robert Rommana make this a notable NYC theatrical event—and a pretty sure bet for a commercial run. See it now for a mere $18.


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11. Our Condolences


Rating: ***½

Evan O'Sullivan


There's a saying that "the only people who attend one-woman shows are actresses trying to figure out how to stage their own one-woman shows." The form gets a bad rap because many performers use it to prove they can act in multiple roles...and without regard for much else.


In Our Condolences, Lauren Olson tackles around a dozen characters, brilliantly; and savvy casting directors may well decide to snap her up. But that's beside the point of this dark comedy, which at its core is about heart and healing.


The show begins shortly after Olson's real-life mother has died of cancer. Rather than focusing on herself, Olson portrays the people she encounters, and the variety of awkward reactions she gets to her mom's passing.


For example, there's the predatory "remains liaison" who persuades Lauren to spend much more on a cremation than necessary; the bubble-headed saleswoman who doesn't know how to deal with someone shopping for funeral clothing; the lonely alcoholic woman who uses the funeral as an opportunity to socialize and score a one-night stand; the therapist whose idea of helping is having Lauren imagine scenarios in which her dad dies as well; and her mom's best friend, who has a meltdown while in a grocery store chatting about organic vegetables.


Olson employs a world-class eye for detail to make each character utterly believable. The hour-long production is filled with laughs as Olson exposes the flaws in each person. However, it's also filled with compassion and humanity; there isn't a mean moment in the entire show.


The young Olson proves herself to be a tremendously skilled writer and actress, turning one of life's most heartbreaking events into a show that's both hilarious and loving.


Olson is also a superb comic; and I especially appreciated the ending, in which she makes herself the final target of her witty observations.


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12. Lost and Found


Rating: ***½

Lost and Found


Boston, which made famous the phrase wicked fuckin' queeya, apparently isn't a friendly town for LGBTs. That's the basis of at least two plays in the festival. One, Jen and Liz in Love, is a sweet comedy about two women who slowly learn to acknowledge their feelings for each other.


Lost and Found is also about getting in touch with truth; but it has a harder edge. This drama revolves around a son who'd been abandoned as a baby and, decades later, abruptly decides to visit the family he's never known—and to let them know he's gay. This forces his mother, half-sister, and half-brother to reevaluate their lives, and decide what really matters to them.


The cast is arguably the best in the festival. Some, such as Reiko Aylesworth and Geraldine Librandi, are already TV and theatre stars. Others, such as Dana Domenick as the sister and Jon Krupp as the prodigal son, aren't yet as famous, but are equally dynamite. It's a true ensemble; and the play is worth seeing for that reason alone.


But playwright and co-star John Pollono has done more than assemble a winning team. The first act creates living, breathing characters we care about, and compelling situations that keep us on edge, resulting in truly great theatre.


To my enormous disappointment, in the second act a series of poor scripting choices makes the tale ultimately fall apart. (As just one example, the sister's story is resolved in a quite satisfying way towards the start of Act 2; but since she's the most interesting of the characters, everything that follows feels anti-climactic...) So if you demand a seamless whole, this work-in-progress version isn't for you.


If you can put up with messiness, though, I recommend enjoying one of the very best first acts of the festival; breathtaking performances from top actors; and characters you're likely to remember for a long time.


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13. Burning in China


Rating: ***

Mary Dimino


Gary Moore comes to Shanghai in 1988 to teach. But first he has a lot to learn.


For example, he doesn't realize the Chinese are raised to behave very defensively. This manifests in a variety of unexpected ways—not the least of which is overuse of the word maybe:

There are a few people pedaling bicycles home slowly, because they're tired—it's Saturday night—and the driver's blowing his horn for long bursts every time we come upon one of them. I ask, "Why is he doing that?"


"Oh," Professor Wei explains, "maybe if you hit somebody and you have not warned him, you are guilty. If you blow the horn to warn somebody and you hit him, this is now maybe not your fault."


"I see." This really keeps my ride from being relaxed...

It's not that China hasn't changed. It's more that change happens slowly:

"Maybe it would be healthier for the Chinese to eat with forks instead of sticks." Lifting a swarm of fiery noodles to his mouth with his sticks, Mr. Sun continued, "It was a pity. When too many students demonstrated in the streets for Democracy—what they thought Hu Yaobang also wanted—the other rulers of the country grew frightened of his ideas and sent him down from power. Then they began a campaign against Spiritual Pollution."


"Spiritual Pollution?" I asked.


"This means," Mr. Sun said, "something like free elections and kissing in public."


"But you still believe in Democracy?"


"Oh yes, the government has relaxed, and times are open again. We still believe; but this is complicated." He paused. "We still eat with sticks."

Moore faces a similar problem when he tries to teach—his students won't openly interact with him. It's not that they don't like him; it's just that, as Mr Sun explains, "They are taught from very young not to be active and attract attention. Because we have a saying in China: The early bird—gets shot."


But then Hu Yaobang dies of a heart attack. And his passing galvanizes Chinese students to finally speak their minds, protesting against institutionalized corruption and for freedom. Moore asks one of his students:

"Will the Army attack you and your classmates?"


"Gary, you don't understand," she said. "The Army is the People's Army. It can never shoot at the People."

This did not turn out to be the case.


And Moore eats himself up for urging his students to seek a freedom they apparently can't attain.


Until one student, Li Ying, tells him the protests weren't a failure:

"We were a fire in the night," she says, "to show others the way."

This show's not perfect; the 90-minute monologue isn't as focused and deep as it could be. And I'm not sure whether gaining the skills of actor Jeff LeBeau is worth the loss in genuine intimacy that might've been derived from having Moore perform his own material. But if you want a taste of China, this is a pretty amazing way of getting it without having to travel beyond the East Village.


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14. Scared Skinny: A One (Hundred Pound Lighter) Woman Show


Rating: ***

Mary Dimino


A hard life can destroy you or make you uncommonly strong. The latter is clearly the case for Mary Dimino, an exceptionally down-to-earth and razor-sharp comic who relates the tough knocks she encountered in blow by blow detail—and, more interestingly, the mental process she went through to come out on top.


Dimino eventually sees the light thanks to a couple of unlikely messengers of truth:

Tears are streaming down my face. A car pulls up right next to me; I didn't even notice it. But then I hear two Italian guidos talking.


"Ay, she's crying! What do you think her problem is?"


"O-o-h, she's fat! That's what her fucking problem is!"


I'm trying not to react. But every cell in my being is tingling with shame. It's like I'm exposed; like they're reading my mind and there's nothing I can do about it.


"Imagine being that. O-o-h, she's one fat freakin' bitch!"


I didn't move a muscle.


And it was right there, between the stillness and the pain, that I had my epiphany: I am fat.


Yes, you're correct. I'm crying because I'm fat.


I may have felt that a million times. But have I ever really accepted it?


Putting myself in those guys' shoes, I finally got to see myself objectively. A newfound compassion, a complete understanding, for both them and me: I am fat. And I am so obviously fat, it's all people are going to see. How can I expect anyone to get past that?

Dimino resolves to do something about her situation; but it isn't easy. For example, after an extreme diet leads her to binge the night before on a Carvel ice cream cake, she cancels on a friend's birthday:

"Hello, Rose? I can't make the party tonight. I'm...sick." I know, I know, I'm not really sick. But hey, it's better than calling in fat.


Oh, what's wrong with me? I hate lying to friends. Why am I losing integrity instead of weight?


Maybe it's not just about facing my fat. Maybe it's about facing me; and all the fears and bad ways of thinking that come with me.


Finally, I try the craziest diet of all: Eating healthy and in moderation.

The show is filled with smart observations and tender moments...and hundreds of laughs. Through it all shines Dimino's humanity—and her beautiful, undefeatable spirit.


Come see this to get to know one of the most appealing stars at the festival.


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15. Friends of Dorothy: An Oz Cabaret


Rating: ***

Friends of Dorothy


There are two burlesque shows at this year's festival. The one that got the initial buzz is Shine, which is an admirable attempt to blend the forms of burlesque & musical; but it reportedly fails because both the script and acting aren't up to theatrical standards.


In contrast, this show is, plain and simple, high-end burlesque; and all the performers are pros doing what they do best. While The Wizard of Oz is used as a thematic framing device, this is essentially a showcase for around a dozen acts featuring strip-tease, raunchy comedy, and circus acrobatics.


It's the latter that especially impresses. One performer—dressed as a munchkin—climbs two strips of red cloth and performs occasionally breathtaking acrobatic stunts...without a net. And two other performers, dressed as the Wicked Witch's flying monkeys, dazzle on a trapeze.


Other notable acts are a drop-dead gorgeous woman playing the Good Witch who strips to an appreciative audience; an utterly creepy guy who peddles underwear to hilarious effect; the Wicked Witch, a deliciously sarcastic drag queen; and Dorothy herself, who responds to each act of deviancy with a wide-eyed, "Wow! That was amazing!"


I especially appreciated the ending, in which Dorothy realizes she doesn't need to leave—because it's with her new friends and freaks that she can truly be herself, and so it's the show that's her true home.


If you've ever been curious about burlesque, this is pretty much as good as it gets. And kudos to the Fringe for making it available to a mass audience.


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