Hy on the Fringe:

2007 New York International Fringe Festival Reviews

Covering the 11th Annual FringeNYC, Which Ran August 10-26

With 13 Shows Extended Via the Encore Series Through September 16th

This Page Was Most Recently Updated: Sunday, July 6th 2008


Copyright © 2007-2008 Hy Bender

Email: hy@hyreviews.com


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

Introduction to FringeNYC


FringeNYC 2007 Performers Gallery

(nearly three dozen production photos, many unique

 to this site; click any photo to pop up its description)


Festival News & Buzz


Show Rankings


Show Reviews


FringeNYC 2007 Encore Series

Shows That Sold Out Performances

Shows That Received Added Performances


Useful FringeNYC Links

Fast Food Recommendations


FringeNYC 2008 Coverage

FringeNYC 2006 coverage

FringeNYC 2005 coverage

Hy on Theatre

Hy on Theatre Discounts

Hy on Human Giant

Comedy in the Moment: Del Close Improv Marathon

SketchFest NYC 2007

Home Page


Other Sites:




Introduction to FringeNYC


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 11th annual FringeNYC offered 188 productions running from August 10th through August 26th. The festival's shows played simultaneously in 19 Lower Manhattan venues, totaling over 950 performances; and they attracted more than 75,000 people.


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, Administrative Director Shelley Burch, and the other 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.


While Fringe productions are both low-budget and inexpensive to see ($15 per ticket—and even less if you buy in bulk), 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.")


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.


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 a couple of 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.


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 10th, the hunt was on...


I've developed a habit of catching lots of FringeNYC shows—75 in 2002, 77 in 2003, 66 in 2004, 58 in 2005, and 65 in 2006. This year, I saw 66 shows from beginning to end...including all 12 in the Encore Series.


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


In addition, there's a comprehensive collection of FringeNYC reviews available via nytheatre.com. (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. The only downside is that nytheatre.com employed a squad of 70 people to cover all the shows, which 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...)


Hope you find this site useful; that you thoroughly enjoyed the festival; and that you attend again in August 2008.




Hy Bender


Email: hy@hyreviews.com

Book Proposal Web: BookProposal.net

Screenplay Analysis Web: HyOnYourScript.com

Screenplay Workshop Web: www.NYScreenwriters.org

Arts Web: www.HyReviews.com


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Festival News & Buzz


The FringeNYC 2007 Festival and the Encore Series are over...but the memories linger.


I intended to write reviews of everything I saw, as I have since 2004. But health issues in 2007 kept me from formally reviewing more than my favorite dozen productions.


Still, a lot of information can be found here.


A visual collection of festival highlights resides on this site's FringeNYC 2007 Performers Gallery. The Gallery provides nearly three dozen production photos, many of which are unique to HyReviews.com. In addition, you can display the names of the performers in any photo, along with their show, by simply clicking the picture (and allowing a couple of seconds for the pop-up to appear). To visit the Gallery, please click here.


You can also jump to a list of the 66 FringeNYC 2007 shows I saw from beginning to end, rated and ranked in rough order of preference, by clicking here.


And you can read the reviews of my 15 favorite shows by clicking here.


For a list of FringeNYC 2007 shows that sold out one or more performances during the festival via advance sales, please click here.


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


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Show Rankings


The following are the 66 FringeNYC 2007 shows I saw from beginning to end, rated on a 4-star scale and listed in rough order of personal preference. If a title is underlined, you can click it to jump to my review.

Naked in a Fishbowl (8/11 show)

Naked in a Fishbowl (8/13 show) ***½

Naked in a Fishbowl (8/24 show) ***½

A Beautiful Child ***½

Gamers ***½

Bent to the Flame: A Night with Tennessee Williams ***½

Naked in a Fishbowl (8/17 show) ***

Naked in a Fishbowl (8/26 show) ***

Lights Rise on Grace ***

Bukowsical! ***

Kelly Kinsella Live! Under Broadway ***

The Hoarde ***

Burn ***

36:24:36 ***

Give and Go: Learning from Losing to the Harlem Globetrotters ***

Jazz Hand: Tales of a One Armed Woman ***

Drop Six: Mr. Lucky ***

The Gospel According to Matthew ***

As Far As We Know ***

Susan Gets Some Play ***

Hail Satan ***

Top and Bottom ***

Piaf: Love Conquers All ***

Bombs in Your Mouth ***

Does the Body Good ***

Paper Son ***

Jamaica, Farewell ***

Joan of ArPpo ***

Theremin ***

Riding the Bull **½

Bye, Bye Big Guy **½

BASH'd!: A Gay Rap Opera **½

Tragedy!: A Musical Comedy **½

Lost! How A Certain TV Mega-Hunk Stole My Identity **½

Stock Home **½

Slut à la Carte **½

Sodomy & Pedicures **½

Chaser **½

Princess Sunshine's Bitter Pill of Truth Funhouse **½

Semi-Permanent **½

Galatea **½

Helmet **½

Hillary Agonistes **½

Notes to the Motherland **½

Mr. Baseball **½

516 (five sixteen) **½

John Goldfarb, Please Come Home **½

All Alone **½

Orientarhythm **½

Monkey Moo **½

Antarctica **½

Mary Brigit Poppleton is Writing a Memoir **½

The Rat King Rock Opera **

Up The Gary **

Stand Up Black Britain **

Masterz in Motion **

End's Eve: The Feast of 2012 **

The Mercy Swing **

...Double Vision **

The Terrible Girls **

I Dig Doug *½

Out of My Mind *½

Face-Off with Ugliness *½

Walking in His Footsteps *½

Marvelous Shrine *½

The Other Side of Darkness *


Reviews of underlined shows appear directly below.


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Show Reviews


I've assigned 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"


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




1. Naked in a Fishbowl (8/11 show)




Rating: ***½


It may seem a bit odd to say this after the very first evening of FringeNYC 2007, but Naked in a Fishbowl is one of the best productions of the festival. This lightly structured show about four women (a la Sex in the City) is improvised by superb actresses—Katharine Heller, Brenna Palughi, Lynne Rosenberg, and Lauren Seikaly—each of whom is immensely appealing and quick-witted...and a potential star. (I wouldn't be at all surprised to see any of these performers go on to TV or film fame within the next few years...) Best of all, they have intimate, wonderful 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 shows to ever grace the festival.


Part of why the show works is that the four characters—and, in real life, the four women—complement each other's personalities beautifully. For a description of the characters, please click here; and for info on the performers, please click here.


It's a small miracle that Heller, Palughi, and Seikaly get along so well together, as they met as actresses cast in an indie film. The director, Hugh Sinclair, noticed the women chatting in between scenes, and was so taken by their natural chemistry that he decided to create an improv show around them. (There was also a fourth actress, but she didn't add sufficiently to the group dynamic and so eventually was replaced with fast-talking spitfire Rosenberg.)


The stage show was originally titled What Women Talk About, and ran for years at sold out NYC venues such as The Kraine. You can check out previous taped performances via iTunes by clicking here.


At their premiere on the first night of FringeNYC, the gals had a grand time poking fun at pretentious "artsy" theatre, including a delightful extended scene in which they tried to figure out how to tell Seikaly's character that the show she'd produced was dreadful. Other highlights included Heller revealing that on a trip to France, she'd woken to a small boy in her bed...who turned out to be a ghost; and Palughi revealing that she'd be leaving them all in two weeks to move to Italy.


I spoke with them afterwards, and Heller really did see a ghostly boy on a recent trip; and Palughi is leaving the group right after FringeNYC to attend the Yale Drama School's graduate program for two years, which is a source of genuine anxiety and feelings of loss. (Another clue: When one of the actresses says "no, honestly" on stage, she's tipping off her colleagues—and you—that what she's saying is for real.) Knowing that the topics covered reflect what's actually happening in the actresses' lives lends great poignancy to the scenes they invent.


Because it's improvised, Naked in a Fishbowl will be entirely different for each performance; and it'll tell a continuing story with the same four characters throughout the festival. It's therefore recommended that you catch the show ASAP; and, if you like it, also all subsequent shows. (At Friday night's premiere, there were audience members who'd attended the show over 60 times during previous NYC runs.)


With all the poorly-imagined female characters in theatre and mass media, it's sheer pleasure to watch a show about real women—smart, sensitive, brave, and funny—and how they maintain complex friendships with wit and love.


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2. Naked in a Fishbowl (8/13 show)




Rating: ***½

Lanky, quirky, and stunning Brenna Palughi


For background on this unscripted show, please see the previous review.


Episode #2 of this wonderful cast's five-show run focused on the gap between the economic status and goals of Seikaly's character—who's loaded, and a theatre producer—with that of Rosenberg's and Heller's characters, who hold down menial jobs that can barely pay their bills and just want to go out to a game show called Trivia Night (which Seikaly kept mispronouncing as Trivial Night).


The other major theme was Palughi's character moving in two weeks to "Italy" (read Yale), and her upset over leaving behind the life she's created and shutting the door on possibilities in NYC. When Palughi said, "Every day is starting to feel like my last," it seemed clear she was speaking from her heart. And when she asked Seikaly, "Am I doing the wrong thing?" and, after a heavy pause, Seikaly answered "No," Palughi touched Seikaly's knee with a tenderness that said more in a moment than many productions manage in two hours.


There are five performances left of this marvelous show. Come catch it and experience these rising stars bare their emotional lives on stage.


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3. Naked in a Fishbowl (8/24 show)




Rating: ***½

Razor-sharp, fast-talkin', red-hot Lynne Rosenberg


For background on this unscripted show, please see the review of Episode #1.


To learn what happened in the previous Episode #3, please click here.


I never managed to write up this episode; but it was way fun.


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4. A Beautiful Child




Rating: ***½


On April 28th, 1955, Truman Capote and Marilyn Monroe met at a chapel to pay their respects to her acting teacher and their mutual friend, Constance Collier, who'd died at age 75. Capote later captured this day he spent with Monroe in his prose anthology Music for Chameleons.


The principle stroke of genius by the creators of this 50-minute production—actress Maura Lisabeth Malloy (as Monroe), actor Joel Van Liew (as Capote), and director Linda Powell—was to recognize Capote's short story could work beautifully as a one-act play.


In fact, they perform the text from beginning to end, changing virtually nothing. After all, why tamper with passages as wonderful as these:



And so goes the fascinating conversation, with topics ranging from Errol Flynn whipping out his penis at a party and playing the piano with it, to Monroe's affair with a famous writer while married to Joe DiMaggio, to why Monroe makes so many trips to the ladies room.


Maura Lisabeth Malloy and Joel Van Liew take on their roles with quiet subtlety, adding to the reality of Capote's carefully crafted words.


Several people have complained to me that Van Liew looks and sounds nothing like Capote. That's true; but the play is about Monroe, and Van Liew attempting a literal impersonation of Capote could have been distracting. Instead, he adopts the essence of Capote in this tale: a sarcastic gay writer who's exceptionally shred about people.


As for Malloy, her performance demonstrates a keen understanding of the text, and of Monroe's spirit.


The production also wisely hired a choreographer, Ben Munisteri, to give Malloy a short dance number that poignantly expresses Monroe's personality.


This is a thoroughly lovely play that shows us the real people beneath the glitter of celebrity...and why Marilyn deserves her iconic fame.


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5. Gamers




Rating: ***½


The best one-person show of the festival, this tour-de-force written by Brian Bielawski and Walter G. Meyer, and performed perfectly by Bielawski, involves a guy who makes a living doing tech support but whose passion is an interactive game involving thousands of online players.


To say much more would give away delicious surprises; but the 55-minute show begins as follows:


Lights down. Heroic music begins to play.


In the dark, a booming voice is heard...that of Boreas.


Knights of Albion: For lo these many years we have been plagued by our rivals to the West. They have burned our villages, pillaged our oxen, and pirated our ships on the high seas. On a peaceful evening this past winter, as our kingdom slept, they stole into our great stronghold and captured our sacred relic, thus weakening our entire realm and giving them great power over our people. Many of our noble knights have tried in vain to lead our armies into the Western frontier to take back what is rightfully ours. Today, after these many weeks of planning, we shall not fail!  


The troops roar.


I, Boreas, the White Knight, Prince of Carthia, will—Shit!


Lights jump up on an office cubicle. Into headset, while taking a swig of Mountain Dew:


Good morning, tech support, this is Steve, how can I help you?


There are two other FringeNYC plays this year involving gaming and/or the Web, Helmet and All Alone. Both of these shows are interesting, but fall into the trap of judging by surface appearances and treating online enthusiasts as freaks. In contrast, Gamers pays close attention to detail and nuance, and so offers a perspective that's on target, life affirming, and enormously entertaining. Highly recommended.


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6. Bent to the Flame: A Night with Tennessee Williams




Rating: ***½


Doug Tompos' one-man show is an unusually literate and deep production for any Fringe festival.


Tompos portrays Tennessee Williams preparing to give a lecture about his literary hero, poet Hart Crane. As a performer, Tompos does such a stellar job that at the end my hard-nosed companion turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, "That wasn't acting, he was Tennessee Williams."


This production is one of the strongest contenders at this year's festival for a commercial run.


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7. Naked in a Fishbowl (8/17 show)




Rating: ***

Elegant, strong, and breathtaking Lauren Seikaly


For background on this unscripted show, please see the review of Episode #1.


Episode #3 revolved around death, life, and letting go.


The show began with Katharine Heller and Lynne Rosenberg pretending to be in a chapel while wearing outfits that ranged from "go-go dancer to stripper." Rosenberg described her ensemble as "fuchsia with f*ck me boots."


However, they were merely obeying the last wishes of the deceased—a theatre colleague of Seikaly's character—who requested that everyone wear pink to her funeral.


Seikaly then arrived in a strikingly beautiful dress, and holding her real-life baby daughter. The result made Seikaly look like a Greek goddess; and her sweet child was the perfect answer to the funeral, a reminder that death makes room for new life.


Also noteworthy is the confidence of these four performers, as it's a theatrical rule of thumb that  unless you're at the top of your game, a young child on stage is likely to distract the audience and steal the show.


However, these ace improvisors were always in charge. For example, when the baby starting crawling up a prop, Rosenberg quickly egged her on, saying, "Yeah, climb it! Climb it like it's a mountain...or a man!"


The baby's presence prompted discussion of another counter to life: not giving birth. Palughi arrived with an injured finger covered in bandages, and everyone quickly remarked on how it looked like a condom. And a bit later Heller tore into Seikaly—the only member of the group who's married, let alone a mother—by revealing some details that were apparently true, as the expression of utter shock on Seikaly's face seemed very real. I won't include them here as fodder for Google searches (you must come and experience such moments live...). But I genuinely admired Heller's commitment to the show's concept of putting everyone's lives naked on stage.


None of the women showed any grief about the deceased, instead demonstrating their feeling indirectly. Seikaly's character used the funeral as an opportunity to generate press for her off-Broadway play. Rosenberg talked to God using wise-cracks and—presumably so she'd feel more comfortable with a friend by her side— a naked hand-puppet that represented Palughi, and which spoke in a squeaky high-pitched voice. ('I don't sound like that!" Palughi responded squeakily.) Palughi discussed various ways people can die: "Sixty percent of food poisoning cases in New York are from bean sprouts." Seikaly tried to dissuade Palughi from moving to "Italy" by pointing out all the crime and other dangers there: "According to this Web site, Rome will be nuked within six years." And Heller began making snarky remarks, but was quickly rebuked by everyone else as "being pretty insensitive to the dead for someone who's recently seen a ghost."


There were also some potentially momentous turns in relationships. Palughi claimed to resolve things with her ex-husband (who was married to the character who'd died), finally letting him go. (And everyone agreed the dumbest reason to not move would've been for the sake of a guy.) Heller finally split up with the Republican boyfriend whose views she abhorred. They all decided life was easy for men, as "a guy just has to flash a wad of cash to attract women like gnats;" or to "sit in the park with a guitar, a baby, or a puppy." They also agreed to attend the cast party: "Of course there's a cast party after the funeral, there's a cast party after everything. And everyone turns bisexual after midnight."


My main quibble is that the subdued feelings about the funeral pretty much remained repressed throughout the show. That no one expressed an honest sentiment or related a personal experience about death struck me as the gals holding back too much; even New Yorkers aren't that cynical...


The show ended with at least a tip of the hat to heart, though. Each of the gals unsuccessfully tried to get a group sing-a-long going via such ditties as Old McDonald Had a Farm; but then they all settled on Amazing Grace as the final scene faded to black.


There are two performances left of this marvelous show, on Friday August 24th at 7:30 pm and Sunday August 26th at 2:15 pm. Come experience these four stars who are among the brightest lights of the festival.


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8. Naked in a Fishbowl (8/26 show)




Rating: ***

Sarcastic, sensitive, sexy Katharine Heller


For background on this unscripted show, please see the review of Episode #1.


To learn what happened in the previous Episode #4, please click here.


This was the conclusion of this wonderful cast's five-show run. No formal review; just a semi-sweet farewell.


Within 24 hours of this show wrapping, Brenna Palughi went off to earn her graduate degree at Yale Drama. As far as I know, this wonderful comedy troupe has been in limbo since; but here's hoping they make a comeback.


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9. Bukowsical!




Rating: ***


It's for musicals like this that they invented the word problematic.


The title Bukowsical! is very funny. And so are the lyrics of many of this show's songs by Gary Stockdale

and Spencer Green. For example, early on we're told:


He's a slave to his muse

Not to mention his booze.


Later Bukowski is visited by the ghosts of fellow alcoholics William Faulkner, William S. Burroughs, Sylvia Plath, and Tennessee Williams, who reveal the secret to success:


Don't worry about your commas and compunctions

It's your scatological functions

That will ensure your place in history...

You needn't suffer from writer's block

Just write about your cock.

Get down, get dark, get dirty.


Another memorable scene involves a New York attorney barging in to shut down the show, and being persuaded to relent via the cast's hilarious ode to the superficial joys of Los Angeles, which doesn't have NYC's museums or music or literature, but "where you can attend the taping of TV pilots...for free!"


Also terrific is the music, played by a talented four-man band. (One of the show's most delicious moments is Bukowski briefly turning to the band and remarking, 'You guys are great" before slipping back into his song...) And the cast is solid, with especially strong performances from Lauren Rubin, Fleur Phillips, and Marc Cardiff.


Unfortunately, one of the weakest performances is that of Bukowski, who comes across as dopey and unfeeling. That's not necessarily the actor's fault, though, as the entire show treats Bukowski with disdain—which is its main problem.


Henry Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories, and six novels, at one point having more than 45 books in print. There were also two feature films based on his life, 1987's Barfly and 2005's Factotum. Web site The Buk describes him this way:


Bukowski wrote with raw emotion and painted with words. His canvas was Los Angeles. Not the glitter, though. His Los Angeles was the stench of alleyways, broken dreams, broken hearts, winos, and of course...the horse track.


And scholar Jay Dougherty says:


[Bukowski is] dissatisfied with the status quo of writing, its conventions and models, and yet yearns to communicate his vision of a reality ignored by all those before him. He shocks the literary establishment with his aliterary style and his blunt language, his eagerness to "make it new..." He brings the American language alive on the page, the way it is spoken by the average American, and thereby delights readers who have long been disenchanted by literature's antiseptic content and alienating austerity.


In other words, there was realness, integrity, and wit in the best of the Buk's work. And he became one of the most influential writers of our time.


I didn't expect Bukowsical! to treat Bukowski with reverence. But I'd hoped for some insight into the man and evocation of his work.


Instead, the story consists of a series of shallow and intellectually lazy scenes about booze and barf, touching on only the most surface details of this author's life and spirit. I'd be fine with the show smartly satirizing and skewering Bukowski; but it merely dismisses him, as if he isn't worthy of much thought.


Some argue this show isn't about Bukowski at all, but—a la The Producers—a satire of how musicals turn any subject they tackle into vacuous drivel. Thing is, The Producers is actually about quite a lot, including the vital importance of pursuing dreams; and The Producers transcends what it satirizes to become one of the greatest theatre productions of all time.


In contrast, Bukowsical! doesn't manage to transcend anything; its story is ultimately just as empty as that of any other less-than-stellar Fringe musical. And if the authors set out to be dismissive, than why didn't they simply create a fictional character to trample on instead of exploiting the legacy of a great writer?


Bottom line: If you're a fan of Bukowski, chances are you'll hate this show.


But if you can ignore the disappointing story, and you appreciate funny, show-stopping numbers, there's much to enjoy in Bukowsical!


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10. Kelly Kinsella Live! Under Broadway




Rating: ***


Kelly Kinsella is an observant, witty, and very talented actress, and she's worked in Broadway productions ranging from Sound of Music to (currently) Jersey Boys.


The only problem: Kinsella doesn't operate on Broadway as a performer. She makes her living as a dresser—ironing clothes, laying out wardrobes, and helping actors change costumes between scenes.


Kinsella has dressed such stars as Bernadette Peters, Reba McEntire, Jeff Goldblum, and Liza Minnelli. But she yearns to be performing in Broadway productions rather than toiling behind or under them. This delightful one-woman show demonstrating her skills may help her achieve that goal.


In Live! Under Broadway, Kinsella plays nearly a dozen wildly eccentric characters she's encountered in her rise to the middle.


For example, there's her mother, who drinks wine by the box while asking Kelly why she hasn't married. And there's her young nephew, who provides such valuable perspectives as "Mommy and Daddy say you live like you're still in college, except you're not learning anything new and you don't have sex." He also advises her to get a dog, who will bark and get the neighbors if she's choking: "A cat will just sit and watch as you die."


Kinsella also has an Asian neighbor who scolds her for not being sufficiently thrifty: "Why you f*ck your money? You like old lady this morning, she throw away good cheese. I say, 'Hey, rich bitch, why you f*ck your cheese?' You want some? It good, I wiped it clean."


Just as interesting are her colleagues on Broadway, toiling on a (fictional) production about starving Africans being rescued by the efforts of Liza Minnelli and titled Suddenly Sudan.


Especially memorable is the stage hand whose wife just gave birth to twins, but who persists in hitting on Kinsella with such lines as, 'You are hot in that tight dress. I want to peel it off you like the wrapper off a Slim Jim" and "How about I take you out to eat and then eat you out?"


Also making an impression is the child actress who's terrified people will discover she's really 12, not 10; and who goes out socializing with cast members nightly even though she'd rather do homework because "Dumb is fleeting, but your career is forever."


Most notable, however, is the immortal Liza, who closes out the evening. Kinsella plays her with wicked verve as Minnelli forgets her lines, forgets what the show is about, and urges the audience to link limbs and love each other while she goes off in search of Tylenol.


Kelly Kinsella Live! Under Broadway is consistently smart and entertaining, and packed with laughs. Time will tell whether it'll be a successful springboard for getting Kinsella on stage for Broadway productions, but it has clear potential for its own NYC commercial run.


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11. The Hoarde




Rating: ***


The Hoarde is a superb 95-minute dance piece: kinetic, athletic, inventive, and always visually exciting. From VIssi Dance Theater and writer/director/choreographer Courtney Ffrench, the show provides a riveting mix of dance styles—modern, jazz, West African, funk, and ballet—executed by a small army of uniformly skilled dancers (with the charismatic Charles Logan and lithe Ariel Polanco as standouts). And the story of a murderous tribe that invades a peaceful village offers many extreme scenes of both joy and tragedy.


To give you some sense of the production's style, a few photos:





These images barely skim the surface; The Hoarde is jam-packed with marvelous scenes.


And it's so accessible, colorful, and energetic that even if you don't normally attend dance shows, you'll probably enjoy this one.


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12. Burn




Rating: ***


One of the most interesting shows at FringeNYC 2005 was Feud by Creighton James, about the infamous Appalachian grudge-match between the Hatfields and the McCoys (for my review, please click here). The McCoys were portrayed as an almost angelic family and the Hatfields as virtually demonic; and their clash resulted in uniform devastation.


In Burn, Creighton James paints a portrait of an 1860s Southern family that's more layered, with aspects both heavenly and hellish. The play starts out slowly—frankly, way too slowly—in an attempt to show us the domestic nuances of the family members and make us care about each of them. Then it introduces two black men; and it demonstrates, in measured steps, how the institution of slavery desensitizes the family, allowing it to accept increasingly terrible acts of exploitation and violence by the strong over the helpless.


For example, when one of the women in the family resists slaughtering a chicken, she's told, "We got to kill chickens. It's why the animals are here, for us to live on. It's the natural order." The repercussions of that statement become sad and dark.


The show features beautifully moody direction by Adam Arian, terrific period costumes designed by Ryan Rossetto, evocative sound work by Sanaz Ghajarrahimi and lighting by Greg Mitchell, and uniformly fine acting by the cast: Tory Andrus, Leon Addison Brown, Will Brunson, Pierce Cravens, Jeannine Frumess,

C. J. Gelfand, Don Guillory, Amy Hattemer, Derek Wilson, Liz Wisan, and Jason Yachanin.


The biggest problem is that at an hour and 40 minutes, the play is around 30 minutes too long. Either the snail-like pace of the first act should be revved up or the drama of those initial scenes deepened.


That said, by its end the play delivers a powerful emotional message. If you can tolerate its flaws, you may find yourself ultimately haunted by this ghost story.


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13. 36:24:36




Rating: ***

Candice Holdorf, Ann Malinowsky, and Naomi McDougall Jones

Erin O'Connell, Stephanie Schweitzer, and Danielle Tafeen


I've learned to dread the theatre credit "Written by cast." No matter how sharp the actors involved, a bunch of amateur writers getting together to create a script by committee typically results in disaster.


This show about eating disorders was therefore a happy surprise. It works because while the performers aren't professional writers, they're all experts on the show's subject: Each of them has suffered from anorexia, bulimia, or some other extreme food-related behavior. (They were recruited by Ann Malinowsky—a dynamic, quick-witted actress and plus-size model who's pictured above—via Craigslist.) And over the course of 90 minutes, they relate intimate details about their experiences...which are often gripping.


The production begins with the cast on the floor, waking up to start the day. Some deal with hunger pangs; others, vomit splashed on the bathroom wall; and others, broken blood vessels in their faces. But all are grateful for the night's sleep...because it was time when they didn't have to worry about eating.


For some, the problems began early in life: drinking diet Coke in kindergarten.


For others, they started during a phase of insecurity. One actress began with a modest diet, and a male friend remarked, "Hey, you look great! Have you lost weight?" Instead of being pleased, her internal reaction was, "Geez, was I ugly and fat before this? I better lose a lot more..."


Such self-esteem issues also manifest themselves in other ways. As the entire cast put it, "I must be hot if he's hitting on me. I must be hot if he's buying me a drink. I must be hot if he's f*cking me."


And, of course, there's the issue of control: "I want to be disciplined, strong, clean, worthwhile, good enough...If I have no control over anything else, at least I have my looks." Over time, some even heard voices in their heads that repeated such thoughts over and over, like a dysfunctional tape recorder.


And so they went on various "diets,' such as the four Cs: coffee, cocaine, cigarettes, and sugar-free Coke. "Five to seven cups of coffee a day and cigarettes—you can live on that, right?"


Or they took to vomiting. One actress spent about six minutes throwing up after each time she ate, and did so 10 times a day, losing an hour a day to just puking.


Or they became obsessive about what they ate—such as the actress who devoted four hours a day to planning her meals and measuring her food.


Another form of obsession involves exercise; one actress spent up to six hours a day in the gym.


As the whole cast tells us, "It's not hard to develop an eating disorder. It's living with it that's the problem."


Some starved themselves to the point where sex was too painful; or to where their periods stopped for a year or more, and they wondered if they'd ever be a complete woman again.


There's also one male in the cast, Gavin Bellour. He threw up his meals for four years, and "there's nothing that takes away your manhood quite like bulimia." His lack of nutrition ended up making him too weak to engage in sports, or do his best at work, or even perform well in bed.


To keep things from getting overly grim, there are periodic infusions of humor, such as mock-commercials for extreme diet products (written by cast member Candice Holdorf). The impulse is a good one; and the show would be improved with even more comedy that was smart and on-target.


Also helpful would be music to help guide audience emotions and expectations. There are currently numerous blackouts between scenes (for costume changes) and they take place in silence, giving the segues an inappropriate funereal quality.


Finally, the show would benefit from the development of more characters and stories—either fictional, or based on the real lives of the performers. The production currently has a documentary feel to it, which is fine for the cast's current plans to tour high schools and colleges nationwide to warn students of the dangers of extreme dieting. But if they want to achieve a NYC commercial run, they'll probably need to bring in a professional writer to lend the script more depth and emotional hooks.


But considering the cast is a bunch of women with control issues, that the show already works as well as it does is a small miracle. Kudos to the performers for pulling it off; and to director James Duff, who's done a beautiful job guiding and shaping the production.


And speaking of beautiful: Every single cast member is highly attractive and vibrant. That these amazing women suffered from eating disorders indicates how pervasive the problem is; and why this show is worth catching.


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14. Give and Go: Learning from Losing to the Harlem Globetrotters




Rating: ***


Brandt Johnson calls his show "semi-autobiographical," which I assume means parts are exaggerated—and that he has wiggle room in case anyone he parodies feels like suing him.


But whether strictly adhering to historical fact or not, everything in his story feels true.


This one-man show tells of Johnson's failed attempt at professional basketball leading to a career as an investment banker...and then to his learning how to dance.


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15. Jazz Hand: Tales of a One Armed Woman




Rating: ***


The title of this production made me expect an East Village conceptual play employing a missing arm as a metaphor for existential angst.


The actual show is much more down to earth—and substantially finer. It's based on the real life experiences of Mary Theresa Archbold, who was born missing an arm...and is one of the most engaging, endearing, and talented performers to grace the festival.


And instead of providing anything heavy-handed, Archbold gives us a very funny series of autobiographical vignettes that are "slightly exaggerated...but often closer to the truth than you'd suspect."


For example, the show starts with Archbold tap-dancing brilliantly for a musical audition. As she makes a particularly theatrical gesture, though, her prosthetic left hand goes flying off across the stage. She then gamely tries to scoop up the hand and continue her routine as if nothing went wrong...


Other semi-factual scenes from Archbold's life include problems dating because of the dreaded moment when a guy would discover she was wearing a prosthetic; being turned down by a track coach at the Special Olympics because "missing an arm isn't a handicap, it's an inconvenience;" and learning how to perform simple tasks we take for granted, such as tying shoelaces.


In fact, Archbold asks for audience participants to try the latter task using only one hand. For her premiere show, the volunteers ended up being two adorable young girls who were her nieces. After a minute of struggle, one of the girls asked, "Can I use my teeth?" In a very maternal tone, Archbold replied, "No, you may not." After another couple of minutes, though, Archbold looked at the clock and, to my utter delight, said, "Okay, use your teeth." The plucky gal did so, and quickly completed the task to applause and laughter.


The show is full of laughs. Archbold is a comedy expert, being a veteran of ImprovOlympic and Chicago's Second City, and she currently teaches improv comedy at NYC's Magnet Theatre. Further, the production co-stars her husband, Pat Shay, a longtime student of the godfather of improv Del Close, and a former coach at ImprovOlympic; and is directed by Kevin Allison, who's the Artistic Director of NYC's Peoples Improv Theatre.


Which isn't to say there aren't also moments of touching poignancy. In one flashback, Archbold discusses her reservations about having children with Shay: "What if they turn out like me? I don't want to do that to anyone, to bring them into the world missing an arm." Shay replies, "Remember what your dad said when you were born? He looked at you, then told your mom, 'God placed her with the right family.' If our children have a disability, God will have placed them with the right family too."


At the end of the show, Archbold explains that she's danced in dozens of musicals, but always by choreographers such as Jerome Robbins who focus on big athletic movements. She laments that she's never been cast in a Bob Fosse musical—because she can't do "jazz hands." She then solves this problem in a way that reminds us we're all connected...and will have you leaving the theatre smiling.


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16. Drop Six: Mister Lucky




Rating: ***


Drop Six is a superb NYC-based sketch troupe that makes great use of physical comedy, at times combined with music and dance.


The group—consisting of Marcus Bonnée, Tim Girrbach, Alicia Levy, Rodney Umble, and director Larry Rosen—was awarded Best of the Fest by Second City at the 2006 Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival. And it was a smash at FringeNYC, providing numerous smart scenes and happy moments.


There are many sketch shows I've seen at FringeNYC that felt like they were there to fill some "comedy" quota. Happily, that's not the case here; this troupe is world-class. If you like sketch comedy, or simply enjoy laughing, I recommend Drop Six.


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FringeNYC 2007 Encore Series


The festival ended on August 26th, but life continues for at least 12 FringeNYC 2007 shows. That's how many have been extended for runs during August 30th through September 16th, with the performances taking place at the West Village's Soho Playhouse and the East Village's 45 Bleecker Street Theatre.


Tickets are $18 each at the door.


Alternatively, you can purchase tickets for $18 each online via Web site FringeNYC-Encores.com or by calling (212) 691-1555. Please note: There's normally a $3 per-ticket service charge for advance sales. However, you can avoid this by using code TMES (when ordering online, enter TMES into the Promotional Code box). This gives you the convenience of buying in advance without having to pay even a penny extra for your tickets.


I've seen all 12 of the Encore shows. I can happily recommend, in rough order of preference, A Beautiful Child, Lights Rise on Grace, As Far As We Know, Piaf: Love Conquers All, Bombs in Your Mouth, Paper Son, and Jamaica, Farewell; which are all fine productions and worth catching. Also of definite interest, though more mixed bags, are Riding the Bull and Hillary Agonistes. And shows so problematic you might want to just go to a movie instead are Mary Brigit Poppleton is Writing a Memoir, ...Double Vision, and I Dig Doug.


The titles, venues, and showtimes for all the productions selected for extension are as follows:



If you click the title of any show listed above, you'll open a window for either the show's Web site or my review of the show (over the next couple of months, I'll be writing reviews of each of these productions).


The two Manhattan theatres where the FringeNYC 2007 Encore Series shows will be performed are:



Please note that these extra performances were not organized by the folks who run FringeNYC, but by Britt Lafield and John Pinckard. To learn more, please visit FringeNYC-Encores.com and click the About Us/Staff option.


The FringeNYC extensions are a great chance to catch shows missed in August; and also an opportunity to drag friends to productions you saw during the festival and loved.


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Shows That Sold Out Performances


The following shows sold out via advance tickets sales during the festival for the performances noted:


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Added Performances


The following performances were added during the festival for shows that were popular enough to sell out frequently via advance and/or at the door sales:


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Useful FringeNYC Links


The primary source of information about the festival is the official Web site at FringeNYC.org. More specifically:



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Fast Food Recommendations


Opinions about fast food are way more subjective than theatre reviews. That said, if you're seeking quick nourishment before racing to your next show, here are some personal favorite eateries located in FringeNYC venue neighborhoods:


None of these stores have any idea I'm saying this, by the way; but if you're hunting for the best shows, you might as well consume the best fast food while you're at it...


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

Introduction to FringeNYC


FringeNYC 2007 Performers Gallery

(nearly three dozen production photos, many unique

 to this site; click any photo to pop up its description)


Festival News & Buzz


Show Rankings


Show Reviews


FringeNYC 2007 Encore Series

Shows That Sold Out Performances

Shows That Received Added Performances


Useful FringeNYC Links

Fast Food Recommendations


FringeNYC 2008 Coverage

FringeNYC 2006 coverage

FringeNYC 2005 coverage

Hy on Theatre

Hy on Theatre Discounts

Hy on Human Giant

Comedy in the Moment: Del Close Improv Marathon

SketchFest NYC 2007

Home Page


Other Sites:





Copyright © 2007-2008 Hy Bender

Email: hy@hyreviews.com