FringeNYC 2013 has Some Excellent Creative Juice that Squeeezes Very Nicely

Remember Philip Seymour Hoffman....
2017!
"Nutcracker Rouge"
CINEMASTAGE_FringeBlogNYC2014
FRINGE NYC 2013 - So Far!
2013 Starting the Year (January) With a Few Good Promises
Current THEATER Reviews - for 2013
"MANIPULATION" at Cherry Lane
Fringe 2012
Fringe 2011 (NYC)
onStage with "HERE COMES THE CHANGE"
Some Things in 2008 Worth Remembering: First "Happy Days" at BAM, then The Scottish Tale
Prior to 2007
Past REVIEWS: "OPUS"; "WALMARTOPIA", "DIVIDING THE ESTATE"
Angelica Torn
New York Timers - Friel's "Freedom"

Good Art - the Creative Force of Original Expression and Truth,  contains Many Rooms
Here are a Few Good Critiques of the 2013 Fringe NYC representations.
"BULLY" - showing at the Sourros Theatre on MacDougal Street
 
"BULLY", by Lee J. Kaplan and directed by Padraic Lillis is
a 1-hour long show, but surely well used from start to finish.
 * Sub-titled as "It's the fight of his life", this Bully offers a 
pugilistic looking over as it relates some real life memories
of the character (the actor himself); this new one-man play 
is an energized - on all four pistons - autobiographical exam
of a painful childhood past of the middle class kind.  Kaplan,
fit as a fiddle, in a tight, taut, highly expressive journey that
is travelled in a shared recall with a nice but gregarious
audience, tells us much - and gives us much.  "BULLY" shows
Kaplan the amateur sports boxer as he travels on memory lane
without the sentiment, and we all get enjoyably caught up in
his gutsy way of stepping into the ring (metaphor alert)! Kaplan
then shares: as he grew away amid and from the viscious, mean 
wreckage of targeted bullying (he, the target), the details are
given out. In elementary school, he gets pushed around, plus
knocked down, hit, and spat upon, and all done by a bad cabal
of hateful co-students. Kaplan uses visuals (slides) which, save
for one (his school portrait photo as a 12 year old) are not very
needed. After all, we have Lee Kaplan, successfully showing his
watchers and listeners quite a bit as he disguises his fair nature
with a hard favored rage.  But not always of course; Kaplan even
possesses a truthful charm that befriends us while he expresses
his own felt pain, - and we get to feel it too. Fortunately it appears
that he had the love of his family behind him, coupled with a fine
appreciation of his Jewish roots - offering as much as possible a
genuine haven for passage into later life.  "BULLY" is worth a visit.
But 'ya better hurry. Tickets may be becoming scarcer and scarcer.
 - KEVIN MARTIN
  
 "ALABAMA BOUND" Defly performed with intelligence, economy,
and feeling in this one-woman show, Linda Nalbandian has aimed
squarely at the heart for bringing to life a slew of truly-human women -
wit, warts and all.  Nalbandian portrays five distinct characters  from
various backgrounds (meet Dixie, a nice and tipsy 9-1-1 dispatcher;
Miss Evelyn, a mere 83-year-old nursing home resident with a surprise;
Loretta - and her mother-in-law; Alice, the beautician, and Dominique
who is in prison). "ALABAMA BOUND" is enjoyably directed by Charlotte
Higgins, and presented at the White Box, 440 Lafayette Street. 
- KEVIN MARTIN
 
 "VERY LITTLE" - this is a little 35-40 minute nugget dealing with fatal
circumstances taking place in and among the gatherings and scatterings
of Union soldiers in an Everglades locale in Florida - in 1863.  How hot is
that?  The story also involves the life of a woman attired in a Rebel jacket
facing her own eternal fire, and how the Yankees are affected by this and
other doings is very interesting indeed.  Cleanly directed, "VERY LITTLE"
is very good.  Showing at Teatro Circulo,64 East 4th Street             
- KEVIN MARTIN
 
"OLD FAMILIAR PLACES"  Nat Cassidy writes and directs a
somewhat lengthy effort of over 2.5 hours revealing the
Shakespearean impact - of sorts - placed on two lives as
they figure out their relationship to themselves vis a vis the
Bard's presence in the learning consciousness of passion.  This
is a bright and curious play and doesn't disappoint in any big
way; though - try as they might - the stage chemistry between
the the two "modern" characters (James Patrick Nelson and
Marianne Miller) felt a bit  too thin at times. Tandy Cronin (of
superb creative genealogy) and Sam Tsoutsouvas (remember
the name) fare beautifully together as the other-time-and-
place pair of characters - brother and sister style ala Victorian
living - and help bring the piece into sharper focus. "OLD
AMILIAR LACES" is full of surprising wit at times and how the
story of Shakespearean inflluence unfolds here is mostly fun
to see and hear and feel.   Showing at the Players Theatre,
115 Macdougal Street      - KEVIN MARTIN
 
 "THE RUFUS EQUATION" "THE RUFUS EQUATION" is a lively,
clever, appealing new, first play by Ted Cubbin, with a sharp-witted
pen pointed toward a university physics department, - with its
members' very human affairs almost scientifically played out by a
cast of six good actors, efficiently directed by Tom Ridgely. And, it
seems clear that this is a playwright who knows his stuff, - atoms,
molecules, static electricity - you name it.  The writer also works
out some of the finite parts of human interaction - which adheres in
part to the whims of one of its main wizard-ish characters named
Bert (nicely realized by George Arend) in his pursuit of falling in love
and maybe even staying there for a while.  It seems that loving and
getting loved (getting laid of course) requires new and creative
experimentation for some folks. Alas, Bert tries, and gets to first base,
which is pretty much a big score for some nerds in this world. 
But he is a likeable and brilliant guy, and I don't want to give out too
much detail about what unfolds in the beginning, middle, and end.  All
the actors rise to the occasion, so to speak, and if you don't learn as
much about physics as you could or ought to, or even want to - this
is still one of the better shows of the Fringe.  An extra good standout
among the actors comes forward, brightly, near the end of the story by
Pierre Epstein as Ed, a seasoned and more senior of the brains here, and
who eloquently recalls his long-ago and faraway encounter with no less
than the master physicist himself, Albert Einstein, reflecting on how anyone
could be able to ever know how to truly discover beauty.  Something to think
about.  "RUFUS EQUATION" is playing at the Connelly Theatre at 220 East 4th Street.
  - KEVIN MARTIN
 
"EN AVANT! AN EVENING WITH TENNESSEE WILLIAMS", at Kabayitos on Suffolk Street, is a drabby one-man performance on Tennessee Williams, weakly written and performed by William Shuman and conspicuously misdirected by Ruis Woertendyke that ran an eternal hour and twenty-five minutes.  The end of this so-called theatrical piece was never so deeply welcomed - when it finally arrived.  The actor runs through a chronology of Williams' early, struggling efforts as a writer - in the face of a disapproving, miserable father - to his meteoric moment of success with a triumphant new work, "The Glass Menagerie" ("success" was regarded with apt mistrust as the "catastrophe of success" by the pained playwright himself).  The piece drones on, however, with overly familiar items such as Williams' sexuality, Lorette Taylor becoming the first famous Amanda to play in "Menagerie", and a young Marlon Brando doing a very important house repair before auditioning - and then getting the role of Stanley in "A Streetcar Named Desire". Also mentioned are later travails and exploitations (by others) that enter and exit the Tennessee Williams orbit. We get to hear these details and occasionally witty reflections, but we don't get the "play", so to to speak. The deep emotional levels - a Tennessee Williams quality that shines through most of his poetic brilliance - are limited here in any kind of expression. Most of the time - the actor reaches for a drink from his little mini-bar, conveniently on hand.  There is also an old typewriter on display (lest we forget that Tennessee Williams was an author and playwright). The most dramatic detail related to this production is the point that it is to return to the boards very soon for a new, perhaps limited, run.  
  - KEVIN MARTIN    
 
"STRANGE RAIN" at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre, 45 Bleecker Street, is a
truthful, sharply drawn cautionary tale of American politics, culture, and
science - done right and crisply by the fine writing of Lynda Crawford. It is 
a warning to the post-50's generation(s) of men and women in this land on
government's strange, perhaps ominous grip on the natural rights of ordinary
humans.  "STRANGE RAIN" pertains to our climate and weather conditions.
(Still need to wonder about the perils of climate change couched in government and
private interests' secrecy with their insatiable thirst for power and profit)? 
One can get easily spooked when thinking of the spooks who may REALLY be
running the show of our daily society.  Global warming, where are you?  Oh,
you are already here! "STRANGE RAIN" is done with a smooth, clear direction
by Simone Federman. If you see this very socially, morally important work,
consider yourself duly warned. (That's meant as a complement). High
production values are in evidence, and the whole thing is superbly acted
through and through.   - KEVIN MARTIN
 
 
 
 
 
 

Worth seeing - with or without your umbrella...
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FringeNYC Highlight

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"THE UNFORTUNATES" - at Teatro Latea, 107 Suffolk Street, weaves a yarn of expected, bloody fatality along the lines of Jack the Ripper infamy, in London over 120 years ago.  The Ripper murdering of prostitutes was never solved.  In this one-woman , multi-character depiction of the seedy environment in which these bloody deeds were done, actor Diana Cherkas (mainly as the prostitute Mary Jane Kelly dallying and drumming up trade in the Whitechapel area of London)  gives a Herculean exercise of communicating - and showing -  the ghastly and banal doings that enshroud that time and place. The action of telling all by Mary Jane - referring to all the comings and goings of those Ripper days - takes place in an empty - filled out by Mary Jane's portrayal of all those types within the squalid environs: the madam, other prostitutes, the bar keep, other men, other "coppers", other locals.  Together these characters put many pieces of the local society puzzle together - although we never get a full appreciation.  This was more a writing challenge than an acting challenge.  Although sufficiently staged by Ryan Scott Whinnem, there is a ton of information squeezed into the 80-plus minutes. Cherkas does a fairly fine job with it  - with an energy reserve in full usage.  The set - specifically the bar, known as "Ten Bells"  (and thusly, bells do some real chiming, death-knell style, during the piece) - is rather unevocative, considering the extraordinary, dramatic dimensions to be explored with this particularly true and eerie subject.  The "outside" footpath leading to the bar is otherwise far more persuasive. (Why was a bar the needed setting for Mary Jane to speak her speech, anyway)?  Fortunately, however, "THE UNFORTUNATES", is certainly worth seeing - not only for mere groundlings, but for criminology and forensic buffs as well. There's a good deal of intelligence at work here. The sound effects (horse trots, faraway voices) were excellent and lighting was (atmospherically) just about right.
 
"JACK LONDON - SEX, LOVE, AND REVOLUTION" written both intelligently and clumsily (not easy to do) by Ben Goldstein but directed more clumsily and less intelligently by Kimberly Loren Eaton. 'JL-S,L, and R' is chock full of appetizing bits of biography of the great literary master and political and human rights supporter, Jack London. London's writing prowess of course is impossible to overlook ("1,000 words a day"!, the character of Jack London exclaims here).  The piece is a 2-acter and seems to want to tell us everything about Jack - love, lust, and literature and the people that interlace with his life in as little time as possible - which would mean that a less-than 2-hour outing - while lengthy for the wrong reasons here - is not enough to squeeze it all in for audience satisfaction.  There were dizzying exits and entrances that would have even baffled Mack Sennett.  The actors were mainly good, though the lead actor (Xander Chauncey as Jack London) was afflicted with mis-cast disease (sometimes fatal) - in spite of his appeal. Save for the truthful fact that Jack London is a supremely worthy writer and artist to appreciate, the production here is more of a traffic jam than an (artistic) jam session.  Other actors fare well in spite of it all: Cara Loften was wonderful and self-respecting as Bess, and Erika Amato was a natural inspiration and energizer to the task as Ninetta/Narrator.    (Staged at C.O.W., 21 Clinton Street)                  - KEVIN MARTIN
 
"THE BAPTIST" is a thrilling bit of psychosis as theatre, redolent of the social, collective patterns of the emotional and physical/sexual abuse rampant in various segments of the U.S. culture; in this presentation, playwright and director Kristen Lishen works up an excellent mix of morals and pseudo-morals acted out by the most "respecable" types, - in this case, the preacher/pastor Russell Lawrence, played with evil, dynamic righteousness by David M. Farrington. (The entire cast is top-notch). Russell's family serves as a backdrop and protective cover of sorts for his somewhat-secret and predatory lifestyle.  He is a demon with baby charm, and Matthew-Verse this and that when it suits him. His sons and daughter and wife are all part of the collateral suffering.  Russel's pattern of Bible thumpi-ness brings to mind those Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant clerics that have used their authority or official positions to create an institution of convenient abuse and brutality, meting out all the mean exploitation on people, children and dependent adults included. Russell has even turned his wife into a criminally violated human being - almost gone cuckoo as a result. Why are these criminals always getting to do this things?  Russell is evil because he has lived a lie and found the ministry to serve as his nefarious shelter.  Think Jerry Sandusky, "youth-counsellor" as well as any person of the cloth, and you can see that our society has some major, further reflecting to do. This is a scary, important work.  (Lynn Redgrave Theatre)  - KEVIN MARTIN
 
 "THE SPIDER" at C.O.W. , 21 Clinton Street; Martin (Penko Gospodinov) and Martha (Anastassia Liutova) are adult, fully mature Siamese twins in the prime of their lives,  - but also rather doomed - for both desiring and needing a much touted operation that will separate them.  This is clearly a powerful, original piece of theatre, encountering the very question of life's purposes and consequences, all audacious in its ponderation, but not easily forgotten. These are adults searching for physical and mental salvation by way of a serious life and death decision making process, following the recent death of their over-bearing, domineering mother. Sister is more in favor of the procedure than brother is, who suffers misgivings at the thought of "life" afterward. The decision, ideally, would need to be mutual, after all. There is a great and intimidating existential wariness at play here and through the expressed, built-in consideration of things such as love, dependency, empathy, and ultimate individual free choice.  The ending, or end, of the experience gained from the shared (albeit hesitant at times) approval of Siamese separation offers little counsel for cheer.  Tragic indicators lurk more ominously as a natural result: loss, confusion, new and unforeseen daily challnges, grief, even illness and death. If this all sounds as a "downer", it really isn't.  What we have here is a heartfelt message of hope for the living, regardless of all mortal unpredictability. "THE SPIDER" is a Bulgarian import, with Bulgarians running the show, cast and crew in particular. (English subtitles are on a back screen directly behind the scenes).  Written and directed with appealing sensitivity by both Dimitar Dimitrov and Yordan Slaveykov, "THE SPIDER" offers effective lighting, unique and suitably original music, as well as smart scenic and costume design to an audience swept along in both sympathy and fascination.  "THE SPIDER" crawls into the memory, weaves its powerful web of brilliant story-telling, and stays there. This is one of the Fringe's very best.  - KEVIN MARTIN
 

   

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