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Fringe Favorites 2013, First Week

Fringelogosweek1Nearly every show I saw during the first week of the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival gave me a measure of satisfaction — unusual for the Fringe. In other words, I lucked out.

Here are five that I reviewed for Broadway World,  ranked starting with my favorite, with links to the full reviews, and whether there are any performances left.

GertrudeSteinSaints

Gertrude Stein’s Saints

 

Dressed all in white, singing like angels and dancing like the devil, the 13 performers of “Gertrude Stein’s Saints” are young, energetic, talented, and, let’s face it, hot enough to be cast in Glee. (One of them, Jordan Phillips, has already appeared as a guest star on the TV series.) What’s most remarkable about this ensemble, all of them drama students at Carnegie Mellon University, is that, instead of covering songs by Journey or Rihanna, they have composed original music and turned two inaccessible avant-garde operas into a rousing entertainment.

 

Performing as part of the 17th annual New York International Fringe Festival, the group, calling itself Theatre Plastique, has adapted two librettos by Gertrude Stein.

 

Remaining Fringe performances: None

 

Bruce Vilanch in Rubble

Bruce Vilanch in Rubble

Rubble

“Rubble,” written by “The Simpsons” long-time staff writer and producer Mike Reiss and starring “Hollywood Square” Bruce Vilanch, has more one-liners than a comedian’s stand-up routine, and not much more of a plot. Vilanch, a long-time TV writer, plays Alvin, a long-time TV writer who can no longer get work in Hollywood because of his age and irascibility, but is invited back by a network executive (Amy Wilson) to make one final pitch, because the network is being sued for age discrimination and “you’re over 50.”

…Fifteen minutes into the scene, the stage rumbles, the lights flicker; the characters are caught in an L.A. earthquake, and when the lights return, Alvin is stuck up to his neck in…rubble.

What follows for the next hour would not be mistaken for a piece by Samuel Beckett

 

The Player’s Theater.

Fringe performances remaining:  THU 22 @ 9:15  SAT 24 @ 10:15  SUN 25 @ 2:30

TheSpider1The Spider

A man and a woman sit naked in a bathtub. He complains about her cooking, she about his breath and his smoking. A married couple? No, brother and sister. Odd, incestuous behavior for siblings? They are conjoined twins – more commonly called Siamese twins.

But these are Bulgarians. “The Spider,” one of the international entries in the New York International Fringe Festival, is a production of a Bulgarian company called Theatre B+, which is about the grade I would give it. The hour-long play, performed in Bulgarian with English super titles, presents enough brutal twists and haunting turns to keep our attention, helped along by the bravura acting of the two-member cast, Penko Gospodinov and Anastassia Liutova.

Fringe performances remaining: None

Someone To Belong To

Someone To Belong To

Someone To Belong To

If “Someone To Belong To,” a musical about advertising copywriters in the 1960s, seems to be capitalizing on the popularity of “Mad Men,” the story behind this Fringe show is actually far more interesting than that.

Last year, seven years after her father’s death, Christine DeNoon discovered some 100 songs that her father David DeNoon had written over decades in his spare time. She enlisted Lorie Steele to help her write a musical around some dozen of those songs. The setting is Madison Avenue in the early 1960s because her father worked as an advertising copywriter at Grey Advertising and then Young and Rubicam during that time; he was best known for the Excedrin headache commercials, a series of quick and clever vignettes.

“Someone To Belong To” turns out to be a sweet, trifling romantic comedy, with pleasing songs that are generally more distinguished for their clever lyrics than their melodies. The story is a 75-minute labor of love about two pairs of lovers that, except for a few songs, seems only incidentally set in its time and place – although it could have been written back then.

Theatre 80

 Performances remaining: SAT 17 @ 7:00  MON 19 @ 1:30  SUN 25 @ 3:30

BradleyCole

Bradley Cole

Bradley Cole has one million followers on Twitter. He lives in a penthouse, and hangs out with Anderson Cooper. He doesn’t really exist.

He is the invention of Ian, the main character in “Bradley Cole,” a lively 80-minute musical at the New York International Fringe Festival with 16 tuneful songs, an energetic cast, and a plot that applies the gloss of the Twitter-topical to what feels like a mash-up of every predictable show known to mankind: a romantic comedy, a coming-out story, a workplace comeuppance, a spoof of TV, a morality tale about the downside of fame, Cyrano de Bergerac, Paula Deen’s Home Cooking.

Theatre 80

Fringe performances remaining:  SUN 18 @ 6:45  THU 22 @ 8:15  FRI 23 @ 3:30

 

Visit Fringe.org for details.

A reminder that some of the best-liked shows at the Fringe are presented again in the Fringe Encore series shortly afterwards, so you haven’t necessarily missed any of these for good.

Any suggestions for the second week?

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About New York Theater
Jonathan Mandell is a 3rd generation NYC journalist, who sees shows, reads plays, writes reviews and sometimes talks with people.

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