FringeNYC report: Closing notes (Rock Me Like a…)
Well, try as we might, no human drama can muster up quite the same impact as all the combined forces of Mother Nature. So with a whimpering bang, the New York International Fringe Festival (and most other theaters in the city) has decided to batten its hatches and shutter its doors two full days earlier than scheduled. And so, with little ado, I must take my leave of you, Rushers, and bid you a fond farewell. Alas, it’s too late for these mini reviews to persuade you to rush out and see these shows this weekend (my original intention), but at the very least they may persuade you to check out these companies’ work in the future. Maybe even at next year’s Fringe.
PigPen Theatre Co., last year’s FringeNYC winners for Overall Excellence in a Production, returned this year with PigPen Presents: The Mountain Song, a disarming yet bittersweet tale set in Appalachia, as narrated by an amiable mountain (Ben Ferguson). If you failed to see their award-winning The Nightmare Story, last year, you can catch it this October at Brooklyn’s Irondale Center.
Chein de Moi by In the Basement Theater Company is an ensemble dance work created by Carnegie Mellon students, which offered perhaps the most visually arresting imagery of the Fringe. A slightly nightmarish yet dynamic dreamscape populated by ethereal flowers, puckish trees, persistent lovers, and above all, dogs who ”walk like men,” whose eerie masks scorched an indelible brand on my brain. Much of the action centered around the dreamer (Ava Deluca-Verley) in a series of vignettes loosely tied together by the recurring roles of “Lady Bolt” (Grace Rao) and “The Ringleader” (John McKetta).
Butoh Electra was purely Fringe—an intriguing concept pushed to the edge of a possibility, if not quite over the top of it. Billed as a “workshop production,” one hopes the newly-formed Ume Group will continue developing this martial-arts/butoh-tinged amorality tale set in feudal Japan, but based on Greek mythology. Hannah Scott, who plays Electra, is a total badass.
The Only Child, presented by New York Artist’s Community and 2 Burn, presented by Elixir Productions were good examples of the darker side of Fringe. Both dramas were populated by thoroughly unlikable characters, and were in many ways incredibly hard to bear, yet something about each compelled the viewer to reflect on them long after the lights came up.
Leonard Cohen Koans and Destinations could not have been more different—but they did each play at Le Poisson Rouge and they each provided an intriguing twist on a familiar concept. Ali and the Thieves from the glorious land of Oz (‘tralia, that is) took famous and not so famous songs, fables, and quotations of Leonard Cohen’s (apparently with his blessing) and turned them into a cool, blue, jazzy lounge act, which was polished and fun. Whereas Destinations was a rock musical which set up the notion of a reunion tour of a classic rock band circa 1985. Particular kudos to Lee Michael Buckman and Amy Casey for having some real rock-and-roll-flair, not to mention chops. Overall, the whole cast was a strong one, and the music eminently hummable.