FringeNYC report: Day 2
My Fringe Friday started off with a bang, or at any rate, a birthday. Mark Sam Rosenthal, writer and star of the solo show I Light Up My Life: The Mark Sam Celebrity Autobiography at Dixon Place, was celebrating his, and not just as part of the show. At least, I hope it wasn’t part of the show, because I skipped out before they cut the cake.
The show itself takes the conceit of the tawdry, self-involved genre of celeb autobiographies and turns it into an intensely-honed farce by presenting a “preemptive” celebrity autobiography, that is to say, one written by someone not actually famous… yet. Like many celebrity autobiographies, I Light Up My Life dwells extensively on childhood memories, adolescent stage triumphs (Mr. Mushnik in Little Shop of Horrors for one), and adult flirtations with fame (one-time porn star, “gay” character in regional department store commercials, losing contestant on the American version of the Cash Cab game show). Perhaps best known in Fringe circles for his solo piece Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire, Rosenthal’s latest offering is a high-octane, snark-filled romp through the twisted corridors of his own memory (“Do you remember remembering?” he asks in his prologue, and for a moment we all had to think it over). He doesn’t miss a beat during the entire 80-minute, almost uniformly hilarious production. His accompanying slide show of memory-lane photos, designed by director Todd Parmley, enhances the material as intended, rather than inadvertently obstruct it, as is frequently the drawback of poorly-directed or poorly-timed projections.
Over at Cherry Lane Studio a more typical “confessional” solo show, Craving, celebrated its opening night not with cake, but certainly with memories of cakes past. A gracefully understated monologue, Craving traces the author and actor Delphine Brooker’s adolescent struggles with bulimia and anorexia, which served to complicate an already confusing battle to attain adulthood—and autonomy. Armed with a flimsy scarf, which stood in at various points as a prom gown, a party dress, and a little pink bikini, Brooker describes in sometimes excruciating detail a descent into illness masquerading as fitness. At one point, she confesses she was down to 72 pounds, until finally, she came to realize what she was doing to herself, and set out to reverse it. What is lacking in the narrative is a satisfying journey for the audience back through the rabbit hole and into the light, which she alludes to, but fails to describe in depth. In contrast to her soul-baring candor for the first three-fourths of the show, this glossing over of her self-willed recovery feels abrupt and unfinished, as if there’s a piece of the story being left out for reasons we can only guess at.
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