FringeNYC report: Day 9
It’s always fun to try and seek out the fringe of the Fringe—the unclassifiable shows with vague program blurbs and clever concepts that are even harder to find outside the context of Fringe than within it. A trio of inventive plays caught my attention over the past few days and will hopefully catch yours during the next.
Looking to satiate my geek streak, I stumbled across Theatre of the Arcade (Venue 14, Bleecker Street Theatre), a series of five short plays each set in a different video game world as if written by a famous playwright. Opening with an homage to both Frogger and Samuel Beckett entitled “Monologue for a Single Player,” a bowler-hatted character (Timothy McCown Reynolds) navigates the absurdity of only three directions in which to step, and the persistence of death moving along with him. The next play, The Alabaster Nymph, proves the strongest of the bunch, setting Donkey Kong in a desperate, Tennessee Williams-influenced drama where Josh Mertz’ Joe and Shelley Ray’s Pauline, a wilted southern belle with a limp and dishpan hands, are locked together in irreconcilable conflict. Also strong is the final vignette, a Sam Shepard-inspired Super Mario Brothers installment starring Steven Heskett and Mertz as temperamentally-disparate brothers camping in the desert while taking hallucinogenic mushrooms together in a misguided attempt to bond. The show could end after three pieces and no-one would feel cheated: as it is, the show lasts two hours, which is pretty long for a Fringe show.
The utterly delightful Paper Cut is just right though. Just 50 minutes long, this paper art puppet show at Venue #3, the CSV Kabayitos, stars Yael Rasooly as Miss Spencer, and a whole squadron of paper puppets crafted from the black-and-white photographs of classic movie stars (such as Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn). Miss Spencer, also known by the typing pool as “the bulldog,” is the ultra-efficient secretary for a disembodied English Accent “Mr. McCormack.” Hiding her penchant for movie magazine and her crush on the boss from everyone, she spends too late at the office one night, and conjures an entire romance out of her magazines and literally hundreds of paper props, which flow through her fingers and prance across her desk without single misstep or wasted motion. Also, she sings heartbreak lounge like a pro, which alone is worth the admission fee.
The paper arts plus puppetry somewhat a theme for Venue 3, Playlab NYC’s Poe-Dunk also combines both in an entertaining distillation of over 30 works by Edgar Allen Poe in just over an hour. A handy live-cam trained on the tabletop staging ground projects the action onto a screen the entire audience can see, as performer Kevin P. Hale manipulates his matchstick people and dollhouse-sized set pieces through a dizzying array of Poe’s works—both popular (“The Masque of the Red Death”) and obscure (“The Man of the Crowd”). Though not as manually dexterous as Rasooly, and blessed/cursed with a fondness for bad puns, Hale still provides one of the most painstakingly-wrought and gleefully-enacted shows of the Fringe.
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