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August 24, 2011

FringeNYC report: Day 10, Mothers of Invention

by Jesse North
fringenyc fringe festival new york city anna annadroids

Photo: Grace Passerotti

If you had to choose, would you say your life most resembled a cartoon or a carnival? Drawn by the hand of fate or propelled by the chaotic momentum of the midway? Rendered in meticulous India ink or 64-bit digital, or covered in grit and spangles? Anna Sullivan and Naomi Grossman are here to lead you through the pleasures and pitfalls of each with their respective solo performances Anna and the Annadroids: Memoirs of a Robot Girl and Carnival Knowledge.

The mysterious entity that is the Amerifluff Corporation lurks behind this latest edition of the Annadroid saga, two different installments of which were performed at the 2006 and 2007 New York International Fringe Festivals (The Robots’ Dream Tour, and Clone Zone). This performance however is different in that it is just Sullivan alone onstage, supported with video, original music, and 3- D live camera effects rather than with a troupe of flesh-and-blood “robot” dancers. Sullivan is a flexible and courageous dancer, and the driving electronica that forms her score (composed by David Morneau, Forest Christenson, and Sullivan) sets an appropriately forbidding and futuristic tone. As Sullivan doesn’t speak during the piece, all of the exposition and storyline is presented via video, which cuts between hilarious spoof commercials for a variety of Amerifluff Corporation products (“Touchy-button” phones, for example), and the pages of a “Heavy Metal”-style graphic novel in progress (drawn by Natalya Kolosowsky, Grace Passerotti, and Bella Messex). The major drawback of this strategy is that the performance proper never builds up momentum, so often does Sullivan quit the stage altogether (reappearing several minutes later in a series of sexy costumes designed by Liz Harzoff and Sullivan). Recently relocating to the West Coast might have inspired Sullivan to strip her Annadroids production as close to the bone as possible, but quite honestly, it could use a little more meat.

fringenyc fringe festival new york city carnival knowledge

Photo: Maia Rosenfeld

Naomi Grossman’s kinetic performance style is by far the best thing about her solo show, Carnival Knowledge. Entering the “ring” while juggling a trio of rubbery dildos (“What? You’ve never juggled weenies before?” she quips), Grossman soon launches into a litany of thwarted love. From a flirtation through the flaps of a walk-in dairy cooler at Trader Joe’s, to the guy who “surprised” her by taking his pants off, unasked, in her bathroom while ostensibly using the toilet. Her story of a crush on her yoga teacher is accompanied by some very enviable yoga poses, while her story of a dalliance with two world-class, Argentine soccer players is just plain enviable. The downside is that Grossman’s romantic mishaps, as occasionally chaotic as they sound, don’t entirely fit into the clever carnival theme she sets up at the beginning of the show, and by the end, the only remaining nod to it is an encounter with a fortune-teller though what we really wanted were more circus tricks, and fewer platitudes.

—Nicole Gluckstern

For on-the-go updates about Nicole’s Fringe adventures, follow her on Twitter @enkohl!

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