Fringe Fest stays close to middle ground – what’s hit or miss

Looks like it's same old, same old at Fringe Fest. (Photo is of "Killer Therapy.") Credit: Dixie Sheridan
Looks like it’s same old, same old at Fringe Fest. (Photo is of “Killer Therapy.”)
Credit: Dixie Sheridan

With more than 40 shows running simultaneously at 20 venues, you might be wondering what to catch at the 17th annual New York Fringe Festival. One Metro reviewer gives us his take on a handful of shows running through Aug. 25:

If you think Fringe Festival is all about delivering theater on the edge, think again. While there are strands of the avant garde in the handful of shows I saw recently, overall they were surprisingly mainstream. But I only saw seven of 185 offerings (some of which are yet to open). Maybe I picked the wrong shows.

Or maybe I didn’t? Of the seven I saw, three were best-of winners — not bad for off-off-Broadway.  The first, a celebrity vehicle (assuming being a Hollywood Square makes you a celebrity), stars Bruce Vilanch. Titled “Rubble,” it’s very Hollywood and laugh-out-loud funny, as an earthquake buries an over-50 television writer (Vilanch) during a meeting with a network executive.

On the serious side, “Carol and Cotton” is a tale of a lawyer who hires a hit man (who subcontracts another hit man) to murder his wife. Catherine Johnson Justice and Steeve Sweere play all the characters. They’re both fantastic, especially Sweere, and both manage to inject some humor into the grisly narrative delivered from a black stage, bare but for two stools.

While the two plays above at least flirt with outrageousness, “Someone to Belong To” is traditional beyond traditional. Think “Mad Men” sanitized and set to music.  Still, the songs (excavated by the daughter of the late composer/lyricist, an ad man by day) are hummable and the plot is entertaining, if conventional.

As for the rest, “Perfectly Normel People” is too cliched, “For a Good Time, Call Kathy Blanchard” is too unfocused and “Perceval” is too cute.  “Strange Rain” takes itself, especially its lesbian psychics, too seriously. Still, each has its moments and none is downright painful.

If you go

New York International Fringe Festival
Through Aug. 25
Various downtown theaters
$15 in advance ($18 at the door)
www.fringenyc.org



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