Less than five days old, the 2002 New York International Fringe Festival already looks like a hit. Before the first show opened on Friday afternoon, Aug. 9, the fest had raked in $100,000 in advance sales—a record for the six-year-old event.
According to a spokesman, the most popular shows so far are All American Boy, Deviant, Matt & Ben, Consumer Behavior and The Joys of Sex. Reports had lines out the door for some shows over the past weekend.
The Fringe plays in 19 different Lower Manhattan venues. There are several established scribes who will debut works at the fest, which continues through Aug. 25, including Christopher Shinn (Four), David Greenspan and Stephen Belber (Tape), plus a new musical by Paul Scott Goodman (Bright Lights, Big City).
Nancy S. Chu directs the Belber premiere, The Death of Frank, an examination of four people searching for identity, love, farming and violence. Shinn's work is Sleepers, a short play about men who meet while masturbating. Greenspan's comedy Five Frozen Embryos will be presented with Sleepers.
Goodman's New York Theatre Workshop musical Bright Lights, Big City may have been a critical flop, but it certainly attracted attention. The Scottish singer-songwriter is back with Him and Her, two one person musicals about a songwriter on the verge of fatherhood in NYC,1988 (Him) and the experiences of the same songwriter's wife, circa 1993 (Her). Kristen Lee Kelly (Rent) stars in Her. Another musical, The Joys of Sex, will also play the Fringe. Not to be confused with the bestselling 1974 book, this musical revue — which does not contain "nudity, four-letter words, or graphic show & tell" — features four characters who sing about threesomes, one-night stands, cybersex and orgasms. Songs — music by David Weinstein, lyrics by Melissa Levis — in the titillating tuner include "Intercourse on the Internet," "In the Parlor Be a Lady, In the Bedroom Be a Whore" and "The Three Way in Three Acts."
Other highlights include:
• "Who's the Boss"'s Danny Pintauro in Beat, a drama about Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" obscenity trial
• "Queer as Folk"'s Randy Harrison in Deviant, a dark comedy set in the world of phone sex fetishists from the stuffed animal-obsessed "plushies" to the bug-killing "crushers"
• Matt and Ben, a satire about friendship and ambition, using the "Good Will Hunting" partnership of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon (played by two women!) to make its point
• The Bizzaro Balogna Show, a one-man comedy by Dan Piraro, creator of the "Bizarro" cartoon
• All American Boy, a gay comedy by James Parker, mocking the Boy Band phenomenon
• Portrait of a President, Herman Daniel Farrell III's examination of Clinton's presidency, seen through the eyes of four painters vying against each other for the honor of creating the official White House portrait
• Duct, a solo show about motherhood, narrated from a heating duct by Neo-Futurist Stephanie Shaw
• Musical version of Gogol's The Overcoat by John Gregor and Robert Rival
• Fringe favorite Susan O'Connor (Never Swim Alone, See Bob Run) in Patty Red Pants, an updated telling of "Little Red Riding Hood"
• Africana-Americano, an African musical theatre piece utilizing traditional Zimbabweian dance and music to tell the story of an African villager and an American tourist
• Mad Magazine senior editor Joe Raiola rants about free speech, Internet porn, flag burning and public funding in Almost Obscene
• Blaggers, a hit Irish comedy making its American premiere
• A Night of Shitty Theatre, which embraces inexperienced Fringe goers fear of picking a bad show and blantantly stages terrible pieces for the audience's amusement
The Fringe performers hail from as far away as Russia, Germany, Singapore, Australia and France and include U.S. troupes from twelve different states. There will outdoor performances (FringeAlFresco), panels and discussions (FringeU) and shows for kids and families (FringeJr).
For a complete Fringe schedule, visit http://www.fringenyc.org. Tickets are $12 per show with several ticket packages available. To order, call (212) 420-8877. To volunteer for the Fringe, call (212) 420-8877.
—By Robert Simonson
and Christine Ehren