Many artists in New York City's Off-Off-Broadway theatre community lament the difficulty in getting critics to attend and review their shows. One would imagine that, for the 198 shows scheduled to run during the 17 short days of the 2002 New York International Fringe Festival, getting reviewed would prove an even more daunting challenge.
Not this year. Martin Denton, the editor and chief critic of the website nytheatre.com, and a perennial booster of the Fringe, has vowed to see and review each of the festival's offerings.
Obviously, he won't be accomplishing this mammoth task by his lonesome (12 shows a day is not a mortal possibility). Denton has put together a "reviewing squad" made up of 60 wordsmiths. "These terrific people have graciously volunteered to give of their time to help us make history," Denton said. "They will bring their varied experiences and interests to the task of reviewing the shows at FringeNYC."
Among the writers are nytheatre.com regulars Michael Criscuolo, Tim Cusack, Aaron Leichter, and Ken Urban. The other reviewers include actors, directors, playwrights, dancers, producers, and publicists.
* With three 2002 Tony Award wins, Urinetown is the New York International Fringe Festival's biggest success story. And now some established writers are taking renewed notice of the downtown theatrical extravaganza. The Fringe, playing Aug. 9 25 at 19 venues scattered through Lower Manhattan, will feature works by Christopher Shinn (Four), David Greenspan and Stephen Belber (Tape), plus a new musical by Paul Scott Goodman (the cult 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 in 1988 (Him) and the experiences of the same songwriter's wife, circa 1993 (Her). Kristen Lee Kelly (Rent) stars in Her.
Other highlights include:
• Danny Pintauro (of TV's "Who's the Boss?") in Beat, a drama about Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" obscenity trial
• Matt and Ben, a satire about friendship and ambition, using the "Good Will Hunting" partnership of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon 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
• 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