2004_08_artsfringelogo.jpgThe New York Times wrote a piece on Sunday with their top ten picks for this year’s New York International Fringe Festival , a good starting place, but not near enough information on this mammoth festival. Starting Aug. 13th and running for 16 days, the Fringe is one of the best, least expensive ways to see fun and challenging new theater, some of which may end up transferring to bigger venues. Urinetown is the Fringe’s star pupil, starting at the festival, and then heading to Broadway. There are over two hundred shows playing the Fringe, at various venues around town. The website is great, but overwhelming in its riches. There are just so many shows to browse through, but Gothamist has been carefully reviewing it and will be offering a series of suggested Fringe show pix. Ticket info can be found for all of these here, not to mention the multitudes of other shows. Here’s a starting point:

The Jammer: A Roller Derby Love Story - Described as a high-energy, fast-paced, theatrically stylized comic romp about Roller Derby. Action! Sexy babes! Sexy babes in hot Roller Derby action! The Jammer resurrects that greatest of American entertainments, the Roller Derby: half sport, half show, all action. Into just over an hour, The Jammer packs multiple roller derby sequences, a riot, a roller coaster ride, vomit, spit, blood, sex, and love. We just want to see how they're going to pull off the roller derby sequences.

All Good Things – Making its world premiere is this story about real-life sixties British Invasion band The Remains, who had a few big hits, played the Ed Sullivan Show, and even opened for The Beatles. Book is by Michael Eric Stein and music & lyrics by The Remains. The show uses the original songs to tell their story. The cast includes Ryan Link, who last year had the leading role of Roger in Rent on Broadway. On August 16, all four members of the original Remains will appear and perform the show’s final song.

The Drunk Monologues – The title intrigues us, so we did our research and discovered that this is a one-woman show written and performed by Diane Spodarek, an eighties Detroit punk chick, who has stories to share about Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, and more, in this autobiographical piece.

The Bicycle Men – The Fringe description of this show says “Offbeat musical about a naïve American tourist whose bicycle breaks down in a deceptively quaint French village.” But we were really impressed when we checked the group’s website and read this from the Chicago Sun-Times: "'Le Comedie du Bicyclette,' a surreal, 75-minute melange of whacked-out characters, full-blown musical numbers, hysterical one-liners and dark comedy with a positively Beckettian appreciation for pain, is the single funniest little show to come anywhere near Chicago this year. Period. For those with a taste for offbeat comedy with a twisted soul, it's absolutely not to be missed.'"

The Last Detail - Great credentials on this one. Self-described as an "anti-On The Town" play with songs, adapted from the novel "The Last Detail" that spawned the 1973 Jack Nicholson film of the same name." It follows Billy & Mule, two Navy "lifers," as they transport eighteen year old sailor Larry Meadows, who's been busted for stealing $40, from their base in Virginia to a military prison in New Hampshire. Their week long voyage slices northward through 1970's America, and joins the three in a collective journey from innocence to experience that will both change and bind them forever. With original songs by Andrew Sherman (Debbie Does Dallas) and Julia Darling, a live band on stage, performances by two-time Tony award nominee Mary Testa, two-time daytime-Emmy award winner Kevin Mambo, Moonwork veterans Mason Pettit, Tom Shillue, Ron McClary and Julie Dingman. We can't wait.

John Walker: The Musical - It's the amazing adventures of the American Taliban, told as a rock-and-roll dark comedy, with book, music and lurics by Jean Strong and John McCloskey, and story by John McCloskey and Jean Strong with Laura Wagner. The show's website says it all: "In all of U.S. history, there has never been a kid in this much fucking trouble." Just in time for the convention, too!

Check back for Fringe Pix, Part Two