Tickets for the Fringe Festival, which starts August 12, went on sale on Saturday, and by the looks of the website there’s going to be the same mind-boggling range of performances that theatre-loving New Yorkers have come to expect. Just scrolling through the titles of the shows about to be put on by the 200+ companies is practically an adventure in itself. Gothamist will have much more to say about the Fringe in the next couple weeks, but in the meantime there are still plenty of interesting new non-festival offerings.
First off, chilling out in the Ice Factory (well, OK, it’s a festival too, but not the festival) is Major Bang, an all-too-timely comedy by the Foundry Theatre. They couldn’t have had any idea when originally coming up with a show that springs “from the contents of a backpack left on the N train” that mass transit terror would be on everyone’s mind because of the London bombs, but now what they call a “cockamamie meditation on this new era of global (in)security” seems like an even better idea than it must have originally. At least, if Steve Cuiffo, the magician-actor who’s the solo performer, lives up to the playful humor indicated by the subtitle (Or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Dirty Bomb), it should make for a pretty good night of funny but mind-needling theatre.
A production that promises to be even more intellectually provocative is On the Banks of the Surreal, opening Thursday. Five surreal/absurd plays, all originally in French and written between 1920-1953, set the scene for the audience to imagine being in Paris mid-century when those styles were at their height. Tristan Tzara’s The Gas Heart, Michel de Ghelderode's Escurial, Jean Cocteau’s The Practical Joke, Ionesco’s Maid to Marry and Magritte’s The Round Square are the plays included, though with the Xoregos Performing Company’s basis in dance and performance art rather than strictly traditional acting, the versions you’ll see here probably won’t hew tightly to what you would have seen in the original productions. Considering those playwrights’ experimental tendencies, though, that’s actually as it should be, come to think of it, and in any case it sounds like a fascinating concept.
To leave avant-garde ’50s Paris behind at warp speed, head to Staten Island, where a revival of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers is opening on Friday. This is a musical with undertones of The Prince and the Pauper: a working-class mother chooses to let her upper-class employer adopt one of her twin sons because of the financial strain, but in the end the boys become best friends and inevitably discover what their mother did back when. To Gothamist’s practical side, this outcome actually seems like a pretty good thing, because there are all sorts of demand for twins raised in different circumstances, for nature vs. nurture science experiments and whatnot. But this being musical theatre, people aren’t quite so sanguine about it, and, well, you can imagine the drama and hijinks that follow from the realization of the twins’ origins.
Finally, somewhat less on the “fringe” but still out there insofar as it’s part of Second Stage’s attempt to be part of off-off-Broadway, is the premiere of Dan O’Brien’s The Dear Boy, which is second in the company’s uptown series (after Swimming in the Shallows, which Gothamist reviewed earlier this summer). In it, an English teacher who’s about to retire goes through the old “oh whoa, what have I done with my life??” which is never a pleasant feeling. Conversations with two of his former students help him to get through, a happy twist on the theme of the wiser old mentor leading protégés into the world. It might sound a tad precious, but O’Brien has done some intriguing off-off-Broadway stuff in the past, including The Voyage of the Carcass at HERE in 2002, and The Dear Boy probably won’t be as straight as it sounds. It’ll just have Second Stage’s funds and support, as well as the talented Michael John Garcés for director, helping it along, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. If you’re as antsy as Gothamist for the Fringe to start, August 12 can’t get here soon enough, but these shows certainly seem like an agreeable way to lead into it. Stay tuned…
Details: Major Bang is at the Ohio, 66 Wooster, August 3-6 at 7pm. Tickets online via Smarttix.
On the Banks of the Surreal is at the Bank Street Theater, 155 Bank St., August 4-21, Tues.-Sat. 8pm, Sun. 6pm. For ticket reservations call 212-239-8405.
Blood Brothers runs August 5-14 at the Snug Harbor Cultural Center, 1000 Richmond Terrace, Staten Island. Performances are Fri.-Sat. 8pm, Sat.-Sun. 2pm. Call 718-816-5453 for tickets.
The Dear Boy is at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, above the Promenade, 76th and Broadway. It’s in previews until Aug. 8, then runs until Aug. 1-27, Mon-Sat at 8pm and Sat at 2pm. Tickets are online at the Second Stage site.