As the Fringe Festival reaches its halfway point this weekend, Gothamist continues to do its best to find the shows that are actually worth your time. We would truly love to be all-Fringe-all-the-time, but it's just not possible to get to everything. Still, we persevere. We started with our preview, and then we gave you a whole slew of reviews on Monday and Wednesday, suggesting you make a concerted effort to see The Miss Education of Jenna Bush, God's Waiting Room and The Salacious Uncle Baldrick.
In preparation for this weekend, we're going to suggest -- nay, insist -- you get your theatre-loving personage to the very last performance of Baldrick (Saturday at 2 PM). With so many other shows continuing as well, though, after the jump are a few other productions that caught our eye, plus some reviews of the following which all receive the very wishy-washy "rating" of ...
SKIP IT (unless you're bored)
Fluffy Bunnies in a Field of Daisies
GO-GO KITTY, GO!
Go-Go Kitty, Go! is exactly the kind of show one expects to see at the Fringe, and Gothamist wanted ever so badly to like it. And we did -- kinda sorta. Basically, the play is a satire of 1970s biker/exploitation B-movies paying special homage to breast-lover extraordinaire Russ Meyer, even if nary a naked one appears onstage. Throw in a bit of All the President's Men, and you get a sometimes-fun but occasionally dull comedy that consistently has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. The performances are good across the board, although Gothamist holds a special place in our heart for Nicole Fonarow as the Senator's daughter thanks to her brilliantly funny wide-eyed acid trip. Even as it wants to be satirical and absurd, the story itself is very basic and obvious, although we're embarrassed to actually admit that the big "twist" at the end caught us off-guard. Nevertheless, the true strength (and occasional weakness) of this production is, in fact, the production. Go-Go Kitty, Go! is an attempt at satire that not only plays with but actually also revels in the limitations of low-to-no-budget theatre. Lee Savage's sets and props often get more laughs than the hokey dialogue. Our busty go-go dancer heroines ride motorcycles and chase a car all thanks to some truly creative and imaginative staging. An explosion is created through sound and a two-dimensional fireball appearing from the wings. Fight scenes look a bit like they're straight out of the old Batman TV series, minus the "Pow" and "Kerplow," but with loud sound effects contradicting the sight of a punch missing by two feet. At the same time, it seems like the show hasn't had enough rehearsal, at least for the tech elements. At last night's first performance, sound effects and background music often drowned out the actors; sound and light cues were regularly early or late; the light levels kept adjusting for no good reason; and even some of the staging was completely wrong for a proscenium set-up (the Watergate Deep Throat inspired garage scene and big political rally, especially). Go-Go Kitty, Go! definitely has its clever and witty moments and isn't a bad way to spend 90 minutes of comfortable air-conditioned bliss. It's just too bad that the show only gives glimpses of its full promise, never quite getting it all right.
(The Lucille Lortel Theatre: 121 Christopher St., betw. Bleecker and Hudson; Remaining performances Sat 8/20 5:45 PM, Sun 8/21 12:00 PM, Wed 8/24 4:45 PM, Sat 8/27 7:00 PM; Runtime 90 minutes)
According to the program, writer/performer Melanie Hoopes interviewed over 50 women of varying weights between 70 and 1000 pounds in order to create this solo show about body image and eating disorders. Weight is essentially four monologues or rather four conversations of which the audience hears one side. Each scene starts with Hoopes (who happens to be about five months pregnant) changing into a new outfit, stepping on a scale and announcing the weight of that character. The first segment is the busy suburban mother of a teenage anorexic visiting her daughter's therapist; the second involves a dangerously obese former African-American dancer who can't even lean over to pick-up a dropped pen on her own; the third features a popular actress and singer recovering from bulimia and letting the whole world know on a talk show; and finally we meet an overweight Puerto Rican woman attending her high school reunion after gastric bypass surgery and confronting her now chubby, recently separated former personal "Mean Girl." Hoopes convincingly creates four different and unique characters, and each dialogue is interesting and entertaining enough. The problem is as a single play, it lacks cohesiveness. We get four interrelated glimpses at a gigantic subject, but why these? In this order? What do each of the scenes say about the others? What's the real commonality? Or isn't there one? Gothamist knew the show was over only because there were no more outfits hanging on the coat rack and the stage momentarily blacked-out.
The most entertaining characterization is definitely the pop star, but the actual scene becomes quite unbelievable. Gothamist also found it curious that Hoopes chooses to present the anorexic not by becoming a never-can-be-too-thin obsessed teenager but rather as her put-upon mother who ultimately reveals that she feels more sorry for herself than her daughter. While that insight into the parental involvement in such a problem is interesting and important, maybe what this show needs is the daughter's own therapy session as a bookend to close the performance. Weight has its heart in the right place, and it generally doesn't become overly preachy. However, it fails to completely involve the audience never generating enough of a deep emotional response, and for that reason, it doesn't quite cut it.
(13th Street Repertory Company: 50 W 13th St., betw. 5th & 6th Aves.; Remaining performances - Tues 8/23 9:45 PM, Thur 8/25 5:15 PM, Fri 8/26 9:45 PM; Runtime 60 minutes)
FLUFFY BUNNIES IN A FIELD OF DAISIES
How the hell did this show get in the Fringe? That's not a question because it's bad per se, just because it's the antithesis of the against-the-grain, subversive, often bizarre and experimental work that usually characterizes this festival. While it tries to sell-itself as wild and sexual and absurd, it's really straight TV sitcom fare with a bit of added language thrown in for kicks. Gothamist was at Tuesday's show and the audience went wild, laughing hysterically and applauding at the purely-for-fun, nothing-to-do-with-the-rest-of-the-show dance number at the beginning of the second act. Don't get us wrong -- the show is funny, at times. Often, in fact. But at two hours (including 10 minute intermission), it's much longer than it needs or has any right to be. Basically, Fluffy Bunnies is trying to be on the stage what NBC wanted with the failed Coupling, and the result is only slightly better. A cliched and stereotypical group of friends get together and talk about being single, sex and relationships. You've got the somewhat naive and spazzy but cute guy, the lovesick depressed guy, the total know-it-all smartass who sort of gets his comeuppance, and the smarter than all of them woman. Every single line goes for the punch, but just as in boxing, only a small percentage actually hit. The ones that do are often knockouts, but so many more don't, it just gets tiresome. Writer Matt Chaffee has a good sense of sitcom humor and set-up, so he should try his hand in that world. Chaffee also stars as Tommy -- the know-it-all smartass -- and gives probably the best performance in the show. The rest of the cast ranges from annoying to above-average even though, again just like on TV, they're all very nice to look at. This show is perfect mainstream fare for all the people who think I Love You, You're Perfect ... Now Change is sophisticated comedy. If you're one of those people, you'll love these Bunnies. If not, stay away.
(The SoHo Playhouse: 15 Vandam St., betw. 6th Ave & Varick; Remaining performances - Today 5:30 PM, Sat 8/20 10:00 PM, Thur 8/25 3:00 PM; Runtime 120 minutes)
MORE SHOWS TO CONSIDER DURING THE FRINGE'S SECOND WEEK
Byzantium: Nothing's more fun than an epic musical on a small stage dealing with a medieval society. The show's web site boasts of presenting today's issues from within the Byzantine Empire, calling Byzantium "the ancient world's Las Vegas, dazzling and heartless." A creative roster of Broadway and Off-Broadway talent slums with this show at The Fringe (we kid!), and chances are the result is, in fact, either dazzling or heartless. (The Village Theatre: 158 Bleecker St at Thompson; Only two performances left this Sat 8/20 1:00 PM and Sun 8/21 5:30 PM)
Confessions of a Dope Dealer: Sheldon Norberg spent a large chunk of his life dealing drugs, and then he went on to write about it in a memoir called "Confessions of a Dope Dealer." He now brings that book to the stage in this one-man show not to glamorize his past but rather to "get real about drugs." (Ace of Clubs: 9 Great Jones St. betw. Broadway & Lafayette; Remaining performances this Sat 8/20 2:15 PM, Sun 8/21 9:15 PM, Mon 8/22 4:00 PM)
Finger Love: Gothamist may have been a bit negligent so far on some of the more ... uhm ... let's say experimental theatre running at the fringe. Take puppetry, for example; in this case, finger puppets. The 30-minute long Finger Love bills itself as "a puppet show about female masturbation" and asks the prospective theatergoer to "just come!" Obviously theatre of the adult variety, you never know -- it just might be the most important and educational show at the entire festival -- for both sexes! (Dixon Place: 258 Bowery, 2nd Fl., betw. Houston & Stanton; Remaining performances Sat 8/20 9:15 PM, Sun 8/21 4:15 PM; Wed 8/24 11 PM; Sat 8/27 9 PM)
Sex with Jake Gyllenhaal and Other Fables of the Northeast Corridor: As Gothamist was awaiting entrance to the theatre for Weight this week, we heard two women talking about this show. "Is he in it?" one woman asked, he being Jake, of course. "No," the other replied. "Why not?" the first questioned. Of course, why wouldn't Jake Gyllenhaal be in a tiny-little show at FringeNYC? Well, for starters, because Mr. Gyllenhaal really has nothing to do with this show, a series of one-acts about men, women, life, love and relationships featuring four actors playing multiple parts. Still, Sex with Jake ... has been one of the most-buzzed-about shows at this year's festival simply because of its title. Does it deserve the hype? (13th Street Repertory Company: 50 W 13th St., betw. 5th & 6th Aves.; Remaining performances Sun 8/21 8:00 PM, Wed 8/24 3 PM, Sat 8/27 10 PM)
SUV: The Musical: Another crazy title and another bizarre premise makes SUV another example of perfect Fringe fodder. The sales pitch? "A timeless love story for our age: Boy meets Girl. Boy designs really big SUV for girl. Girl gets in a car accident and leaves Boy. Girl falls in love with an environmental activist. Boy gets sentenced to death for crimes against humanity." With singing and dancing to boot! Sounds good to us -- just as long as it's not weird. (The Village Theatre: 158 Bleecker St at Thompson; Remaining performances today Fri 8/19 4:00 PM, Wed 8/24 10:30 PM, Sat 8/27 8:15 PM)
Remember, you can purchase tickets up to 24 hours in advance by visiting FringeCentral at 125 W. 3rd St. betw 6th Ave. & MacDougal or via TicketWeb. For more festival information regarding other shows, venue locations and performance times, visit FringeNYC.org.