As the Fringe enters its second (and final) full week, Gothamist hopes you’ve been able to see at least a few shows already. Some of them have already closed by now, while a small number are just opening or had their premiere at the start of the festival but are only now having the bulk of their performances, due to venue scheduling stuff. There’s still a lot going on, so this week we’ll continue installments of our “views from the Fringe” so you can get a firsthand idea of what some of the possibilities are. And of course, if these shows don’t appeal to you, you can always use the nifty Slice-o-Matic show finder tool on the festival website. There really is something for just about everyone, even non-theatre types. To cut to the chase (reviews after the jump):

Don’t Miss: Movie Geek
Recommended: Silence! The Musical, Treaty 321!, Tarot Reading: Love, Sex, and Mommy, The Last Silver Zephyer
Skip: .dependence study

Movie Geek
2005_08_arts_moviegeek.jpg Word of mouth has helped this show to sell out most of its performances thus far, meaning that you might not be able to follow Gothamist’s “don’t miss” recommendation, but try anyway – the show is more than worthy of the buzz. The group behind it, Charlie B. Company, is a young troupe from California, one of the youngest in the festival, but they have put together a show that seems much more professional than a lot of Fringe fare. Dylan Dawson’s play begins with the death of the titular Geek (who Dawson also plays), then goes back to tell the story of his life via acted scenes, narration (by Josh Holloway, who skillfully satirizes the role), and filmed segments projected on the large screen at the back of the stage. Movie Geek (that’s his given name) is a Forrest Gump-like character in that he somehow keeps getting involved in things bigger than himself, except in his case those things are movies like Casablanca and Fatal Attraction, which are inspired by his life. The plot is a bit confusing if you try to place anything chronologically (for instance, at one point the Geek is in jail with Walt Disney, Humphrey Bogart, and Harvey Weinstein), but no matter – it’s not intended to work that way, and it’s the underlying idea that counts makes the show so wonderful anyway, the love of cinema and the way the Geek lives and breathes movies. As real celebrities (Henry Winkler, Bill Cosby, Kathleen Turner) attest in wildly funny mock interviews, the Geek couldn’t do or think anything without referencing a film (kind of like a few, um, movie geeks Gothamist knows); even the most meaningful relationship in his life, with his wife Paulette, is rooted in his adoration of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times and its female star, Paulette Goddard. There is much spoofing of films and genres (including a fantastic sequence on the French New Wave), so you’ll laugh often, but Movie Geek is also very genuine at heart. If you’re not a film buff yourself, you might not catch every last reference, but that really doesn't matter -- you’ll still almost certainly love this show from start to finish.

(Collective: Unconscious, 297 Church St. @ White St. Remaining performances: Wed. 8/24, 3pm; Fri. 8/26, 11pm.)

Silence! The Musical
The Fringe has a history of presenting parodies of iconic cultural subjects, and this musical satire based on The Silence of the Lambs fits in quite well to that tradition. Silence! has received some of the loudest buzz of any show in the Fringe, and that may be due to the established talent involved. The director Christopher Gattelli choreographed the still-running Off-Broadway award winning musical Altar Boyz as well as past Off-Broadway hits Bat Boy: The Musical and Jonathan Larson's tick, tick ... BOOM!. Paul Kandel, who stars as Hannibal Lecter, has appeared in several Broadway shows and, in fact, received a Tony nomination for his performance in The Who's Tommy.

So is it any good? Well, it's always interesting to attend the first performance of a Fringe show with this much buzz. The production must have had plenty of friends in the sold-out crowd, judging from the applause and laughter a simple entrance received. The standing ovation was a bit over-the-top as well. Silence! is not the funniest or best show Gothamist has seen at the Fringe this year, but it is pretty damn good -- at least if you're a fan of the movie. The performances are solid (particularly Jenn Harris doing a pretty spot-on Jodie Foster) and the staging is pretty imaginative. The designers of the show use several movable flats and lighting very well to create the necessary scenes from Lecter's cell to Buffalo Bill's well. The ensemble of "lambs" as chorus is a nice touch too. The book, however, is hit and miss with as many clever jokes as flat ones. The songs are generally fun, but not many are memorable beyond their titles -- although Gothamist must admit that we did leave the theatre humming the Lecter-sung love ballad to Clarice which has a title (and lyric) we can't print in full on this website: "If I Could Smell Her C&!#" is, in fact, a love song during which Lecter imagines how much of a better, less-sociopathic man he might be if only he could smell Clarice's ... well, you know. However, even that tune left us within a couple hours. And that's basically true of this whole show: Silence! is better as schtick than as well-done musical satire, which is a little disappointing only because seeing this production proves that there's a much better show to be had.

(The Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St. Remaining performances: Tues 8/23 2pm; Thurs. 8/25 10:45pm; Sun 8/28 12:00 PM) -- Aaron Dobbs

Treaty 321!
Another musical with an exclamation point at the Lortel, another set of some quite good points mixed with disappointments, a lot less buzz. “War isn’t fun” is this show’s ending sentiment, but the musical itself, which tells of the war between Plebeia and Generia, is so completely silly that it does seem that Christopher Buckley, who did most of the book and lyrics, secretly thinks it might be just a little fun, or that at least we should try to see it that way. Chris Matthias stars as Peter LaCrosse, a Generian soldier who falls in love with a Plebeian woman (Megan Lavner) despite the discouragement of his goofy, stereotype-filled battalion (there's the flamboyant gay guy, the nerd, the dumb jock...). The cast is male-dominated, as the few women poutily point out, and the men far outshine their female counterparts, especially in the singing; with the exception of the talented Glennis McMurray (Peter’s first wife Maria) it’s hard to hear or even notice the women most of the time, even though everyone’s mic’d. Treaty 321! is very successful when it’s allowed simply to revel in its own ridiculousness, such as the riotously funny army dance segment; the unfortunate part of it is when the creators are too insistent on explicitly parodying musicals. As if that genre itself weren’t tired enough, nowafter Forbidden Broadway, Spamalot, and others, even spoofs of it now seem hackneyed (though to be fair, this musical was created before big smashes like the latter). Early on, for example, Peter notices himself singing and wonders aloud to the audience why he can’t just speak normally, but the audience just wants the silliness, we don’t need to be told it’s so. The one aspect of the “look at us, we’re a parody” thing that didn’t irritate Gothamist so much was the narrator, played almost perfectly deadpan by Bob Barth. Treaty 321! is lightweight, to be sure, but when it gets going and lets the zany goodness bubble forth, it’s quite a good time nonetheless.

(The Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher St. Remaining performances: Mon. 8/22, 9:45pm; Thurs. 8/25, 3pm; Fri. 8/26, 9:15pm)

Tarot Reading: Love, Sex and Mommy
2005_08_arts_tarot.JPG One-person shows come in a variety of forms but generally fall into one of three categories: a confessional, a critical rant or a performance piece of a character/characters. What's often common about these shows, regardless of the category in which one falls, is that generally the story told is something huge, remarkable, outrageous or even unbelievable. What makes Kimberlee Auerbach's show Tarot Reading so compelling, though, is that it is none of these. Rather, Auerbach's story -- while certainly in the confessional category -- isn't extraordinary at all; but it is honest and relatable, and therefore immensely compelling. The show is structured as Auerbach's visit to a tarot reading (with the reader appearing through pre-recorded video segments), and as each card is revealed and explained, Auerbach relates another episode from her life. Her stories are moving and funny, but the reason they work is because they're just like our own stories, and so we share her insecurities, embarrassment and fears thereby also allowing us to enjoy the strength, confidence, and happiness she seems to possess by the conclusion of what is essentially her coming-of-age tale. If there is a problem with the show, it's a small one, and it stems from Auerbach's performance. She's often too stiff, with feet firmly planted in place, body leaning forward, hands making very small, non- consequential gestures. She also doesn't always let her emotions build, too quickly becoming overly-something -- excited, embarrassed, afraid -- so that she falls in danger of overacting rather than reflecting the moment. We're going to attribute most of this to nerves, however, simply because of one of the more interesting parts of the production -- a video segment showing Auerbach at a Moth storySLAM a few years back. (She has won several and competed in three Moth GrandSLAM championships.) In it, Auerbach tells a story with a conversational tone and casual posture that is noticeably difference from what we're otherwise watching. For the audience in the room, she's performing; for the Moth audience on the tape, she's a storyteller. And here's the thing: Auerbach's persona and vignettes are so open, warm, inviting and empathetic that she doesn't need to "perform" or act. She just needs to smile and tell us her stories like she obviously does at the Moth slams -- that would be enough to make an entire audience nod, laugh, and want to go along for the ride.

(Collective: Unconscious, 297 Church St. @ White St. Remaining performances: Tues. 8/23 6:45pm, Sat. 8/27 Noon) -- Aaron Dobbs

The Last Silver Zephyer
This play by Bill Svanoe was one of the last to open at the Fringe, with the premiere just yesterday, so there are more opportunities left to see it than with most of the shows. And there are good reasons to go, the main one being Joan Darling, the Emmy-winning veteran TV director and actress. She plays Connie, the owner/cook/waitress of a diner at a railroad stop that's about to become obsolete; Connie has seen it all and knows it all, and is, as she puts it, the archetypal crusty old waitress with a heart of gold, except without the heart of gold part. Don’t be fooled by her diminutive size or amusingly archaic oversized glasses – her sharp tongue can and does slay those who cross her path, even if they’re just as headstrong, as the play’s other two characters are. Henry (Mike Wiley) is a wealthy real estate developer who's built a competing diner, Anne (Melissa Macleod Herion) is a smart, snotty beauty on her way to marry a millionaire, and both are so full of themselves that you want to smack them after their first few words, but Connie brings them down in her own way. The cast as a whole is excellent, and they perform together very naturally, but the play lets them down by being so unnatural at times, particularly the end. Happy endings can be finein some cases, of course, but they’re hard to make believable, and Svanoe doesn’t seem to have even bothered to try; Connie is a little too all-knowing, and the way the play wraps up is much too full of eyebrow-raising miraculous coincidences for comfort. Still, the actors gamely play along, and they get a lot out of the plot even when it’s thinnest. Actors in Fringe shows often seem very nervous or unseasoned, and this show is a welcome exception to that; the cast’s efforts, anchored by Darling, make it worth looking past the story’s weaknesses in order to enjoy their high-quality performances.

(The Connelly Theatre, 220 E. 4th St. Remaining performances: Wed. 8/24, 7:30pm; Fri. 8/26, 3pm; Sat. 8/27, 7pm; Sun. 8/28, 3pm)

.dependent study
Gothamist is a little hesitant to label this “skip,” because although it wasn’t to our taste there are probably a fair number of people in this town who would love this show. It’s definitely a very Fringe-y experience, about as avant-garde as they come; there’s no story to speak of, unless you count the age-old story of male-female communication, which is (we think) the show’s theme. Fortunately, though it was really performance art rather than a play, the performers (Kristin Stewart and Gram Watts) are skilled as actors, which isn’t always the case in that sort of thing. Through a variety of multimedia vignettes, the two explore some harsh realities of sexual relationships; the dramatic lighting, by Christine Shallenberg, goes a long way toward adding tension and urgency to it all. The less abstract segments, such as when the two are framed in “mirrors” or when one speaks as though to a psychiatrist, are certainly provocative and make you both uneasy and thoughtful. In the end, then, if you’re a fan of dense, heavily conceptual art, this may be one of the best shows in the festival; otherwise, unless you need a palate cleanser after the loads of fluff elsewhere in the Fringe, you’re likely to be left cold.

(P.S. 122, 150 1st Ave. Remaining performances: Mon. 8/22, 8pm; Wed. 8/24, 5:30pm; Sat. 8/27, 5pm)