2005_08_artsonewoman.jpgAs we head into the final weekend of FringeNYC, Gothamist finds ourselves thinking two things: First, we're incredibly surprised at how enjoyable so many of this year's Fringe festival shows have been. Certainly we have managed to attend only a fraction of the complete offerings, but as samplings go, we have to give this year's organizers some props.

The second thing? We're tired. The Fringe is long festival, and we imagine the staff manning the individual theaters each and every day can't wait until Sunday has come and gone and their 17 day journey ended. We've seen a lot of shows, and probably not even as many as we might have been able to. And with three days left, we actually still plan to see a few more. There are plenty of performances left throughout the weekend, and if you visit the Fringe NYC Slice-o-Matic, you can get a list of them, day-by-day. Gothamist has already reviewed a bunch of Fringe shows in four separate posts, and of our "Don't Miss" selections only The Miss Education of Jenna Bush (today at 2 PM), God's Waiting Room (Sunday at Noon) and Movie Geek (today at 2:30 PM and 11 PM) still have performances, and some shows may be sold out. Other recommended options with performances remaining include Go-Go Kitty, Go!, Jesus in Montana: Adventures in a Doomsday Cult (Sunday at 2:45 PM), The Metaphysics of Breakfast (Saturday at 10:15 PM), and Tarot Reading: Love, Sex and Mommy (Saturday at Noon).

After the jump are two more reviews plus a few other shows playing this weekend you may want to consider,.

The Last Two Minutes of the Complete Works of Henrik Ibsen

The Magnificent Hour

The Chicago troupe The Neo-Futurists has been creating their own brand of theater for nearly two decades. After previous Fringe successes, they arrived in town with this somewhat accurately titled new show. We say "somewhat" because while the show does, in fact, cover all 26 of the plays Norwegian master Henrik Ibsen wrote, some of the scenes cover more than two minutes, others less. What they all do is take the super-dramatic, usually tragic endings of Ibsen's work, dispense with all that namby-pamby, expository story and drama, and recreate them in an entertaining, often hysterical series of vignettes. They range from a fairly straight treatment of the conclusion of "A Doll's House," to earlier works recreated like a silent horror movie or as a puppet show using condiments as the characters. (That's right: if you've always wanted to see ketchup and mustard have sex and orgasm , this is the show for you.)

The cast is very talented and very funny, and the way the Neo-Futurist founding director and Ibsen creator and director Greg Allen constructs the show provides a really great evening of off-beat theater. Gothamist knows this because everything else about this theatrical experience was close to hellish, yet the play endured. The Neo-Futurists has an uphill battle with what must be one of the most frustrating of all Fringe venues -- Ace of Hearts. The stage is not more than 18 inches high, the seating is cheap rubber folding chairs that make you feel like you're sitting in a sloped crevice, and since the floor of this venue (normally a music performance space) is flat, it's virtually impossible to actually see most of the stage (unless you're in the front row) through the heads in front of you. Top that off with some incredibly noisy air conditioning which often drowns out the cast but when turned-off (which it was on more than one occasion) allows the room to become unbearably hot and uncomfortable. Gothamist would certainly suggest FringeNYC abandon Ace of Hearts as a venue, and we wish we could see Ibsen in a nicer space so our discomfort wouldn't detract from what is otherwise a very entertaining and intersting show.

(Ace of Hearts: 9 Great Jones St. @ Lafayette; Remaining performances: today 8/26 4:00 PM, Sat 8/27 12:00 PM; Runtime 120 minutes)

Quite simply, The Magnificent Hour is anything but. The premise is interesting enough: what if for one-hour murder became legal? If someone annoys you, just fill out the proper paperwork, file it with the the proper federal government (The Department of Parks and the Magnificent Hour) and then during the appointed hour, you are free and clear to kill your target. This attempt at what is ultimately political and social satire is so flawed, it's hard to know where to begin. Ultimately, the production attempts to depict the absurdity of what Michael Moore has often termed the current climate of fear in the US. The current President Bush is a character in this wannabe-farce, spouting how "The Magnificent Hour" is just another exploration of our freedom -- freedom to rid society of someone who bothers us -- and if we don't like it, we're free to leave the country. (Gene Perelson's Bush is one of the few portrayals that made Gothamist chuckle once or twice, when he wasn't simply trying to copy what Will Forte does on Saturday Night Live.) Meanwhile, because we only deal with positive spin in this country, nobody is actually murdered; they are made "magnificent."

The problem here is completely in the execution. The Magnificent Hour is an example of overdone, hammy comedy at its worst. It's not just schtick -- it's bad, unoriginal schtick, stealing from cheesy Star Trek moments and Abbott & Costello's "Who's on First?" routine to dumb local news anchor jokes that might make you remember Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy even more fondly than it deserves. At the back of the stage is a digital clock which counts-down the hour throughout the show. The cast regularly references the amount of time left, and Gothamist found ourselves sitting there saying, "Really? There's still 42 minutes of this torture?" A very interesting social satire could have been produced with more focus, fewer characters -- there is no single story and each of the seven cast members plays at least six different roles -- and less of an attempt at wacky humor and improv (we won't even go into the lame and unnecessary attempt at interactivity/audience participation), but that's not what director Sam Turich and the cast (which receives "written by" credit) hasgiven us. The Magnificent Hour takes place in what is normally gallery space at the Center for Architecture. A good play can make any space feel like a theatre; Gothamist never lost sense of exactly where we sat.

(Center for Architecture: 536 LaGuardia Place betw. W. 3rd St & Bleecker; Remaining performances today 8/26 3:00 PM, Sat 8/27 9:15 PM; runtime 75 minutes)

Dying to see something at the Fringe but still can't make heads or tails of the program guide? Check-out Gothamist's original preview and look into some of the shows below. Remember, you never know exactly what you're going to get, but so far much of what has appeared interesting this year has been.

  • Extra Virgin: Two men meet in an online m4m chat room and get together to have sex. They've never met before -- or have they? (Tonight 6:15 PM, Sat 8/27 9:00 PM)

  • Manatee: We can't guarantee you'll like this, but with such a description, how can you not be intrigued: "Terrence and Ray aren't certain where they are. Come see this intrepid duo cling to survival in a world of disappearing llamas, suspicious syntax, and a dwindling supply of Hostess snacks." Llamas and Hostess snacks? Now that sounds like theater! (Tonight 9 PM, Sat 8/27 1:45 PM)

  • Marlowe: If you want your drama with more, uhm ... well, drama, check out this attempt to mix the modern and classic sensibilities in an exploration of Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe's life in large part through his own work. (Tonight 7:45 PM, Sat 8/27 12:00 PM, Sun 8/28 4:15 PM)

  • A Monster Under My Bed Drank My Vodka: Writer/performer Lisa Dean David brings her one-woman show about "addiction, neuroses, and 12-step dating" to New York after a long, sold-out run in LA where it first performed in 2003. Gothamist tried to get to be spontaneous and see David's performance yesterday, but apparently she's brought that "sold out" quality with her, and we arrived just minutes after the last seat was filled. (Sat 8/27 12:15 PM)

  • Patty Cake: No kids hand-clapping here; this game of Patty Cake is purely metaphorical. Writer/director Ken Prestininzi imagines the conversations between former hostage heiress Patty Hearst and her lawyer in preparation for her trial. (Today 9:15 PM, Sunday 8/28 4:00 PM)

  • Uncle Sam's Satiric Spectacular: On Democracy and Other Fictions Featuring Patriotism Acts and Blue Songs from a Red State: The Neo-Futurists' Greg Allen collaborated with five other playwrights -- Sheila Callaghan, Bridget Carpenter, Eric Coble, Richard Dresser and Hilly Hicks -- plus songwriter Michael Friedman to create this musical which harkens back to the days of Vaudeville with a modern socially satirical sensibility. (Today 5:30 PM)

Advance tickets through TicketWEB must be purchased at least 24 hours ahead of showtime. Swing by FringeCENTRAL at 125 W. 3rd Street or head to the venue before show time for tickets.