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Inside Ink, August 5, 2011

What's happening in New York theater

By John Rowell
Photo: Jay Sullivan

FRINGE ON TOP:   After a summer of some really terrific theater festivals in the city, it’s time to now take a deep breath, step aside and make way for the granddaddy of them all: the New York International Fringe Festival, more commonly known as FringeNYC, which is ready to set the August theatrical landscape ablaze.  As if we needed more heat this summer!   But hot it is, and for two exciting weeks, FringeNYC becomes, if not the only game in town, at least the one with the most players.   Look at the numbers: we’re talking 192 emerging theater troupes and dance companies in 20 venues in Lower Manhattan, expected to attract upwards of 75,000 audience members.  That’s no chump change, theater fans; that’s the largest multi-arts festival in North America.  The 2011 edition of FringeNYC marks the 15th incarnation of the Festival, which means the Fringe is now squarely in its teen years.  They sure do grow up fast, Ma!  Of course, it’s impossible to write about everything in a festival this extensive, but here are a few shows in the Festival to keep your collective eyes on:


  • Yeast Nation:  First, the good news:  this is the new musical from the Tony Award-winning team behind Urinetown, the legendary show that debuted at the Fringe and went on to uptown glory and international renown.  More good news:  it stars the inimitable Tony winner Harriet Harris, of stage (Thoroughly Modern Millie) and TV (Desperate Housewives).  So what’s the bad news?  The show’s run at the Fringe is already sold out—the earliest that a show has ever sold out in the festival’s history.  Cancellations, anyone?  For the record, performances take place at La MaMa ETC.  But, hey, if you can’t get in to Yeast Nation, there’s always The Book of Mormon.  


  • Felony Friday:  Iconic stage, film and television actor John Amos returns to the stage for the world premiere of Scott Decker’s play about a notorious crime boss locked up in general holding with some of the city’s worst criminals.  Rebecca Yarsin directs.  Connelly Theater; performances begin August 20.


  • Wilhelmstrasse:  Goldart Productions presents this drama by Stuart Caldwell, which traces the relationship between a beautiful German girl and a sarcastic New York Jew, after their year-long acquaintance as students in New York.  Probing art, love, and the the struggle to comprehend and escape the Holocaust’s enduring stigma, the play is part travelogue and part polemic on identity, religion and the binding ties of the past.  Andrew Block directs; performances begin August 13 at La MaMa ETC. 


  • Elysian Fields:  Some of the most memorable characters from the pen of Tennessee Williams get a makeover in Chris Phillips’ imaginative new play, which he co-directs with John Michael Beck.  Phillips’ script pulls back the curtain on three Williams characters: Allan Grey, Blanche DuBois’ shy and troubled young husband from A Streetcar Named Desire; Sebastian Venable, the doomed aesthete unable to escape his horrific past in Suddenly, Last Summer; and Skipper, the football hero who refuses to give up fighting for the love of his cowardly best friend (that would be Brick) in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  Now that’s a gay cocktail party right there.  Performances begin August 22 at The Kraine Theater. 


  • I Light Up My Life:  The Mark Sam Celebrity Autobiography:  Mark Sam Rosenthal is very happy to present this over-the-top multi-media presentation of Mark Sam’s 789-page, yet-to-be-published homage to his favorite celebrity: himself.  Relentless self-indulgence or hilarious self-revelation?  You’ll have to check it out to see for yourself, when performances begin August 12 at Dixon Place.


For a complete schedule and comprehensive guide to all things Fringe, visit the official website:  All Fringe, all the time!


THE MASTERS:  No, I’m not talking about the game with a putter and balls in which Tiger Woods figures prominently.  Wait, maybe I am!  Erick Paiva-Nouchi’s Love Masters, a multimedia performance art play on the journey of a tantric massage, begins Sunday, August 14 at Theater for the New City, as part of The 2011 Dream Up Festival.  (This is New York; there can never be just one festival.)  The play is actually conceived as a 70-minute session between the tantric massage master and his tantric massage slave.  I’m told it’s spiritual, sensual and erotic.  I’m also told it’s for “mature audiences only.”  Alas, that excludes most of us, doesn’t it?  For more info, visit