Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fringe Report Card

It was a well-run and efficient Fringe. The house managers were on top of things, shows started reasonably close to their stated times, and the theatres I saw shows in were largely comfortable. (Although I saw 14 shows, I was only in seven theatres.) The website was helpful. It would have been nice if the theatre in each listing were linked to its location information, but that's no big deal.

It also seemed to me to be a Fringe with high-quality content. Of the 14 shows I saw, I rated 8 as B+ or better, which is impressive:

A When Last We Flew
A- As I Am Truly Known
B+ Jen and Liz in Love
B+ Lost and Found
B+ Open Heart
B+ Hamlettes
B+ The Secretaries
B+ Dear Harvey
C+ Platinum
C+ American Gypsy
C- Just in Time: The Judy Holliday Story
D- Dream of the Marionettes
D- Mobius
F Terms of Dismemberment

More impressive is the fact that a friend of mine--someone who is not easy to please--liked more than half of the dozens of shows he saw. These are his bests:

Best Plays
1) Miss Kim
2) Swearing Jar
3) Trick Boxing
4) Lost & Found
5) Monetizing Emma
Best Musicals
1) Shine
2) Bunked
3) Platinum
Best Sketch Comedies
1) Raisan in the Salad
2) Love in the Time of Swine Flu
Best Solo Shows
1) Made in Taiwan
2) Headscarf
3) 23 Feet
Best Male Performances
1) Brian Sostek-Trick Boxing
2) Bill Tomony-Pickin Palin
3) John Pollono- Lost & Found
4) Philip Hoffman- Hurricane Katrina
5) Damiyr Shuford- Matter Of Choice
Best female performances
1) Cristy Candler- Miss Kim
2) Marjory Collado-War Zones
3) Kate Hewlett- Swearing Jar
4) Dana Domenick- Lost & Found
5) Nitya Vidyasagar-Montizing Emma

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fringe: As I Am Truly Known

Emily Rieder's As I Am Fully Known, in which she also stars, is well on its way to being excellent. The story of a Catholic lesbian who becomes convinced that her same-sex relationship is causing God to punish her family, the play presents fully-drawn characters, interesting obstacles, and believable, funny, lyrical-yet-real dialogue. The chronology of the show isn't totally clear, and some parts are flat-out preachy. (Is the priest's "gay people are okay" monologue really necessary? If so, couldn't it be half as long?). The show also requires too many lengthy scene changes that slow the pacing. But these problems are small compared with the many strengths of the piece. And all five actors (Gretchen Ferris, Ross DeGraw, Rebecca Nerz, Jesse Presler, and Rieder) provide textured, true performances, and Presler deserves particular applause for his hysterical depiction of the main character's ne'er-do-well cousin. I look forward to seeing As I Am Fully Known again. (The title, by the way, comes from First Corinthians 13:12: "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.")

Fringe: American Gypsy

Ben Whiting wrote and performs American Gypsy, a combination of one-man-multiple-character theatre and a magic show. Whitlaw plays three magicians: himself, his mentor Jim Cellini, and Cellini's teacher Tony Slydini. The show consists mostly of "words of wisdom" handed down, along with a falling out between Cellini and Slydini. Its 75 minutes are thin, and Ben Whiting is a better magician than actor. His performance would be improved, I think, if he pushed less, but I suspect that the two wiggling young children in the first row helped neither his performance nor the audience's enjoyment of it. Whiting's final piece of magic, done with two metal rings, was elegant and gorgeous.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fringe: Jen and Liz in Love

In Jesse Weaver's lovely 45-minute two-hander, Jen and Liz in Love (nicely directed by Lory Henning), Liz is stuck in a kissing booth while her husband goes to deposit the day's profits. When Jen comes to tell her the fair is closing, Liz asks Jen to stay until her husband returns. As they chat, and argue, we learn about their shared past, their fears, and their desires. The show is funny, economical, and touching. Helene Galek, as Liz, gives a textured and poignant performance with only her lips and occasionally an eye visible. As Jen, Cindy Keiter is wary, subtle, and heart-breaking. (The title is not quite right: it tells too much and seems--to me, anyway--to suggest that the play will be about teens. I wish Weaver had used One Good Thing.)

Fringe: Dream of the Marionettes

Photo: Leslie Westbrook

It's an interesting concept: abused marionettes (played by humans) rebel against their puppetmaster, making him the marionette and reveling in their newfound freedom. Unfortunately, the execution is by the numbers: between each song, the sex-crazed marionette says something sex-crazed, the mean marionette says something mean, the nervous marionette says something nervous, etc, and then they sing another song. The songs and dances aren't bad, but the whole enterprise just doesn't add up.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fringe: When Last We Flew

Photo: Karen Rusch

Harrison David Rivers's amazing When Last We Flew (directed by Colette Robert) weaves a pair of coming-of-age stories into a lyrical, touching, funny, even inspiring 2 hours of wonderful theatre (that's "wonder-ful" as in "exciting feelings of wonder"). Paul (the immensely talented and charming Jon-Michael Reese), an isolated gay teenager in Kansas, spends much of his time locked in the bathroom with a tattered copy of Angels in America, which is his lifeline, his bible, and his erotica. His mother (the lovely, subtle Karen Pittman), desperate to connect with him, tries to entice him out with plates of food, messages of love that Paul simply cannot receive. Natalie (the wry, remarkable Rory Lipede), the only African-American in an exclusive private school, is reaching the limits of her ability to remain well-behaved while being treated as "the black girl." Her mother (the intense yet perfectly restrained Tamela Aldridge) also wants to connect with her child, but more so she wants the intelligent, talented Natalie to have a life full of opportunities, even if she has to smother her along the way. When Last We Flew also features various friends, relatives, and other people, along with, yes, an angel. Particular kudos are owed Justin Gillman, as Paul's friend Ian; Gillman took over the role with less than 48 hours' notice yet performed with wit, deep emotion, and seemingly total ease. When Last We Flew left me with a kaleidoscope of images of despair, love, and glory, beautiful visions of people learning to be themselves and learning to fly.

Fringe: Lost and Found

In John Pollono's Lost and Found, directed by Andrew Block, a character says, "Love is complicated." And love is indeed complicated for the bitter cop with a secret, the angry widow with a secret, the beautiful neighbor with . . . well, guess, and the other characters in this often entertaining, sometimes touching exploration of--as the title says--lost people trying to be found. I'm curious to see the future of this show. On one hand, it's not particularly outstanding or original in terms of themes or execution and it has a large cast (seven people) for the economies of today's theatre. On the other hand, it's a good show, and the Fringe version feels like a try-out for a larger production, with a strong cast including actors from TV shows 24 (the lovely Reiko Aylesworth) and the Sopranos (Geraldine Librandi) and actual production values. Is there room today off or on Broadway for a show such as this one, which is far from ground-breaking but would rate a solid B+?

Fringe: Terms of Dismemberment

Certain basic realities seem to have escaped the people who wrote, directed, and otherwise put together Terms of Dismemberment. (1) Vulgarity is not in itself clever, funny, and/or entertaining--there needs to be some wit, point of view, and/or inspiration behind it. (2) Multiple rhymes are not in themselves clever, funny, and/or entertaining--there needs to be some wit, point of view, and/or inspiration behind them. (3) Self-referential theatre is not in itself clever, funny, and/or entertaining--there needs to be some wit, point of view, and/or inspiration behind it. (4) Abusive parents played for laughs are not in themselves clever, funny, and/or entertaining--there needs to be some wit, point of view, and/or inspiration behind the depiction of them. (5) Men playing women are not in themselves clever, funny, and/or entertaining--there needs to be some wit, point of view, and/or inspiration behind their performance. Well, you get the point.

Fringe: Open Hearts

Photo: Andrew Adolphus

Open Heart
, written and directed by Joe Salvatore, is an intriguing piece of docu-theatre about gay men living in nonmonogamous relationships. Salvatore interviewed 13 couples and a therapist/researcher, and Open Heart consists of the verbatim words--including "ums," stutters, and pauses--of six of the couples and the therapist. The men are engaging company, and their discussions of the advantages and disadvantages of their lifestyles run the gamut from calm reasoned theory to blunt "hey, this is what I want" type comments. Perhaps the most fascinating moments are those in which the men seem out of touch with their actual feelings and fears. The play is split into sections, like chapters, each of which begins with a brief video introduction of repeated images and words that act as chapter titles. The videos add little, plus they are uncomfortably loud and slow the pacing (the pacing in general drags and is sometimes awkward). The actors, who play three or four roles each, are downright amazing. Each interviewee is presented in compelling, three-dimensional, carefully delineated detail, and when the show is over, it's astonishing that there aren't two or three times as many people taking bows.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fringe: The Princes of Persuasion

The Princes of Persuasion: Recipes for Romance makes for an oddly entertaining concert, not a satisfying work of theater. Ithai Benjamin's music is catchy, Rebeca Raney's lyrics are delightfully twisted (think Roald Dahl), and the automated puppets are novel and neatly designed. But the show is mostly prerecorded, and the puppets, not Benjamin, are the characters: airy and deranged Linda, sensible Destiny, boyish but occasionally demonic Lil' Bo-tique, and the goofy Domingo (whose eyes and nose face a different direction from his mouth). There's also no plot, no momentum: it's just a loose series of conversations that serve only to segue into one of the many songs. Still, although it can't compete with the far more complete Jollyship the Whiz-Bang and Avenue Q, it's whimsically winning enough to persuade Fringe audiences to love it.

[Read full review]

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fringe: Interfaith Understanding with Rev. Bill and Betty

A sendup of TV preachers, thinks I to myself. This must have something special, something to delight or at least surprise. No one would put together a show on such a hackneyed theme—would set out to lengthily mock the so-easily mocked—without a fresh approach, would they? Or at least some really sparkling creativity at the heart?

Alas. They would. The only hints of originality in this show came in a few of the fake local TV commercials shown on video between live segments of "Rev. Bill and Betty's" supposed cable access show. The two performers, Jen Ryan and Rik Sansone, are certainly stageworthy, and Ms. Ryan especially bites into her role with dastardly, pink-haired vigor. But their timing is all off, the best lines are thrown away out of context, and a lot of the jokes just don't make sense. (What Southern holy rollers would think to josh that "if there was survival of the fittest, how do you explain Larry King on television all these years?")

For humor to work it has to be rooted in something recognizably real. Martin D. Hill's script doesn't penetrate the innards of people like this to reveal what makes them tick. Rev. Bill and Betty's ignorant, twisted versions of the history of Judaism and Islam, which give the show its title, breathe a little life into the proceedings, but they don't last long. As a result the show is mostly bluster, artifically lightened with plays on words and bearing only intermittent, uncertain laughs.

Fringe: Faster than the Speed of White

Captain Northstar (Pushkar Sharma) and Ensign Southstar (Sathya Sridharan) are aboard the Brownstar Galactica, seeking out the Alcove of Answers, where they hope to at last answer this burning question: "Why did Shaq make Shaq-Fu?" Distracting lines like that only hold the spoken-word duo known as Brownstar back from their quest to find a place for the South Asian American actor. Sridharan, a loose physical comedian (he'd be great on Saturday Night Live), works better with the esoterically nerdy stuff than Sharma, who is stuck being the straight man (though he's funny as Van Wilder's Taj Mahal Badlandabad), but at least both are boldly going where few have gone before. If director Nick Choksi can cut down on all the dead space, and the two can tighten their search for identity around a more specific medium (e.g., Star Trek as opposed to all sci-fi), they'll have a much more arresting show.

[Read full review]

Fringe: Amsterdam Abortion Survivor

Dutch comic Micha Wertheim cleverly deconstructs the standard standup show—while putting on a hilarious standup show. He interrupts a story about childhood to lambaste the audience for an imagined slight. He asserts the unreality of our present experience in the theater. He uses his foreigner status to be somehow innocently yet blatantly politically incorrect. Through all this he milks observational riches, powerful comedy, and startling (if sometimes awkward) stage business via a skewed attack on jokes and solo performance. One thread throughout Wertheim's show is an exaggerated egotism. It fits his scruffy charm and he makes us snicker with, not at, his self-satisfied attitude. Ultimately he's satifying us with welcome laughter.

Fringe: Invader? I Hardly Know Her!

                       SEXY COWGIRL

Oh no you caught m--
Wait, what does a sexy cowgirl have to do with a
science fiction musical?

It's sci-fi.


So what do you think was the gender of the guy who
wrote it?


[Read Full Review]

Fringe: when last we flew

Tony Kushner is lucky to be getting such a touching homage to his masterpiece Angels in America in Harrison David Rivers's when last we flew. Rivers clearly loves the play and isn't trying to rewrite it. The play takes place in Kansas and there are no characters dying from AIDS or closeted Mormons. At a little under 2 hours, it's not the epic that Angels is. It does, however, remind us of the power of literature.

The central characters are two African-American high school students. Paul (Jon-Michael Reese) reads Angels in America obsessively. As he struggles with his sexuality and deals with the feelings of alienation brought on by his father leaving, he finds solace in the play as well as his bathroom--the only room in his house with a lock. Natalie (Rory Lipede--remember that name) is an exceptional student who gets kicked out of her private school when she realizes that she wants to stand up for injustice. Rivers uses imagery and lines from Angels in America to invoke a similar feeling of fantasy. My guess is that a knowledge of the play isn't required to be moved by when last we flew, but I wonder how someone unfamiliar with Angels would take scenes such as Natalie crash landing into Paul's bathroom.

[Read full review]

Fringe: Möbius

Photo: Tim Palin

What do you get if you mix Proof, a bad Twilight Zone episode, and a tin ear? Michael López Sáenz’s Möbius, currently playing as part of the Fringe Festival. From the long, unsuccessful, opening monologue, to the long, unsuccessful, closing monologue, Möbius attempts to achieve thoughtful significance but instead strings together dated cliches, two-dimensional characters, pointless arguments, murky chronology, and unsurprising and/or uninteresting twists. Montgomery and Mackenzie are 17-year-old twins; Montgomery is gay and is scared to come out to his parents; their father has barely been at home in the previous three months; their mother is, we are told again and again, controlling, though we mostly see her be petulant. Everyone is furious at everyone else. The question is why, and the answer is not as interesting as it should be. The performers are awkward and unconvincing in similar ways, which makes me think that director Jeanine DeFalco has a lot to answer for. The one scene that works occurs in a gym locker room when Montgomery tries to ask out the (straight) guy of his dreams, who is strutting around naked.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Fringe: Hamlettes

Photo: Brian Hashimoto

The vast majority of shows would be improved by being 15 minutes shorter. Hamlettes is the rare play that needs--and deserves--to be expanded. Written by Patrick Shaw and directed by Lillian Meredith, Hamlettes follows three 12-year-old girls as their Drama Club unravels due to jealousies and changing alliances after two of the girls decide to speak Shakespeare-ese 24/7. Shaw's decision to use heightened language lends the girls' emotions a gravitas that they might overwise lack--and, since these girls are dealing with serious, heart-felt issues, that gravitas is well-earned. (I've always disagreed with the idea that only mature actors can grasp Romeo and Juliet's deep emotions. Who feels emotion more profoundly than young teens?) Hamlettes, already fascinating, would be much improved if Shaw took more time establishing the relationships and showing the changes that the girls experience. Two or three more characters might help as well. (I would also lose the cutesy title.) But the main idea, that the emotions of tweens are no less important, meaningful, and dangerous than the emotions of Henry V or King Lear, provides a firm foundation on which to build.

Fringe: Getting Even With Shakespeare

For a play about Shakespeare, there are an awful lot of Beckett jokes. Though Matt Saldarelli's Getting Even With Shakespeare primarily deals with the playwright in the title, no one is safe in this hilarious madcap comedy which references everything from Star Wars to Pirandello.

The play takes place in a bar where Shakespearean tragic heroes hang out in between shows (whenever their plays are performed anywhere in the world, they have to be there). Josh Odsess-Rubin is appropriately douchey as Hamlet, Patrick Pizzolorusso is the comedic standout as the angry Macbeth, John D'Arcangelo is the pitiful King Lear, Amanda Tudesco channels Blair Waldorf as the Upper East Side princess Juliet (the only character that has conformed to the times), and Ben Holmes is an adorably innocent Romeo. The bartender is an actress known as Ophelia #482, played delightfully as an airhead by Kelsey Formost. How these Ophelias come to be at this bar is never explained, but no matter--disbelief has to be suspended to enjoy this play.

[Read full review]

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fringe: The Secretaries

This comic exaggeration is about women who refuse to fit in--especially to the prim secretarial roles they've been assigned to at the Cooney Lumber Company in Big Bone, Oregon: "And once a month we kill a man and chop him up." But don't be fooled by the camp: the show is actually an attack on anything remotely ordinary or normalizing, from Slim-Fast shakes to expense accounts to Feminism itself. Mark Finley's direction isn't primal enough for this sort of rebel yell, especially since the dated comedy is no longer shocking in of itself, but the show is still fairly funny, and the cast--if it's not offensive to say so--is darling. On a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being "Find a new vocation," and 5 being "There's a new executive in town," The Secretaries gets a 3.5.

[Read full review]
[Read Wendy's review]

Fringe: The Great Galvani

The Great Galvani promises "the highest of high-quality acts," so it opens with the Bearded Lady (Kevlyn Hayes) and her ruminations on appearance, then shifts to Galvani (H. B. Ward), who proceeds to conjure up some high-quality feces (out of his ass, naturally). It's a giant misdirect, as is the way he summons P. T. Barnum into his own body for a monologue, and if the show were longer than a half-hour, the clever philosophical "edutainment" that writer/director Shawn Reddy sneaks in under that hammy cover might really pack a punch. Even still, it calls to mind the rich minimalism of Will Eno's Thom Pain, what with the wry romanticism, the unavoidable habit to "love what will not last."

[Read full review]

Fringe: The Secretaries

Over 16 years have passed since the Five Lesbian Brothers (Maureen Angelos, Babs Davy, Dominique Dibbell, Peg Healey, and Lisa Kron) first presented the Secretaries. The role of women in the workplace has changed drastically. The position of secretary has pretty much vanished, with managers writing casual emails rather than dictating formal letters. In the 1950s, the brilliant Hillary Clinton would have had few options other than being a secretary; today she is Secretary of State. Because of these changes, in some ways the cheerfully vicious Secretaries is dated. However, in many other ways, its satire still hits hard as it plays with society's ideas of feminism, jealousy between women, predatory lesbians, non-thin females, and sex. Patty, the new secretary at Cooney Lumber, wants to fit in with her Slim Fast-quaffing, fashion-conscious, gossipy coworkers, all of whom near-worship their thin, elegant boss Susan. Patty manages to work her way into Susan's good graces (winning "employee of the month" after only a week on the job), and by the time she finds out that the women kill one of the lumberjacks each month, she is part of the gang, happily brandishing the bloody sawn-off arm of her own lover. Due to the talent and intelligence of the Five Lesbian Brothers--and the perfectly stylized acting of Virginia Baeta, Elizabeth A. Bell, Jamie Heinlein, Karen Stanion, and Elizabeth Whitney--watching female empowerment through violence is a fabulous way to spend time.

Fringe: Ground to Cloud

                     MAN SHADOW
I wish I could figure out how to shadow light
this shadow lightbulb.

I have a socket shadow.

Can I shadow screw into it with my shadow

Shadow yes!

Heh. Heh heh heh heh heh...
The shadow lightbulb represents my shadow--


[Read full review]

FRINGE: Terms of Dismemberment

                       WACKY CAST MEMBER 1
Let's sing about gun nuts, wont that be funny?

Let's sing about drinking pee, that should be hysterical

Hey everyone, you should join me in a song about selling
a 14 year old's ovaries, that'd be CCCRRRRRAAAZZZZYYYY!

Ha ha, my friends in this show are so hysterical.
Especially when they gave me free pot before the show

[Read full review]

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fringe: Veritas

There is no doubt that Stan Richardson's Veritas, which sold out its entire run before the Fringe Festival even began, is the hit of the festival. So, is it worth the hype? Well, it needs some work, but mostly, the answer is yes.

In 1920, Cyril Wilcox, a student at Harvard University, committed suicide at his home. His brother, Lester (an intense Doug Kreeger), discovered letters sent to Cyril implicating his classmates in homosexual activities. "The Court" was formed by the president and dean of the university to interrogate the students. The play offers its version of these events. This disturbing period in Harvard's history was only uncovered in 2002. It's an important story that deserves to be told. The writing is quite powerful, effectively using repetition and greek chorus style where the actors often speak at once. The use of music and Shakespeare monologues make this a lovely production (directed by Ryan J. Davis), but the downside is that the play is a little too artsy and it would be hard to connect to the characters were it not for the cast of talented up-and-comers. Sam Underwood deserves particular recognition as the shy and awkward Joseph Lumbard, one of only two to be deemed not guilty and allowed to return to the school, but Justin Blanchard, Paul Downs Colaizzo, Mitch Dean, Morgan Karr, Eric Nelsen, Matt Steiner, Jesse Swenson, Joseph Yeargain, and Kreeger deserve recognition for their fine work humanizing the play.

[Read full review]

Fringe: I Don < 3 U Ne Mor

If you see one musical at Fringe this year, make it the endlessly fun I Don < 3 U NE Mor, with music by Frank Grullon and Cathy Thomas and lyrics by Daren Taylor. With its tight book (also Taylor) and John Hurley's fast-paced direction that never drags, this fully realized production could transfer with very little editing, a rarity for Fringe.

The musical begins with "Out of Service/Out of Touch," a number with colorful costumes and dance moves (courtesy of choreographer Curtis LeMoine) that look like a parody of High School Musical. The dancers repeatedly stop mid-song to answer their cell phones, which is a smart set-up to a show about the dangers of technology. Ron (Dewy Caddell) and Sam (Elise Link) are about to lose their jobs as archivists for an Internet company after a merger leads to the creation of Verizon Micronet unless they can come up with a new job position. In the midst of trying to save his job, Ron is also trying to win over the girl of his dreams, Daliya (Felicia Hudson), who doesn't know he is alive until Ron's roommate Nic (Cameron Leighton Kirkpatrick) introduces him to the power of cell phones, texting, and My Facester.

[Read full review]

Fringe: Together This Time

Together This Time is like a City of Angels for literature instead of film. Scenes are split between a novelist's life and the characters in his novel, sometimes overlapping. There is a fundamental problem, though, that makes it impossible for the show to work. The story our protagonist is writing sounds so dumb that I cannot imagine why anyone would want to read it.

Jay Allen Jones (Jonathan Whitton) was a successful writer in New York City, but he moved to Colorado to get away from it all. He has spent the last four years working on a novel about two 18-year-olds in love, Jamie Gower (Andrew Redlawsk) and Gillian Wilder (Emily Olson). His girlfriend and editor Emily (Tro Shaw) wants to move back to the city, so she leaves him, and he follows her, winning her back through his novel. Emily is apparently an in-demand editor (as we learn through the song "Can You Help Me With My Book?") and Jay is a critical darling, so why would they be spending all their time on a book where nothing much happens except that Jamie and Emily leave home to start a life together and then come back home but this time it will be different because they will be in their own apartment.

[Read full review]

Fringe: Have A Nice Life

For a show called Have A Nice Life presented by Nice People Theatre Company (the most adorable name for a theatre company ever), the characters are not very nice. I wouldn't want to spend 90 minutes hanging out with any of them, but spending 90 minutes watching them is not so bad.

The show takes place during a group therapy session led by Patrick (Benjamin Michael). Jackie (Amy Acchione) brings her new best friend Amy (Miriam White), who she met only three hours earlier, to join the session. Each character gets a song or two, but we never get to know much about them beyond their basic problems, which are pretty familiar (mommy and daddy issues, etc.). Book writer Matthew Hurt often brings up topics but doesn't explore them, such as when it is mentioned that the macho Frank (Gregg Pica) might be gay. I suppose this is realistic in that not everything can be addressed and dealt with in one group session, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating.

[Read full review]

Fringe: Julius Caesar: The Death of a Dictator

                      JULIUS CAESAR
Hi there. I'm both a well-known dictator and a
pretty boring play.

What if I were to cut you down.


No, in length. Down to 75 minutes.

I would still be boring, but for much less time!


[Read full review]

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fringe: Hamlettes

Going into Hamlettes, I expected a light comedy about 12-year-old girls staging Hamlet (this is not the first time I've been misled by a Fringe blurb), but the show was unexpectedly dark, and was all the better for it.

Alex (Alexandra Bassett) is given a book of Shakespeare plays for her birthday and falls in love with the play Hamlet. When Chloe (Savannah Clement) performs a Claudius monologue in class, Alex asks her to form a drama club. They decide to stage Hamlet with Alex in the title role and Chloe as everyone else. When Chloe decides she can't play Ophelia because she doesn't relate to her, they cast the shy new girl, conveniently named Ophelia (Lauren Weinberg). Up until this point, the play is very funny due to Patrick Shaw's ability to write realistic dialogue for 12-year-old girls who think they know a lot more than they do. Once the girls decide to never drop character, themes of betrayal and sexual awakening are introduced. Because pre-pubescent girls already deal with these emotions, the fact that they would get so caught up in a play like Hamlet makes so much sense that it's a wonder no one has thought of it before Shaw, but luckily he also has a capable director, Lillian Meredith, to execute his ideas. The actors are all very believable as teenage girls and Weinberg is the standout with her heartbreaking performance.

[Read full review]

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fringe: The Maid of Orleans

The recent, widely praised London/Broadway production of Mary Stuart has fanned interest in Friedrich Schiller's plays, and never having seen any version of The Maid of Orleans before, I'm glad I went to this adaptation. But though there were bright spots, as an overall piece of theater it was a disappointment. It's an unusual mix of drama and opera, during which the cast sings several well-placed selections from I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Bellini's operatic retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Ethereal soprano Gudrun Buhler digs into the title role, speaking with appropriately unearthly cadences and singing beautifully. Dylan Bandy gives Lionel, the British lord, lovely voicing as well, and a slow-motion stylized fight scene near the end captivates with dreamy pathos. But the production is undercut by uneven acting, some bad miscasting, and direction that lacks vibrancy.

Read the full review on Blogcritics.

Fringe: Just in Time: The Judy Holliday Story

Judy Holliday was a beautiful woman, a gifted comedienne, and a genius with a knack for invention. In Bob Sloan's Just in Time: The Judy Holliday Story (also directed by Sloan), Marina Squerciati's excellent performance as Holliday almost makes up for the show's weaknesses. Just in Time relies heavily on self-satisfied shtick, including having Holliday's mother omnipresent; awkwardly combining What's My Line and Holliday's Senate testimony about whether she was a communist; and having Holliday fall back on her dumb-blonde persona in personal interactions. The show's presentation of Holliday's life is sloppy; for example, Holliday's son is used as a device with little attention paid to how he came to exist. While this is definitely a crowd-pleaser (the crowd I saw it with was certainly pleased), the brilliant Holliday deserves better.

Fringe: Platinum

In 1978, Platinum, starring Alexis Smith, ran for a total of 45 performances. Reworked, the new version at the Fringe has five characters (down from 13) and some catchy songs, but the book is less than compelling. It's the 1970s and 40's movie star Lila is trying to make a comeback as a singer. Her recording engineer, who wants to be a songwriter, considers her hopelessly out of date. She needs many takes, for no particular reason. She gets angry and then does a good take. She meets a sexy almost-has-been rocker, and his girlfriend (or good friend?) steals her song (and makes a huge hit out of it). Lila gets involved with the rocker, who loves her old movies. It may be true love, or they may be using each other. Or both. The owner of the recording studio is a bad guy. Lila sells out the rocker but then changes her mind for no dramatized or sung reason. This description actually sounds more interesting than the show on stage, which manages to feel both wispy and heavy-handed. The 90 or so minutes pass pleasantly enough, mostly due to Donna Bullock's likeability as Lila, but Platinum is not a lost wonder waiting to be rediscovered.

Fringe: Alternative Methods

Can we call for a moratorium on black-and-white characters like "the rule-breaking private contractor" (Charlie Kevin) and the "yes-man doctor" (John Greenleaf) as they demonstrate what not to do? We need characters with some real intelligence and depth--not the accused Dr. Al-Badrani, who is so flatly and stereotypically portrayed by Alok Tewari that waterboarding seems like a viable option. There's a spark of a back-story given to rookie psychologist Susan Fulton (Julie Kline), enough to explain why she bonds with Al-Badrani and tries to subvert military conduct to free him, but that sort of illogical idealism belongs in Hollywood, which is fake enough to handle such things. The biggest disappointment in Alternative Methods is that it only provides more of the same.

[Read full review]

Fringe: Art of Attack

The somewhat tedious but well-written first hour is a stalemate between two estranged brothers: Kaz, who was blinded in an accident, needs his brother to help him train for a tournament; Sergei, who realized he was as addicted to the game as their dead grandmaster of a father, refuses to ever even look at a chess board again. Once the two set their repetitive arguments aside and actually play, adding color commentary and letting out all the nuances they (and director Joshua Kahan Brody) have been bottling up, the show comes together. If the first half of the play is reading up on intellectual strategy, the second half is all about the execution. It almost holds up, too--but playwright Asa Merritt overcommits to a second climax. The final scenes are confusing, with sexual tension added between Sergei and Kaz's now-slightly-crazed girlfriend Rose, and they undercut what's come before: it's the equivalent of continuing to play after losing one's king.

[Read full review]

Fringe: Richard 3

Let's get this out of the way. Richard 3 is misleadingly billed as a punk rock musical, but most of the music by Mike Fabano does not fit the punk description. Although there is a band onstage, the songs are often sung a cappella. This is not to say that the music, which has a haunting quality, doesn't fit the show, it does, but if I'm promised a punk rock Richard III, I want to see a punk rock Richard III.

James Presson's reimagining of Shakespeare's play takes place after World War III. The show actually owes a greater debt to Spring Awakening than American Idiot, by having characters speak Shakespeare's words and then using modern language when at the microphone.

[Read full review]

Fringe: William and the Tradesmen

If you want to spend an evening with Morrissey, Joe Strummer, and Paul Weller, look no further than William and the Tradesmen. All three are channeled to remarkable accuracy by Eli James, who also wrote the one-man show.

The three British musicians are Will Bray's idols. Will imagines them guiding him in his quest to be a successful musician, even though his band never shows up for gigs. James has a nerdy appeal as Bray and his Morrissey is particularly brilliant. The songs are well-written, but not so exceptional that you can't see why Will has never had his big break. As both a theater nerd and an Anglophile, I especially appreciated "The Second Song Is An I Want Song."

[Read full review]

Fringe: Hamlet Shut Up





And then everybody dies.

[Read full review]

Fringe Festival: Dear Harvey

Patricia Loughrey's Dear Harvey, drawn from gay leader Harvey Milk's words and from interviews with people who knew him (carried out by the playwright), is earnest, thoughtful, and frequently moving. It seems to have a number of goals, ranging from being educational to providing a compelling evening of theatre. It could use some pruning, clearer time shifts, and a stronger through line to meet those goals. As it stands, Dear Harvey is neither "Harvey 101" nor really a play. For people who already know about Milk, it has much that is interesting. However, for people who don't, too many names and too many bits of information fly by too quickly to digest. I tip my hat to the people who created Dear Harvey, as their love, commitment, and hard work are apparent. I hope they work further to clarify and perhaps simplify the show so that it can better meet their admirable objectives.

Friday, August 20, 2010

South Pacific (Live at Lincoln Center)

The recent TV airing of South Pacific on Live at Lincoln Center was a pretty good telecast of an excellent production of an uneven show with some lovely songs and a dumb book. (In what ways is the book dumb? Nellie's attitude toward Emile changes every five seconds, Nellie can handle that Emile killed a man but not that he slept with a non-white woman, Emile doesn't bother to mention that he has kids, Emile wants to avoid being killed in war because he loves Nellie but doesn't worry about leaving his kid fatherless, Bloody Mary's version of matchmaking looks more like pimping, and so on.) The telecast was only pretty good due to some awkward camera work and some odd decisions, the oddest perhaps being the choice not to show the magical moment when the stage pulls back for the overture, revealing the large orchestra. Another odd choice was to spend so many precious seconds showing the sullen Andrew Samonsky as Lt. Cable when it should have remained glued to the glorious Paulo Szot as Emile DeBecque singing "This Nearly Was Mine" (perfectly!). But forget the complaints--isn't it wonderful that this event occurred? Isn't it fabulous that Live at Lincoln Center exists? Wasn't it a delight to see the play of emotions across Kelli O'Hara's face as Nellie realizes that Emile loves her? And what about Danny Burstein holding onto his dignity talking to Nellie while dressed in dreadful drag as "Honey Bun"? And Loretta Ables Sayer's beautifully sung, magnetic, manipulative, and desperate Happy Talk? And all those musicians! Whatever its faults, this telecast was a gift.

Fringe: Evan O'Television in Double Negatives

Evan O'Sullivan calls his act "conceptual comedy," and the televised version of himself--his partner--jokes that "if we called it performance art, nobody would come." When the two are in sync--or deliberately out of it, as with one gag--Double Negatives is delightful: it's self-self-deprecating humor. (Consider one skit in which the televised Evan plays a therapist who is attempting to treat the live Evan's psychotic habit of "talking to himself.") Entertaining as this "renowned one-man duo" is at first (O'Sullivan's mirthful similarity to Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet doesn't hurt), the gimmick exhausts itself after a half-hour. It doesn't help that "both" actors are the straight man and that the live Evan often has to mumble extra text to stay on cue--the show needs some fine tuning (pardon the pun).

[Read full review]

Fringe: The Beatitudes

The final performance of Eidolon Ballet's The Beatitudes is tonight at 8 p.m. at Dixon Place. I recommend trying to make room for it in your Fringe schedule. At only 35 minutes, it can easily fit in between two other shows.

The dance piece begins with Ray (Jerry "Chip" Scuderi) serving in WWII and follows his journey as he returns to New York, discovers the Beat Generation, heads west, and eventually returns home. The dance is set to jazz music as well as readings by Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. I don't claim to be a dance critic, but to these eyes, the dance set to spoken word is particularly engaging because it enhances the poetry of the language. The choreography by Melanie Cortier is lovely, if at times repetitive.

[Read full review]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

FRINGE: Richard 3

I am goth! Look at my eye makeup!

I am also goth! Look at everybody die!

When World War 3 is over, anybody who doesn't die will be

We'd complain that you stole our "thing", but you sing
better than us.

[Read full review @ BroadwayAbridged]

Fringe: The Conveniences of Modern Living

Best not to dwell on the talking Dryer (Jessica Love)--it's enough that an innocent face simply peers out of that door with fabric softener sheets crinkled through her hair and a long slinky-pipe of an arm. Such imagery fits perfectly with the precocious poetry of ten-year-old Bobson (Zack Palomo), who is falling for his babysitter, Agnes (Maya Baldwin)--and not just in their make-believe games. It also saves Agnes's husband, Harold (Rory Sheridan), from having to explain exactly what he's doing on those late nights with the Dryer. The less it's acknowledged, the easier it is to accept that--following the loss of their child--this is just how things are. But as the play continues, it becomes self-aware of its absurdity, veering into a farcical and campy dinner scene with Bobson's horrible parents--the selfish and sniping Bettina (Tavia Trepte) and the drugged-out and arrogant Bernard (David Ian Lee)--and runs out of things to say.

[Read full review]

Fringe: Feed The Monster

Feed The Monster starts off strong when Rita Emerson (Stephanie Ehrlich) takes the stage to perform the title song by Ehrlich, who also wrote the show, and composer Jim Keyes. She channels a psychedelic rock goddess and for that moment, it feels as though we've been transported to the 70s, but unfortunately, the rest of the show is a little dull in comparison.

[Read full review]

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fringe: Get Rich Cheating

Like all good satire, comedian Jeff Kreisler's fake wealth-building seminar gets closer to the truth than the putative objects of its scorn. The form is a mockery of those "Rich Dad, Poor Dad"-type get-rich seminars that rely on role play, humor, catchphrases and revival-tent adrenaline to convince listeners that their lives and fortunes are really about to change. Kreisler's real targets, though, are the "cheaters" who amass wealth through exploitation and dishonesty—the Enrons and AIGs and politicans on the take, of course, but also the Sarah Palins of the world and even Barack Obama, who earns a gentle ribbing from this liberal comic for gaining the highest office in the land through the power of words.

Kreisler covers a lot of ground in this energetic hour. The premise is amusing, he's got the motivational speaker shtick pretty well down, and many of his zingers hit their targets. Through jokes he paints a grim picture of a world in which "your being is based upon your bling" and "people are stupid...they'll buy Apple products on the day they're released." By excoriating those easy corporate targets, he makes a little more palatable the deeper message that we're all complicit in this sad, dirty game.

Fringe: Jen and Liz in Love

In Jesse Weaver's slow-starting but ultimately funny and effective one-act, two fortyish small-town women with over-the-top Boston-area accents alternately tiptoe and stomp around a shared past they've never spoken of before. The key that opens up the subject is the absurd circumstance: Liz (Helene Galek), who has spent the day in the local fair's kissing booth, kissing every man in town through a small aperture, finds herself locked inside as the day draws to a close. Her old friend Jen (Cindy Keiter) hangs around to keep her company while they wait for Liz's husband to return with the key. Here, contrary to the old saying, out of sight means more in mind than ever. In a faint Beckettian echo, we see nothing of the emotional and loudmouthed Liz but lips and an eye, while dowdy Jen drifts uncertainly around the booth, one moment plaintively touching the belly of the cartoon vixen painted on the side, the next moment stomping off angrily. Out of the intentionally overcooked broth of jokes and accusations, a small, honestly touching story of love and regret emerges like aromatic steam.

Fringe: Bunked!: A New Musical

Beware the buzzed-about Fringe show. It's impossible to guess how shows will fare until they begin performances and it's often the ones that sound best on paper that end up disappointing. Bunked!, a musical about summer camp counselors, sounds like a campy (pun only partially intended) good time, but the lack of dramatic tension makes for a tedious evening.

Each counselor is a stereotype: Anabel (Amanda Jane Cooper) the goody two shoes, her flamboyant twin Oliver (Tim Ehrlich), Carmen (Lizzie Klemperer) the bitch with a heart of gold underneath, Max (Jake Loewenthal) the boy with a secret, and Stewart (Ben Moss) the over-achiever who is sick of doing what his parents want. There are themes of summer romance and jealousy, but there isn't much of a story arc. In the opening song, "Best Summer Ever," Seth Sikes's direction is over-the-top, setting the audience up for silliness, but the show ends up being too sincere for its own good. When serious topics such as suicide are introduced, they feel forced, and the characters are too one-dimensional for us to care, as much as the hard-working cast tries. The most successful bits of the evening are the loudspeaker announcements provided by Michael Urie.

[Read full review]

Fringe: Two Sizes Too Small

Jessica Kane has a great idea for a short story, but she can't write dialogue. So why oh why has she directed Two Sizes Too Small as a radio play? It's ironic that things start with Paul (John Wernke) trying to squeeze his feet into all of the shoes in his house--for Kane shoehorns in many unneeded effects, from Scott Paulson's barely-there Foley effects to Joe McGinty's character themes (for piano), which overscore an already overwritten script. The fumbling performances--unforgivable, considering they've got scripts in front of them--aren't the biggest problem, though, nor is the smallness of their characters. Instead, it's the pedantic dialogue, which relies on the pejorative "Jesus!" to save them from all of their problems.

[Read full review]

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fringe: Pigeons, Knishes, and Rockettes

Cynical theatergoers should probably avoid Diana Rissetto's Pigeons, Knishes, and Rockettes, but those who smile at the thought of Christmas cookies and cry every year during It's a Wonderful Life (full disclosure: I am in the latter category) may be unable to resist the charms of this romantic comedy.

Eve (Julia Arazi) is a bubbly romantic who knits scarves and is obsessed with Christmas. She is used to being overshadowed by her tall and attractive best friends/roommates, Georgia (Kristin Muri), a Rockette, and Cherokee (Matthew Waterson), an actor who, as you might expect, is gay. Then she meets Peter (Carl Howell), a jazz singer with a Christmas album who hates the holiday, but actually notices her.

[Read full review]

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fringe: Trick Boxing

Trick Boxing is exactly what you'd expect of a show that's been touring for the last eight years: a tight, original, charming two-hander. Brian Sostek and Megan McClellan's writing isn't quite up to the standard of Ben Hecht (The Front Page), but the rapid-fire patter is; if nothing else, Sostek should find steady work as a voice-actor. Only the dance sequences feel as if they're holding something back, though perhaps that's just because Sostek needs to breathe before pivoting back into his multiple levels of narration. There's a lot packed into the show--and the show consequently packs a punch; it's a winningly screwball, perfectly pugilistic performance.

[Read full review]

Fringe: My Name Is Ruth

The Book of Ruth is a dramatically inert part of the Old Testament, and though Stephen W. Baldwin's My Name Is Ruth drags it into the '50s, he hasn't found a way to expand or enrich the material. In fact, he's minimized it, paring the story down to two actors, Ruth (Magdalyn Donnelly) and the various men in her life (Jeffrey D. Querin), a convention filled with aimless monologues to invisible people. He's also wasted the talents of his design team--Barb Scott's only able to show off two of her cute costumes, and Pamela Querin has but one set with which to sell the department-store glamor (she does). Given the plodding pace, Baldwin's would-be quaint dialogue quickly sours. Ruth is a folksy woman, and Donnelly's a delight in that capacity, but there's a lack of depth to the play. There's either enough material in the show to fill forty minutes, or room to flesh out the story so it's not stuck on a one-note romance (that currently lacks chemistry).

[Read full review]

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fringe: "My Broken Brain"

Here's my review for the NYC Fringe Festival show "My Broken Brain":

Happy in the Poorhouse

Photo: Larry Cobra

The first time I saw Happy in the Poorhouse, five months ago, I gave it a well-deserved rave review. I have now seen two other Amoralist productions (Pied Pipers of the Lower East Side and Amerissiah), plus Happy in the Poorhouse for a second time, and I remain impressed by this original, scrappy, intense, funny, smart theatre company. However, I am curious--and a little worried--to see what the future holds for the Amoralists. If author-director Derek Ahonen continues to work in his cartoonish-yet-three-dimensional manner, will it continue to be effective? Or will it grow into a rut? Will the attractive, talented Sarah Lemp and James Kautz get the opportunity to show their full ranges, which I suspect are impressive? Will all the actors get to show what they can do when they are not yelling? Whatever direction the Amoralists take, I look forward to their future productions.

Two Gentlemen of Verona

Artwork: David Huber

Everyone has bad days at work, and Two Gentlemen of Verona was one of Shakespeare's. The plot is dumb, the relationships arbitrary, the happy ending unearned. But the play has its charms, and the Judith Shakespeare Company maximizes those charms in its gender-bending production, playing through August 22 at the TBG theatre. With men in the female roles and women in the male roles, this Two Gents plays with Shakespeare's use of cross-dressing and comments on gender-based assumptions. It also allows both women and men to perform in roles that would not usually be available to them. The direction relies a bit too much on shtick, and the scene changes take too long, hurting the pacing of the play and making a long evening seem longer. Some performers are allowed to assume accents that make their dialogue unintelligible. But, on a whole, the show is well-directed and -acted. Interestingly enough, of the four leads, the men succeed better playing women than the women do playing men. I suspect that putting on a dress, feminizing one's movements, and affecting a high voice are more potent signifiers than putting on a tie, masculinizing one's movements, and affecting a low voice--particularly since many women now behave in ostensibly masculine ways. A woman in pants and a tie, sitting with her legs spread, can come across as just being a woman, perhaps a tomboy or lesbian, perhaps not. But a man in a dress comes across as either a drag queen or a woman; it is unlikely that he will be seen simply as a man in a dress. The cross-dressing might have been more effective if the women had bound their breasts; however, the full beard on the man playing Silvia (Hunter Gilmore) did not get in the way of perceiving him as a woman. In addition, while the women playing Proteus (Sheila Joon) and Valentine (Rachael Hip-Flores) were excellent, the men playing Sylvia and Julia were superb--particularly Alvin Chan as Julia, whose performance was both deeply funny and truly heart-breaking. Of the entire cast, all of whom did good jobs, it was only Chan who truly understood, felt, and conveyed being in a high-stakes reality.

Fringe: Bagabones

Bagacrap. Sorry, that's unduly harsh--Jonathan Nosan's Bagabones is mainly suffering from false advertising. While it's true enough that the first twenty minutes of his show might resemble "a contortionist's charming nightmare" (if you omitted the "charming" part), nowhere in the program guide does it warn that the next twenty minutes involve a static, pseudoscientific lecture, given in Japanese, with translations in English, Sanskrit, and French blurrily, painfully, scrolling beneath him. And perhaps you're in to that. Just know that while he's being metaphoric in his references to "primal spaces" that he's being literal when he says there's an "ultimately smashing end": i.e., he breaks a piece of pottery. It's embarrassing--for him....

[Read on]

Fringe: Butterfly, Butterfly, Kill Kill Kill!

In adapting Seijun Suzuki's surreal 1967 B-movie "yakuza noir" Branded to Kill, Patrick Harrison--who also directs and stars--has run with fundamental principle of Suzuki's: "There is no film grammar." This freedom from rules makes for a liberating show--and one becomes so immersed in the madcap presentation that it takes a while to realize that his company, Depth Charge, actually has a lot of structure behind their work. (It's almost disappointing to learn that this group has ties to Richard Foreman and John Zorn's Astronome.) The show is disturbingly erotic, too: Hanada (Harrison) has a boiled-rice fetish, and we see his wife, Mami (Alexandra Hellquist), tease him into violence with it; later, it will spill in slow motion out of the lips of his new lover, Misako (Margaret Odette Perkins). Don't dismiss this as pure imagery: when Mami mounts Hanada, wearing a butterfly mask and silhouetted in red light, the emotions are raw and very real. On a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being "Dis-u-grace-u-ful" and 5 being "The #1 killer," Butterfly, Butterfly, Kill Kill Kill! gets a 4.5.

[Read full review here]

Fringe: Love in the Time of Swine Flu

A title like Love in the Time of Swine Flu promises a series of themed, tightened skits. Instead, while the show has some recurring moments (an unfortunate series of parlor games a fiancee plays with his soon-to-be-parents-in-law), the ensemble Stupid Time Machine keeps it way too loose: it's obvious they've just thrown everything at the wall. On the plus side, one-note stuff (like new airport security measures that inevitably resemble grinding at a rave) remains mercifully brief; on the negative side, just as the show gets rolling (a vampire has performance anxiety and has to teethsturbate as his victim talks dirty about her veins), it cuts to something else. Jokes about making a Berenstain Bears porn (this may have beat them to the punch) repeat themselves too often to be funny.

[Read on]

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Fringe Fringedown

Over the course of the next two weeks of the Fringe Festival, we at the Show Showdown have invited a bunch of guest writers from the ITBA to share their coverage here, with us, as we attempt to cover more shows than ever before. The shows must go on, as many as possible: that's a lesson we learned from Patrick.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Our Town

Photo by Carol Rosegg

Our Town, currently playing at the Barrow Street Theater and starring Michael McKean as the Stage Manager, is a marvel of a play. Having somehow escaped high school without reading it or seeing it performed, I found this performance nothing short of fascinating.

The staging at the Barrow Street Theater is at once unique: along with a sparse stage set with only two kitchen tables and four chairs between them, the first row of seats on the left and right side of the stage are actually on the stage, in the middle of all the action. Actors and actresses not only use the chairs and people in them as props, but during certain intermediary segments of the show, audience members are discreetly slipped index cards and prompted to take part in a "Q&A" with the editor of the Grover's Corners newspaper.

The story is slow and steady, with a Stage Manager who maintains a certain sense of defensive placidity as he describes the people, places, and daily activities in this small New Hampshire town. The normality of the play captures the audience's attention so easily that it's not until the very end of the first act -- or even the beginning of the second -- that the viewer can really tell what the arc of the story is. This quaint, idealistic storyline is shattered in the third act, in a series of events that caused more than one audience member to gasp quietly. The final scene is heartwrenching; James McMenamin's portrayal of George Webb simmers so subtly throughout the first two acts that his final, agonizingly emotional scenes are breathtaking.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

In The Heights

Photo by Joan Marcus

In The Heights is one of those rare shows that starts quickly and manages to keep its brisk pace throughout, without feeling rushed, or worse, lagging halfway through the second act while the cast catches its breath. The quick rhyming by Usnavi (currently played by Corbin Bleu) introduces the setting and all of the major characters before the show is even ten minutes old, yet the audience is never lost.

Rather, they are welcomed in by the community. Set in the Hispanic neighborhood of Washington Heights, around the 181st Street subway station, the show could easily become a cultural study that the audience watches but doesn't invest in. Instead, with a clever wink to such thinking, Usnavi lets the audience know that he knows what you're thinking -- "I'm up sh*t's creek, I ain't never been north of 96th Street!" Yet the audience is drawn in. The music, dancing, and complete joy that infuse the show are nothing short of infectious. In The Heights apeals to such a broad audience -- adults who can empathize with the day to day struggles, teens looking for a more relatable musical, and kids attracted by the wildly talented Corbin Bleu -- that it could easily paint its characters with broad strokes, but instead each is fully realized and wonderfully complex.

In The Heights deserves every one of its five Tony Awards. Bring your kids, bring your parents, bring the people down the street -- just make sure you see it, because no other show on Broadway captures summer in the city quite like this.