The Present Company
It happened. You missed it.
On the last night of the festival, I had been ordered by an uppity house manager to go to the back of the queue and wait by the rubbish bins for the house to open. There was no special treatment for members of the press and no air conditioning for anyone at all once we got inside. The joys of theatre on the fringe…
Very often, you will hear folks talk about The Fringe as a hit-or-miss fest. I don’t know if it was pure luck or some hardcore rejections from the artistic director, but this year seemed to offer quite a good selection all-around. A couple of JoyHog staffers (who shall remain nameless) had nothing nice to say about “I Coulda Been a Kennedy,” but beyond that, I heard lots of good things over the past two weeks.
If you caught my review of “Hermanas,” you know that it was quite the pleasant surprise on day one of the festival. Well, now the show has extended as part of the FringeNYC Encores Series. Actually, there are 16 shows in Encores that are supposedly the best of the fest. I happened to see three of them. I have excellent taste, I know.
Ross Maxwell’s “Open House” was among them. It’s a strong offering from the talented New York-based playwright. Concerning the excessive American values of patriotism and vanity, a sharp cast (though we don’t know their names since there were no programs) ride that fine line between dark comedy and the sad realities we are all faced with on a daily basis.
And, of course, there is “The Infliction of Cruelty.” Here is a show that had the kind of spread in The New York Times that surely made every other production insanely jealous. Walking into the sold-out 190 seat theater, I did notice that the audience was almost as hot as the cast, which is fun. Andrew Unterberg and Sean McManus, in their first stab at a play, have channeled Tom Stoppard by way of Whit Stillman. In what is a Trivial Pursuit of quotes and high-brow references, a story unfolds of privileged siblings who have been harboring secrets about family members celebrating in the next room. While the play favors language and name-dropping (dead celebs, mind you) in the first act, the second quickly makes up for the chit-chat with lots of action and drama. Though the delicate balance has yet to be reached, this is the first run of the script, and it should definitely scurry on to more development and larger productions.
This production, though, was pretty slick for the Fringe. I think the glossy programs cost more than the total budget of most shows, and Alana Israelson has dressed the five characters in perfect garb (PS – Alana, I wanna ask you about a pair of shoes, later). The boys and girls who inhabit these clothes make the show fly. Justin Barrett, Aimee DeShayes, Holter Graham, Pawel Szajda and Elizabeth Van Meter (who was looking fierce at the after-party, btw) made-up this wonderful group.
Click here for more on the best of the fest: http://www.fringenyc-encores.com/