I’m closing up our coverage of this year’s FringeNYC with a fairy-tale opera, a South African dramedy, and some experimental feminist dance theatre. Let’s get to it!
THE MAGIC MIRROR
The Magic Mirror is an opera retelling of Snow White’s familiar tale, while also showing the rise and fall of the evil queen.
Like many Fringe shows, the set is minimal, save for an impressive mirror effect that displays different characters in a given scene. The costumes, too, are a predictable mix of button-down shirts, trousers, and evening gowns.
But the stars of an opera are its music and voices. There The Magic Mirror soars, with a haunting, complex score by young composer Polina Nazaykinskaya, and a cast filled with strong, rich voices. While Snow White is not the most captivating of princesses, in The Magic Mirror, she at least has one kick-ass soprano.
Ndebele Funeral begins as a standard living room drama… if the living room is a one-room shack in South Africa, that is. Daweti (Zoey Martinson) is the shack’s sole inhabitant. She is more invested in her final home, however, building her own coffin out of materials the government provided to renovate her house. Her friend Thabo (Yusef Miller) visits Daweti, hoping to convince her to leave the shack. Daweti, suffering from HIV, depression, and alcoholism, refuses. The pair are interrupted by Jan (Jonathan David Martin), an inspector from the government checking in on Daweti’s unorthodox use of the supplies. Things don’t turn out so well.
Ndebele Funeral deals with some heavy material (HIV, complicated race relations in South Africa, etc.) but the execution of it is far from dreary. Martinson’s script is a sophisticated combination of pain, humor, and a touch of melodrama. An exciting element to the production is the use of traditional South African singing and dancing, which adds a visceral quality to the play while effectively detailing its cultural world.
Even though I could see its ending early on (with Chekov’s gun in full effect), I still mourned at the close of Ndebele Funeral.
KINEMATIK DANCE THEATER
Dance theatre only succeeds when it can tell a story within the physical movement. Kinematik Dance Theater more than achieves this aim in Perfect Prototype, as Kinematik’s dancers challenge “perfect body aesthetics within media culture.” Dressed in uniform black full-body leotards and black bobbed wigs, the dancers begin the piece as mannequins that come in and out of consciousness. Some of the most impressive choreography involves the performers holding their plastic poses as other dancers manipulate their bodies throughout the space. As the piece progresses, the dancers become more and more distorted, mimic-ing troubled pop stars and showcasing their bodies, now altered with gigantic prosthetic limbs. When the performers remove their plastic trappings and smear their heavy makeup, they challenge us to examine our own standards of beauty.
It ain’t pretty.