2014: When We Were Idiots by Xavier Toby
Summary: It’s the year 2114. The world self-destructed 100 years ago and, having learned from our mistakes, we have rebuilt civilization into a much better place. Take a walking tour of the Lower East Side, reconstructed as it looked in 2014, and see for yourself all the crazy things people did in 2014 with your trusty penguin tour guide, Xavier Toby.
Why Go?: If that description didn’t fill you with meta-excitement, I don’t know what will. Does it help that Toby confronts strangers on the street and speaks to them as if they were actors in a 2014 historical?
Stand-Out Bits: Um, so there’s every time that Toby confront strangers on the street and speaks to them as if they were actors in a 2014 historical re-enactment. That was brilliant. Also, wouldn’t it be amazing to walk around everyday as if you were a studying 2014 society in all its weirdness and insanity? Simultaneously being a participant and observer of the world? I mean, that’s what artists do, don’t they?
Toby’s walking tour (working a radius of about 2-3 blocks around Fringe Central) is hilarious and often confrontational (New Yorkers seem more playful than usual when confronted by a tall man in a penguin suit). But the tour was also surprisingly uplifting and optimistic. As of 2114, we are a world that have destroyed itself, but we are also one that has rebuilt itself and learned to move on. Amid the comedy, Toby takes the time to reassure us that we’re constantly reconstructing our world, and the best that we can do sometimes is learn how to pick up the pieces.
2014:When We Were Idiot starts out at Fringe Central on 8/22 at 2:30pm and 7:30pm, 8/23 at 7:30pm, and 8/24 at 2:30pm
Hoaxocaust! by Barry Levy
Summary: In this one-man show, Barry Levy begins to investigate Holocaust conspiracy theories in order to better understand Jewish solidarity through victimization, he plunges into a complex and unsettling world of Holocaust deniers, and travels across the world to speak with the field’s foremost scholars.
Why Go?: One of the hotter Fringe tickets, Hoaxocaust has already built quite an audience and gotten some buzz.
Stand-Out Bits: Levy is such a dynamic performer and he had my attention for every single minute of the show. Hoaxocaust is thoughtful, witty, and accessibly. Its discussion of Jewish culture, of very recent world events, and of how these factors play out in Levy’s family life is incredibly focused, nuanced, and darkly comic. But what’s even more fascinating than Levy’s adventures in Holocaust denial land is his subversive commentary on storytelling, truth, and lies. The structure of Levy’s narrative parallels its conspiracy theory subject matter, leaving us with more questions than answers. The ending of the show pulls the rug out from under the audience’s feet, and left me eagerly exploring its resonances and piecing together its meaning for the whole day. This was definitely a highlight of the weekend and will hopefully receive a life post-Fringe.
Hoaxocaust! plays at the IATI Theater on 8/19 at 6pm and 8/21 at 9:30pm
The Photo Album by The Story Gym
Summary: In an attempt to preserve a historical Victorian house in Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park, the audience must scan a number of photographs and use the clues (with the Layar app for smartphones) to locate, converse with, and learn about the house’s former residents.
Why Go?: This interactive multimedia show is an exciting, experimental new approach to immersive theater. We’re forecasting a trend.
Stand-Out Bits: The framing story of a soon-to-be demolished house is a bit weak, but nearly everything else about The Photo Album was energizing and engaging. The show turns the audience into historical investigators, and I enjoyed my interactions with the actors, who play the house’s residents from the late 19th century through 2014. The show wisely speaks to a new age of self-guided exploration and capitalizes on allowing audiences to choose where to drive their journey to next based on their interests in the given photograph or character, I think that with a clearer aim (a mystery to solve, perhaps), this concept could work extremely well as a larger project, perhaps even on-site in Ditmas Park itself.
The Photo Album plays at Clemente Soto Velez Center’s Abrazo Interno Gallery on 8/23 at 4:45pm.
Depression the Musical by Marianne Pillsbury
Summary: An autobiographical musical about pop-rock singer Marianne Pillsbury’s experiences with depression and her process of writing the show.
Why Go?: Comical, honest, and clever songs are really at the heart of this musical, and who doesn’t love those?
Stand-Out Bits: Pillsbury begins the show with an audio recording of herself singing as a little girl. She wonders how she could have ever been so optimistic and simple, how she could ever have looked forward to anything when now she can barely make it out of bed. Simple, revealing thoughts like these are what make the musical feel so tangible and accessible. I wish I saw a little more of that aspect in the song lyrics, though the musical numbers were all enjoyably catchy and well-directed. The choral arrangements particularly stood out to me as a highlight. Pillsbury is a talented vocalist and actress who sets the right tone for her musical. With the aid of a girls trio, called the Committee, who portray the thoughts in Marianne’s head as well as the minor characters, the show sets a consistently lively pace that makes Marianne’s journey feel more hopeful and optimistic, if not just a little cheeky, than you might expect of a show about mental illness. The performances from the cast are equally entertaining and heartfelt, and the relationship between Marianne and the Committee is fluid and fun. I could see this show benefiting from a longer run time, devoting more time to Marianne’s recovery, as well as other steps of her process.
Depression the Musical plays at the Flamboyan Theater on 8/22 at 2pm and 8/24 at 4:45pm