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New York International Fringe Festival—Gay offerings

The annual Fringe fest always has a healthy number of queer shows. Here's this year's LGBT options.

Photograph: Dave Thompson
Skin In The Game

Seeing a show in the New York International Fringe Festival is always a roll of the dice. Will you catch the next Triassic Parq or Silence: The Musical? Or will it be more like the next "damn, I wish I had those 90 minutes back" moment of your life? For those limiting this year's Fringe gamble to gay-friendly shows, your very queer choices are contained below.

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Reviews of 2014 gay Fringe Festival shows

The Truing

Joe Norton’s sweet-natured play is partially narrated by Gil (Stephen Hope), a middle-aged gay man living with HIV, who is doing water duty with his best friend, Skip (Kathryn Gerhardt), at a bike ride benefiting AIDS research. After going off course, they find themselves lost and abandoned, miles away from where the action is, with plenty of water but not much else; at a campsite, they encounter Doc (Joel Mark Mijares) and Marion (Esther Chen), who’ve just spent a night together. The plot takes several unexpected swerves, some of which lead to worthy destinations; as a character named Chickie, who performs in "chicken drag," Billy Hipkins is, dare I say, pretty clucking wonderful. But the low points outnumber the peaks; forced, tiring moments of drama leave the audience relieved when the finish line is in sight.—Derek Smith Click here for full TONY coverage of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival.

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Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center Until Sat Aug 23

Murder, Margaret and Me

Critics' pick

A cozy little space, a mysterious woman, a foggy suggestion of death in the air—this is a case for Miss Marple! Luckily, she's here, perspicacious as ever behind her knitting needles and twinkly, harmless-spinster demeanor. (“That glint in her eye? Solid steel.”) So, for that matter, is the woman who created her, the imperious English mystery novelist Agatha Christie; and so is the woman who first played her on film (to great success), the galumphing actress Margaret Rutherford, whose comedic haleness masks a secret fragility. In this production, which played in London before arriving at the Fringe, all three women are portrayed by Janet Prince, with delightful wit and command. Although the central mystery of Philip Meeks’s brief drama—a tragic scandal from Rutherford’s past—is not quite on Christie’s level, its characters are drawn sharply and engagingly. If you enjoy a brisk sip of Anglophilia now and then, this should be your cup of tea.—Adam Feldman Click here for full TONY coverage of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival.

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Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center Until Sat Sep 20

King of Kong: A Musical Parody

Based on the successful 2007 documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, this musical parody follows two men, Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell, on their quest to achieve the high-score record for the video game Donkey Kong. Playwrights Lauren Van Kurin and Amber Ruffin play Wiebe and Mitchell, as well as multiple other roles, layering their costumes on top of each other for attempted comic effect. Even given the Fringe’s low-budget aesthetic, however, the show seems cheap and slapdash. The musical numbers are sloppy, and the quality of the humor is far below that of the already amusing source. Spend your Fringe coin elsewhere.—Sean Bansi Click here for full TONY coverage of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival.

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Players Theatre Until Tue Aug 19

The Ultimate Stimulus

Despite rejection from TED Talks, lawsuits filed against her and forced cancellation of college-speaking gigs, Amanda McCloud (Tanya O’Debra) is still eager to share her solution for ending the income gap—by bringing back the ancient tradition of concubinage. In Felipe Ossa’s clever political satire, McCloud tries to persuade us to level out economic inequality by requiring the superwealthy to adopt random, low-earning citizens as sex slaves, on a rotating basis, every two years. By proposing master/concubine relationships, illustrated with Max Wolkowitz’s projections (Walmart heir and billionaire Christy Walton is trotted out for several hypothetical scenarios), we see McCloud’s preposterous, radical, even hilarious plan for America in graphic detail. McCloud is an impassioned, quirky perfectionist, begging to be understood, but O’Debra’s performance feels a touch too robotic. Though occasionally stimulating, the experience is ultimately not so different from a lackluster lecture—or a pompous TED Talk.—Derek Smith Click here for full TONY coverage of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival.

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The Celebration of Whimsy Until Sat Sep 13

Joel Creasey: Rock God

Critics' pick

Australian comedian Joel Creasey arrives at this year's Fringe having already achieved some level of fame in his own country, and it's easy to see why: The relentlessly hilarious 23-year-old has the chops of a much more seasoned performer, and the charisma of an inevitable star. Despite its inclusion in a theater festival, the show is essentially a stand-up set ("You can call it storytelling," he quips early on), complete with crowd work and an onstage water bottle. It's loosely structured around stories in which Creasey meets his childhood heroes (from a kids' TV show host to a famous Aussie stand-up), but the considerable magic is in the asides and tangents—many of which seem genuinely off-the-cuff. Whether recounting his failed stint as a ball boy in tennis or humblebragging about bedding his mother's Zumba instructor, Creasey is charmingly self-effacing without ever crossing the line into awkward self-loathing, and his ability to contort his face and voice to inhabit various characters recalls performers like Maria Bamford and Margaret Cho. (As with those funny ladies, Creasey's mom is the source of much of his comedy.) Rock God is a rare opportunity to catch a future star in an intimate setting. Don't miss it: You'll have great bragging rights when he sells out Radio City in a few years.—Ethan LaCroix Click here for full TONY coverage of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival.

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Players Theatre Until Fri Aug 15

Vestments of the Gods

Critics' pick

With a name like Thebes Street Elementary, it’s no wonder that a school’s Halloween festivities take a dark turn in Vestments of the Gods. Writer Owen Panettieri’s adaptation of Antigone is a clever (if sometimes heavy-handed) examination of the thoughtlessness that can allow problems to fester into tragedy. Casting a wide net on such social issues as censorship, bullying and workplace discrimination, the play often has an After-School Special feel, and its primary antagonist is a conservative straw man: an odious PTA president (Broadway veteran Jennifer Cody, deliciously viperish) who bears the brunt of Panettieri’s social criticism. Yet the production transcends the script’s weaknesses, thanks to Joey Brenneman’s savvy and sensitive direction, and a truly excellent ensemble led by Erica Diaz as the sixth-grade heroine. Jaunty songs by Panettieri and composer David Carl, sung by a convincingly adolescent Greek chorus, provide effective counterpoint for the debate-driven scenes, while Erin Michelle Routh’s costumes offer a range of witty, homespun Halloween getups. Greek tragedy isn’t known for its subtlety, but tricks and treats help the medicine go down.—Austin Ruffer Click here for full TONY coverage of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival.

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Theatre 80 Until Sun Aug 24

The Mormon Bird Play (Sketches for an Allegorical Dream)

Critics' pick

Ivona (Jose Dao), a young mute girl, arrives in Salt Lake City and is befriended by a group of kids, which changes the dynamics among them and brings painful truths to the surface as they prepare her for baptism as a Mormon. Playwright-director Roger Benington has written a smart, rich script, with gripping characters and a fascinating use of fantasy elements. Although the actors do great work portraying children, I'm not sure why the cast is exclusively male, and some moments in the play may be overly abstract; a scene involving four 19th-century Mormon women and a dead newborn is thematically apt but seems out of place in the overall story. Still, this a thoughtful piece of work, with lines that fly like poetry but stay beautifully grounded in the events of the play.—Michael Gabriel Torres Click here for full TONY coverage of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival.

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Robert Moss Theater (at 440 Studios) Until Thu Aug 21

Magic Kingdom

The Happiest Place on Earth is anything but for playwright Cory Conley (playing himself). He arrives to rescue his sister, Claire, who has been jilted while on vacation. Ostensibly in the throes of a nervous breakdown, Claire plans to blackmail Disney to allow her and her impossibly precocious daughter to live in the park. Conley finds his attempt at brotherly heroism complicated by his spiraling personal life and tenuous control over his own play. This all results in a collision of Pirandellian meta-theater, corporate satire and family drama, providing more jarring tonal shifts than a walk through Epcot’s international expositions. The play is not helped by Conley’s lack of acting experience; his dry, droll recitation serves him well in asides, but hobbles him as the emotional anchor of the play when things get darker. Frequently humorous dialogue and a witty depiction of Disney World as an absurdist dystopia run by a corporation-as-person (Daniel K. Isaac, blithely inhuman) don’t prevent the play from seeming as artificial as the Magic Kingdom itself. As Claire soon learns, a House of Mouse is not a home.—Austin Ruffer Click here for full TONY coverage of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival.

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Connelly Theater Until Sat Aug 23

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