All My Children

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Photograph: Greg White
All My Children
Which is the scarier three-word phrase—"I'm your father" or "one-man show"? In the case of writer-performer Matt Smith's diverting 90-minute offering, be not afraid of either. The seed of the tale, told in a genial storytelling style, is an outlandish conceit: Max Poth, a childless bachelor with a breezy self-deprecating streak, discovers that all six of his ex-significant others married their next partner within three months of breaking up with him, and all gave birth to their only children within a year. Poth tracks down the progeny and declares that he's their father, knowing he isn't. This isn't an exercise in malevolence; the first lie just springs from Poth's lips, the second chases the illicit thrill of the first, and as relationships develop, the serial fibbing becomes something of a quest. It's a credit to Smith's quality as a writer and performer that he doesn't flog this absurd notion for laughs. He lays off the histrionics—all but one of his former partners’ kids (a 13-year-old) react to the life-changing bombshell with varying degrees of incredulity—and injects the proceedings with gentle laughs and believable characters. Smith still throws in a few curveballs, such as makes his pad available as a sex nest to a pair of Christian fundamentalists. Only when Poth offers his junkie "daughter" $100 to Eskimo-kiss does the joke fall… Well, it falls plain creepy. That's but one knot in an otherwise enjoyable yarn. (Visit the FringeNYC Encore Series website for more information.)—Jonathan Shannon
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