Postcards from the New York Fringe
How to choose among the scores of Fringe Festival offerings? We suggest the tried-and-true paper chase.
Tue Aug 6 2013
Every August, the New York International Fringe Festival rolls
into town, and we face the same dilemma: What to see? Advance hype and word of mouth can narrow the odds, and we media folk have other advantages: press releases, artists we’ve seen before, little birdies who tell us what might be promising and what to avoid at all costs. But festival devotees know that, even in the age of social media, those old-fashioned promotional postcards stacked in piles at Fringe venues—4" x 6" slips of glossy paper with doctored photographs and/or graphics, plus brief and sometimes witty descriptions on the back—can still provide key clues in the search for Fringe gold. With that in mind, here are the six shows we would see based solely on sorting through this year’s thick stack of cards.
Celebrity performers are as rare at the Fringe as stars in the New York City sky, so a famous face on a card stands out. The biggest fish in the pond this year is comedy writer, Hairspray alum and Hollywood Squares wag Bruce Vilanch. Throw in a show written by Simpsons writer (and The Critic creator) Mike Reiss, and you’ve got the Fringe equivalent of a summer blockbuster.—Adam Feldman
2 Recipe for Success with Chef Michael Denardi
A shirtless guy wearing a chef’s toque grasps a hunk of raw meat in either hand as he leaps away from a cataclysmic explosion in the background. Looks appealingly nutty. Bonus: This solo piece about an aggrieved kitchen celebrity is performed by former The Colbert Report writer Peter Grosz, who was quite good recently in A Kid Like Jake.—David Cote
3 Strange Rain
Elegant and spare, this one looks like a golden-age movie poster, at once dreamy and noirish. I’m curious. And the back draws me in more—freakish precipitation, lesbian psychics, UFOs and controversial sexologist Wilhelm Reich. You’d probably never see this play Off Broadway.—DC
4 Save the Date: A Wedding Road -Trip Musical
The cartoon is cute in a vaguely sad way, and the color palette is pleasing, and the cursive font has an agreeable hominess, and—who am I kidding? This caught my eye because I sort of know writer-composer Gregory Jacobs-Roseman personally, and his name is in big letters on the front. What would Fringe audiences be without friends, family and piano-bar acquaintances?—AF
5 Cowboys Don’t Sing
A joke musical about warbling gunslingers? Pure Fringe. I like the playful cartoon and gags on the back. (warning: shockingly expensive now reads the square where you stick a stamp.) Seventy years ago, Oklahoma! had cowpokes singing and dancing. While the country & western tuner has not flourished (Urban Cowboy?!?), I’m up for another turn at the rodeo.—DC
6 Still Life
The card’s fuzzy, superlow-budget photo of two red grapes, with black lines drawn on for arms, could be the sign of a wittily knowing comic sensibility—or the show could really be exactly as dumb as it looks. We’re torn, but intrigued by the opening gambit of the blurb on the back: “Imagine for a minute that you are a grape. Now imagine that your best friend is also a grape.” You have to admit, it’s seductive!—AF