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Five kinds of Fringe Festival show

Adam Feldman
Written by
Adam Feldman

The 18th edition of the New York International Fringe Festival is now in full, vertiginous swing. We’re reviewing dozens of shows on our Fringe Festival page (where the first batch of reviews is now up); you can also visit the festival’s website for a full list of all 205 shows, from A to Y. (There are none that start with Z this year. Get on that, Fringe 2015!) Meanwhile, to help you navigate the maze, here’s a guide to some of this summer’s productions, sorted into five classic types of Fringe offering.

RECOMMENDED: See full coverage of Fringe Festival NYC

The Scrappy Musical
Every Fringe musical dreams of being Urinetown, the festival’s most successful alum. This year’s contenders include: Coming, in which Jesus returns as a contestant on a TV singing show; Depression: The Musical, about an alcoholic lesbian in therapy; and Olympus Records, which imagines five heroes of Greek tragedy as veterans of a ’90s rock band.

The Very, Very Serious Piece
Amid the festival’s ramshackle frivolity, one can always find productions that take theater very seriously indeed. This year’s sincerity wing includes No One Asked Me (about undocumented immigrant teens), Dust Can’t Kill Me (a folk musical about Dust Bowl migrants, by rising Yale seniors) and Soga Shohaku (a Japanese company’s tale of a widely hated 18th-century painter who “had reason to live in a clumsy way like that”).

The Acclaimed Foreign Production

Not surprisingly, Fringe shows that originated abroad tend to be more tested and polished. If you’re willing to shlep here from England (like the Miss Marple–themed solo Murder, Margaret and Me) or Australia (like the comedic Joel Creasey: Rock God or the poetic This Is Where We Live), chances are you’ve got postcard-friendly raves to your credit already.

The Gay-Themed Play with a Shirtless Guy on the Postcard
This once-ubiquitous Fringe subgenre has lately dwindled in popularity, but the torch is being carried this year by such entries as No Homo (about two best buds who are “pretty sure they’re not gay…”) and Skin in the Game (tagline: “How far do you go to help a friend?”).

The Usually Comic Production with a Weird, Attention-Grabbing Title That Pretty Much Does All the Marketing Work (Celebrity Name-Drop Optional)
E.g., Fatty Fatty No Friends; Fuck You! You Fucking Perv!; Gary Busey’s One Man Hamlet (as performed by David Carl); mislabeledilEMMA: No, I Don’t Have Downs Syndrome; Pickles & Hargraves and the Curse of the Tanzanian Glimmerfish; Seven Seductions of Taylor Swift; Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey, with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran.

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