Salamander Starts Over

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Salamander Starts Over
Photograph: Hope Curtis
Salamander Starts Over
When Armando Merlo makes the varsity wrestling team, his new 200-plus–pound Catholic-school buddy gives him a pep talk: “Salamander, you’re so greasy and slippery—just slip out of his arms!” Although this advice doesn’t serve young Merlo well on the mat, it seems to have prepared him well for the stage, as the playwright-performer deftly wriggles in and out of different characters from his adolescence in this charming coming-of-age story. Under Leigh Ann Pedra’s sleek direction, he brings you into a world where even the local crackhead doesn’t want little ’Mando to screw up his chances; Merlo handles each character (from his hilariously hard-assed father to a dance-fighting friend from Queens) with such fondness that it’s hard not to find yourself caring for them as well. At 103 pounds, Merlo is a lightweight wrestler, but his solo show veers into heavyweight territory—and the adroit performer comes out unscathed, leaving you feeling a little neighborhood pride when the time comes to applaud. (Visit the FringeNYC Encore Series website for more information.)—Bryna Turner


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