With 185 shows in this year's New York International Fringe Festival, how is one to ever decide what to see and what to skip? We've picked through the shows and based on buzz, subject matter, and pure curiosity, selected eight that you should definitely consider.
While most of the playwrights in the Fringe are trying to make a name for themselves, Mike Reiss is already pretty well-established. The four-time Emmy Award-winning writer for The Simpsons has penned a new play about a washed-up television writer (played by former Hollywood Square and current television writer Bruce Vilanch) trapped under a pile of rubble following an earthquake. Is this a Hollywood-centric tribute to Samuel Beckett? Perhaps, but with Reiss as author, it's guaranteed to be a whole lot funnier.
Americans first became aware of the plight of Chinese factory workers at the Foxconn plant where iPhones are manufactured through Mike Daisey's controversial monologue The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. It is an undeniable and bizarre fact of globalization that the devices with which some of us spend much of our waking hours are built by strangers on the other side of the planet. David Jacobi explores the secret lives of these "factory drones" in Ex Machina. Jacobi knows China, having co-founded the Monster Down! Theatre Company in Beijing.
Our Kiki: A Gay Farce
With the recent Supreme Court ruling against DOMA, the federal government now recognizes same-sex marriages as equal to heterosexual marriages for all federal purposes — that includes immigration. Still, that doesn't mean there weren't any sham hetero-marriages performed before the ruling. Seth Tucker's Our Kiki imagines what happens when a gay man's best girlfriend and his Finnish boyfriend marry with the purpose of keeping that Finnish boyfriend in the country. Chaos ensues when an immigration officer makes an unexpected visit to check up on the happy couple. Expect loads of farce, fraud, and fun. It's kind of like that Gérard Depardieu film Green Card...but gayer.
Antony & Cleopatra: Infinite Lives
As the social and political unrest in Egypt dominates the headlines, this play by Pete Barry and J. Michael DeAngelis puts the political drama on the stage. Told by a cast of thousands (15 is a lot for the Fringe!), Antony & Cleopatra: Infinite Lives juxtaposes the events of Tahrir Square with Shakespeare's vision of Cleopatra's Egypt. This is a must-see show for Al-Jazeera addicts and Shakespeare aficionados alike.
Cowboys Don't Sing
Oh don't they? Despite the dubious veracity of the title's claim, with its special mix of pop culture and metatheatrical self-awareness, Cowboys Don't Sing promises to be the fringiest of musicals. The show, authored by Fordham students Dennis Flynn, Johnny Kelley, and T.J. Alcala, won a slew of awards in the West Village Musical Theatre Festival including "Best Overall Musical" and "Best Song" for "The Racist Song." I'm willing to bet that this is one title that doth protest too much.
The TomKat Project
Get your celebrity fix with Brandon Ogborn's historical comedy about a matter of great national import: the divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Drawn from actual interviews, much like last year's big seller Tail! Spin! the TomKat Project also imagines completely off-the-record scenes between the couple and supporting characters. Seven actors portray 54 characters including Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, and little Suri Cruise.
The Madogs of Diego
Ask yourself, "When is the next time I will have an opportunity to see a theater troupe from the remote island nation of Mauritius?" The Trup Sapsiway has come all the way from Roches Brunes to tell a tale about an even more far-flung locale, the Island of Diego Garcia. Now the exclusive domain of a U.S. Naval support facility, this tropical atoll was once home to the Chagossians, a native people numbering around 2,000 who were systematically expelled from Diego Garcia in 1971 to make way for the base. Mauritian playwright Gaston Valayden tells their story.
Naked in Alaska
Valerie Hager has worked as an exotic dancer all over this vast continent, from Mexico to Alaska. This ex-stripper with a heart of gold offers up the highlights of her decade-long career — the good, the bad, and the ugly — in a fearless solo show. Be honest...when the rent is coming due and you don't have enough money, haven't you at least thought about taking it all off to make up the balance? Hager takes you on her journey down that slippery catwalk, complete with live pole-dancing segments.