Watch out for Hanna LoPatin; she's going to be one of those much-remarked-upon Fringe success stories. Not only is this 26-year-old blossoming comedy star funny, charming, bright, and talented; but her 45-minute solo show The Sound of One Hanna Clapping, at The Jazz Gallery, is guided by someone who knows a few things about comedy herself: Ana Gasteyer.
LoPatin's show is a comic biographical sketch of her search for love and stardom, not necessarily in that order. In the manner of an inspired loser, she describes her search in story, song, and a touch of video. Hampered by the sure belief that she's not good enough to achieve her goals, she savors her small victories and wryly describes her failures.
Her humor is not joke-centric; it's based more on character and timing. For instance, she mentions that if she were a star someone would hand her her guitar. After a pause of just the excruciatingly right amount of time, when no appears, she sighs, "No?" and gets the guitar herself. Even though she does it several times, it never fails to get a laugh. That's someone who knows how to sell a gag.
-- Barbara & Scott Siegel************
The couple is simultaneously portrayed by a singing duo (Nick Blaemire, Celina Carvajal) and a dancing duo (Ryan Watkinson, Melisa Bloch). The nameless characters aren't given much specificity, although we eventually come to understand that the man is a singer/songwriter. The woman remains something of a cipher, and the progression of the couple's relationship is too predictable.
Carvajal -- best known as a contestant on MTV's Legally Blonde the Musical: The Search for Elle Woods -- has a powerful belt, as well as a quieter, emotional resonance that's showcased in the score's best song, "Beautiful Motions." Blaemire, a veteran of Cry-Baby and Altar Boyz, has an endearingly goofy smile, a fine voice, and also occasionally takes up the guitar to join the onstage band, led by music director Matt Hinkley.
The two dancers beautifully enact Leopold's lift-heavy choreography, and positively sizzle during a hot and sweaty sequence -- performed without any accompanying music -- that's meant to represent the couple's first sexual encounter. Unfortunately, all four cast members end up over-emoting at times, as they struggle to connect to the generically written material.
-- Dan Bacalzo************
Bill Connington's intense, superbly layered performance as a psychopathic serial killer in Zombie, an hour-long monologue currently at The Players' Loft, is not likely to be soon forgotten by anyone who sees it. Connington, who also adapted the solo play from Joyce Carol Oates' chilling novella, ventures deep inside the sick psyche of Quentin P., a seemingly normal middle-aged man whose meek appearance disguises his capacity to commit profoundly twisted rapes and murders.
Breaking the fourth wall and usually speaking to us in a conversational tone while seated at a table opposite a life-sized dummy, Quentin calmly explains his need for a "zombie" that will obey and satisfy him. He makes it sound almost ordinary. He details his efforts and eventually recounts his horrific crimes for us. He's excited when he first learns about lobotomies in a book, then frustrated and confused when the young boys he holds hostage fight back when he tries to drive ice picks in their eyes. "I'm not going to hurt you," he tells one, "I love you!" There's little doubt, as Connington plays him, that Quentin believes it himself.
Connington's indelibly detailed performance and his taut, highly dramatic script purposefully pull us into this psychopath's twisted mental state; it isn't long before we follow his demented logic and understand his madness. Ultimately, that is how Zombie achieves its power to disturb: Quentin's violent, inhuman crimes are the product of simple, recognizable human needs and there is no easy answer as to what makes a madman.
-- Patrick Lee************
The ragtag troupe decides that the best way for Charlotte to achieve some meaning in her life is to make her a successful actress -- despite the fact that she has no prior training. They impersonate fellow thespians, casting directors, agents, acting teachers, voice instructors -- as well as Charlotte's mom and a blind date -- trying to give Charlotte the "secret to success."
The ensemble cast is wildly uneven, with Krista Braun doing the best work as Fran and Eric Zuckerman competing with Courtney for least engaging actor. Composer/accompanist Rachel Kaufman's original tunes are pleasant enough, but the livelier moments come from standards like "Dream a Little Dream" and "Get Happy."
For a show that puts vaudeville front and center, it's surprisingly short on laughs. Instead, there's a lot of mugging, some badly performed Chekhov, and a storyline that never quite makes enough sense. As for the work's title, Charlotte spends a lot of stage time on a stationary bicycle, going nowhere -- much like the show itself.
-- Dan Bacalzo************
For TheaterMania's FringeNYC 2008: Roundup #1, click here.
For TheaterMania's FringeNYC 2008: Roundup #2, click here.
For TheaterMania's FringeNYC 2008: Roundup #3, click here.
For TheaterMania's FringeNYC 2008: Roundup #4, click here.
For TheaterMania's FringeNYC 2008: Roundup #5, click here.
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