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2010 FringeNYC Roundup #7

2010 FringeNYC Roundup #6

Reports on Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical, Missionary Position, and Stripes: The Mystery Circus.

[Editor's Note: This is the sixth in a series of roundups on the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival.]

A publicityphoto for Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical
A publicityphoto for Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical
Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical, at La MaMa E.T.C.'s Ellen Stewart Theatre, doesn't just parody the 1993 blockbuster Jurassic Park, based on Michael Crichton's novel about a dinosaur theme park gone wild; it actually succeeds in telling the story from the dinosaurs' point-of-view.

In writers Emma Barash, Bryce Norbitz, Steve Wargo, and Marshall Pailet's clever reimagining, the dinos (who, you may remember, are all engineered to be female to prevent "unauthorized" reproduction) live in a peaceful, faith-based community that worships the lab workers who created them. However, their world is turned upside down when one of the 'saurs suddenly turns male, due to a DNA glitch. Sex, jealousy, frustration, and the release of the heretical Velociraptor of Science sends the dinosaurs into the frenzy that was depicted in the movie. As Jurassic Parq shows us, all that carnage wasn't because dinosaurs are bloodthirsty -- it was because they were a community in crisis.

Jurassic Parq has a marvelous cast of "chorusasaurus" who really commit to the authors' crazy vision. Special credit goes to John Jeffrey Martin's Velociraptor of Faith, Mary Ellen Ashley's Velociraptor of Science, Lee Seymour's Morgan Freeman, and Brandon Espinoza as the Mime-a-saurus. And major kudos to director Pailet and choreographer Kyle Mullins, who help this musical do for dinosaurs what Cats did for felines. During an inspirational power ballad late in the show, Mullins has Espinoza mime an entire Lifetime movie tragedy about a father losing his son. What it has to do with dinosaurs, I don't know, but it's impressive and had me crying with laughter.

The show's songs (accompanied by Jonathan Breit as Pianosaurus) won't win any awards for craftsmanship, but they help the story along, and most -- notably Mary Ellen Ashley's profanity-laced rap about the scientific method -- are quite funny. The finale actually puts lyrics to music from the movie that will have you singing "We are dinosaurs" to the tune of John Williams' well-known theme music for days to come.

-- Brooke Pierce


Steven Fales stars in Missionary Position
(© Matt Spencer)
Steven Fales stars in Missionary Position
(© Matt Spencer)
In Steven Fales' Missionary Position, at the Soho Playhouse, the writer/performer takes audiences back to the time before his excommunication from the Mormon church when he served his required time as a proselytizer in Portugal. Self-conscious and unfocused, the solo piece provides theatergoers with a few chuckles, but is, more often than not, an unsatisfying and disappointing follow-up to Fales' acclaimed Confessions of a Mormon Boy.

The boyishly good-looking Fales, who boasts an almost exasperatingly perfect gleaming white smile, sets up the piece interestingly enough. He lugs a wheeled storage bin onstage, containing his journals that he kept during this period, along with scrapbooks and memorabilia. He recounts, amusingly, how he initially escaped serving as a missionary by enrolling at Boston Conservatory. But when he begins having romantic and sexual feelings for another guy, he instantly latches onto the idea of returning to the path that's ordained for all young Mormon men.

Fales examines this part of his life through a winkingly ironic lens, robbing the play of its potential emotional heft. And given the dream sequences he creates just before his time in Portugal -- one involves a homoerotic encounter with the explorer Vasco de Gama and one involves an audition on 42nd Street -- one's not quite sure how to take the section of the play in which he describes how he and his compatriots forced a teenage Catholic girl to convert. It's a horrific moment, and yet, one's never quite sure if a punchline is imminent.

Re-experiencing his young adulthood from both a sarcastic distance and a genuine emotional intimacy takes its toll on Fales' performance. Throughout, he seems unsure of the material he's written, misspeaking and losing track of details. Perhaps a director (none is credited) might help in this regard and also in shaping the overlong, often rambling, piece.

-- Andy Propst


Sarah Hayward stars in
Stripes: The Mystery Circus
(© Jessica Earnshaw)
Sarah Hayward stars in
Stripes: The Mystery Circus
(© Jessica Earnshaw)
Are stripes a sign of sin, or are they the cracks in each person's soul? Playwright/performer Sarah Hayward's Stripes: The Mystery Circus, playing at The Studio @ Cherry Lane, poses many theories during a woman's very strange audition for the circus. What ensues is a series of songs, stories, and comic bits that aim to show that life is a circus, and we're all performers in striped costumes.

Pollyhymnia, named for the Greek muse of poetry and song, believes that her life has well-prepared her for the circus. Her audition song for the role of escape artist details her escapes from many bad relationships; she also feels that she could play the juggler, as she's juggled many responsibilities.

Some bits are entertaining, such as Hayward's entrance as a nun, cloaked in an oversized headdress, who sings gravely about the dangers of striped clothing before transforming into a two-headed woman. Others feel forced, such as a scene in which Pollyhymnia dresses as a pirate and recalls a childhood sailing adventure.

Hayward showcases many characters on the margins of society who traditionally wore striped clothing. (Perhaps this is why a pirate, certainly not an ordinary circus character, receives so much stage time.) But while Stripes: The Mystery Circus benefits from an engaging performer and a unique premise, it needs more development to weave its themes together into a compelling play.

-- Meredith Lee


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