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7 Shows You Should See at the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival

Polyamory, the Marx Brothers, and lady prisoners: Here are the titles that caught our eye in the run-up to FringeNYC.

There are 200 shows in the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival, which takes place from August 8-24 at various venues south of 14th Street. You're never going to see them all. So how do you choose which shows to attend?

We've put together a list of seven titles that grabbed our attention. We can't promise that these are the best shows in the festival, but we can promise that they represent the heady mix of topical, zany, and exotic theater that is the hallmark of the festival. Happy Fringing!

Karah Gravatt, Lolita Brinkley, Anne Bobby and Annette Hunt in Warren Doody's Life Without Parole, directed by Jessica Dermody, at FringeNYC.
(© Robert Petkoff)

1. Life Without Parole

While the highly sensational storylines on Orange Is the New Black have captivated America, Working Artists Theatre Project presents some real-life stories of women behind bars. Based on Elizabeth Leonard's book Convicted Survivors: The Imprisonment of Battered Women Who Kill, this show uses original transcripts and testimonies of women incarcerated for killing their abusive partners. The show actually performed several staged readings within the California prison system in 2006.

Mike Mizwicki, Courtney Alana Ward, and Andrew Rincón in David L. Kimple's MMF at FringeNYC.

2. MMF

Breaking up is hard to do, especially when you have to do it with more than one person. David L. Kimple's MMF (as in male-male-female) imagines the dissolution of Dean, Michael, and Jane's polyamorous relationship. With same-sex unions becoming positively unremarkable, throuples (committed relationships of three individuals) are just now peeking out of the closet, ready to scandalize your small-minded aunt in new and exciting ways. Go see this show so you have something interesting to talk about over Thanksgiving dinner this year.

The cast of Pickles & Hargraves and the Curse of the Tanzanian Glimmerfish, directed by Rob Ribar, at FringeNYC.
(© Kyle Supley)

3. Pickles & Hargraves and the Curse of the Tanzanian Glimmerfish

This one wins the "silliest title" competition. Written by and starring a bunch of veterans of the Upright Citizens Brigade, this is the story of a famous "mouse detective" out to solve a mysterious murder. "I call it Agatha Christie meets Airplane," says director Rob Ribar. With a cast of nine comedians, by Fringe standards it's practically gargantuan.

Xavier Toby unpacks his experience working in an Australian mine in his stand-up show Mining My Own Business, at FringeNYC.

4. Xavier Toby — Mining My Own Business

Toby offers his stand-up routine about his real-life experience working on an Australian mine site. (He says he had to take the job to pay off the debt he incurred touring through Europe in 2012.) Toby has written a book on the subject as well.

In addition to this show, he'll also be leading the free walking tour 2014 — The Year We Were Idiots, which leaves out of Fringe Central at regular times throughout the weekend. The tour is set in the year 2114 and tells the story of how Manhattan disappeared under a mound of trash one hundred years before.

Seth Shelden, Robert Pinnock, Melody Jane, and Noah Diamond in Noah Diamond's adaptation of I'll Say She Is, directed by Trav S.D., at FringeNYC.
(© Don Spiro)

5. I'll Say She Is

Before they were major film stars, the Marx Brothers were the toast of Broadway. While two of their Broadway shows (The Cocoanuts and Animal Crackers) became feature films, their Broadway debut, I'll Say She Is, was never committed to celluloid. Now you can see Noah Diamond's expanded adaptation of this classic musical revue, produced and directed by downtown darling Trav S.D.

Regina Gibson stars in her solo show The Apple Tree, or Penis no. 7, directed by Katherine Carter, at FringeNYC.

6. The Apple Tree, or Penis no. 7

LOOK AT ME, this title screamed from the seemingly endless list of Fringe shows. How could I not oblige? This solo performance by Regina Gibson takes the form of a poetry slam and folk-music jam about (what else?) sex. Much of the text is unprintable here, so you'll just have to go explore for yourself. And judging by the samples of the show available online, Gibson is all about exploring.

Jason Goodman and Andrea Trovato star in Vagabond, directed by Arianna De Giorgi, at FringeNYC.
(© EXTRATeatro)

7. Vagabond$/My Monster Friend

Italian troupe EXTRATeatro comes all the way from Rome with two family-friendly shows. Vagabond$ is about an American and an Italian forming an unlikely musical duo. My Monster Friend is about a mad scientist who creates a Frankenstein monster with an Italian brain. Both shows star American Jason Goodman and Italian Andrea Trovato, who specialize in presenting bilingual children's theater. Expect your kids to leave the theater speaking un po' di italiano.