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2010 FringeNYC Roundup #7

Reports on The Secretaries, Together This Time, and South Beach Rapture. logo
[Editor's Note: This is the seventh in a series of roundups on the 2010 New York International Fringe Festival.]
Elizabeth Bell, Elizabeth Whitney, Jamie Heinlein,
Virginia Baeta, and Karen Stanion
star in The Secretaries
(© Ned Thorne)
If you're in the mood for a sprightly comedy about sexual harassment and serial murder -- and who isn't? -- check out the TOSOS revival of The Secretaries, at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. The 1994 cult classic by the writer/performer collective The Five Lesbian Brothers is a wild and dangerous concoction of lesbian pulp fiction, campy non sequiturs, and misogynist stereotypes exploded from within. The current production, directed by Mark Finley, is also one of the sexier shows of the summer.

Elizabeth Whitney provides an energetic spin on the proverbial new kid on the block as her character, Patty, joins the secretarial pool at a lumber mill in Big Bone, Oregon, and discovers some disturbing initiation rituals along the way. Elizabeth A. Bell gives the sharpest performance of the evening as Peaches, a frumpy co-worker whose struggle to stay within the size 12 mandated by her unseen male boss is hilarious, touching, and disturbing all at once.

Finley successfully taps into the smart, aggressive spirit of the Lesbian Brothers -- an opening computer-age Greek Chorus scene is spot-on -- but he's less adept at keeping the pace and energy up throughout the production. Missed cues slow the action down and some of the actors overdo the noir aspect of their characters at the expense of something more unpredictable.

Still, all of the cast members -- which also include Virginia Baeta, Jamie Heinlein, and Karen Stanion -- have their moments. And, although the sound system at the Lortel is of low quality (par for the course at the Fringe), the uncredited individual who provided Finley's production with offstage sound effects -- particularly in a droll sequence involving a photocopier -- obviously had a lot of fun.

-- Andy Buck

A scene from Together This Time
(© Ale de Vries)
There's a lot to like in Zac Kline and Andrew Heyman's inventive new coming-of-age rock musical Together This Time, at the Lucille Lortel Theatre. It follows Jay Allen Jones (Jonathan Whitton) as he tries to finish his second novel (holed up in his Colorado hometown in exile from New York) while keeping his supportive but frustrated editor/girlfriend Emily Grey (Tro Shaw) happy. Ironically, the deeper he gets into the story of a pair of young lovers on the cusp of beginning their lives, the more he alienates Emily.

The show begins a little stagnantly with the super angsty lives of Jay's characters, Jamie (Andrew Redlawsk) and Gillian (Emily Olson), but picks up when Emily moves back to New York and meets up with an old boyfriend, Paul (Derek Carley). Jay is drawn to follow her and try to win her back with the success of his novel.

Kline's book cleverly weaves the two sets of characters together and finds a dramatically compelling way to show a writer at work on stage. There are great musical moments like "Just a Drink," when Emily sees Paul at a party. The lyrical interplay between the two moves the story forward and highlights the sexual tension between them. The act two opener, "Can You Help Me With My Book," which shows Emily bombarded with writers asking for advice, is equally strong.

However, too often there's a lack of lyrical specificity. For example, "I Won't Let Another Author Break My Heart" begins creatively with a verse about how Philip Roth was the first man Emily loved (through his books) as a child. Heyman and Kline set up a perfect structure to chart her life through the various authors that broke her heart, but instead cop out with vague verses about love in the abstract. Still, the show comes together in the end with the momentous finale, "Ready to Begin," signaling that the musical's authors are themselves writers to watch.

-- Chris Kompanek

Bobby Moreno, John G. Preston, and Amelia Jean Alvarez
in South Beach Rapture
(© Mark Champion)
Three lost souls gather together on a Florida beach in David Caudle's South Beach Rapture, performing at Dixon Place. However, audiences are more likely to be bored than enraptured by this tedious new play, filled with stilted dialogue and melodramatic plot twists.

Cynthia (Amelia Jean Alvarez), Albert (John G. Preston), and Felipe (Bobby Moreno) have all arrived at the beach to watch a spectacular meteor shower on the night of November 18, 2001. The year is, of course, not insignificant as Cynthia is from Manhattan and looking for a brief escape following the events of September 11 two months earlier, while Albert is a Miami native, but lived in New York for several years. Felipe doesn't have a New York City connection, but he does believe that the Rapture is coming, and for some inexplicable reason also thinks that Cynthia and Albert are angels.

Director Michelle Bossy stages too much of the action low to the ground, which makes it difficult for audience members not sitting in the first couple of rows to see. Alvarez presents a combination of arrogance and sexiness that is right for her part, but could stand to show more vulnerability at key moments in the show. Preston doesn't demonstrate enough layers, resulting in a mostly one-note performance. Moreno does what he can with a badly written role.

Although the play toys with the idea of a romantic triangle, the primary relationship developed is between Cynthia and Albert, who share a few unexpected things in common, such as living in the same dorm room, years apart, while each attended Middlebury College in Vermont. Caudle hints that some of the weird synchronicity may actually not be a coincidence, but stretches some of his other plot points a little too thin.

-- Dan Bacalzo


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