FringeNYC: I (Honestly) Love You; The Madogs of Diego; Rubble
TheaterMania's coverage of the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival continues with reviews of three more shows.
by David Gordon
I (Honestly) Love You, currently playing at The Kraine Theatre, is an Australian play by Damon Lockwood about a couple with the strangest problem. Lloyd (Paul Goddard) and Bella (George Gayler) are both afflicted with the disease Vitiositas Veritas, which forces them to tell only the truth. Naturally, complications ensue as this new pair navigates the twisty waters of a relationship where one can't lie when the other asks, "Do these pants make my butt look big?"
At 50 minutes long, I (Honestly) Love You doesn't overstay its welcome, a good thing when it comes to a concept that could get tiresome easily. However, this achingly funny piece could have gone on a lot longer, and it wouldn't have been a problem. The four-member cast, which includes playwright/director Lockwood and Talei Howell-Price, is spot-on. The actors deliver their comical lines to dry perfection and expertly capture the play's emotional center: when the characters realize the consequences of their actions.
More important, Goddard and Gayler are believable as a couple, and they breathe life into characters that could very easily be caricatures. You desperately want them to succeed as a couple, even if it really does mean that they have to suck up their insecurities and deal with the facts of life.
by Zachary Stewart
Few Americans will ever have the opportunity to visit the remote Indian Ocean islands of Diego Garcia or Mauritius. Luckily, Trup Sapsiway has traveled all the way from Mauritius to perform Gaston Valayden's The Madogs of Diego, a compelling if overly simplistic tale of a crucial moment in the history of both islands, now playing The Kraine Theatre as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.
Vincent (Christopher Ratsizaonen), Sylvie (Aarti Tacouri), and Ton Zozef (Marsel H. Poinen) are Chagossians: inhabitants of Diego Garcia, an atoll territory of colonial Mauritius. They shuck coconuts and play with their dogs, dreaming of urbane and sophisticated Port Louis. Still, there is no place they'd rather be than their island paradise. When Mauritius declares independence from the British Empire, they assume they will be citizens of this new country. But when a representative of Her Majesty's Government offers Mauritian Chief Minister Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (Gaston Valayden) a Faustian bargain (become independent, but leave Diego Garcia with the British), he accepts. The Chagossians are forcibly removed from their homeland to make way for a new American naval base and Ramgoolam becomes the first prime minister of an Independent Mauritius.
Writer/director/performer Valayden wears many hats in this production and not all of them fit equally well. His American accent is strained when he plays a U.S. military officer, even though his simple costume of camouflage and aviator glasses leaves little question of his identity. He is much more convincing as Ramgoolam, but his scenes with the British representative offer only a perfunctory look into the behind-the-scenes negotiations that led to an independent Mauritius. In Valayden's telling, Ramgoolam expends little effort to retain Diego Garcia, seeing the deportation of 2,000 Chagossians as a small price to pay for becoming his country's first prime minister and "Father of the Nation." While there is certainly ample evidence that Ramgoolam viewed Diego Garcia as "a matter of detail," the play does too little to place this story in the larger (and more familiar to an American audience) context of the Cold War.
What The Magdogs of Diego lacks in political nuance, it more than compensates for in capturing the human story. The final scenes leading up to the deportation of the Chagossians are truly heartbreaking. Valayden and Trup Sapsiway should be applauded for shining a light on this important yet neglected chapter of post-colonial history.
by Zachary Stewart
Fans of The Simpsons and Family Guy may very well love Rubble, the new comedy penned by Simpsons writer Mike Reiss, currently premiering at the Players Theatre as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. It has all the requisite pop-culture references, snark, and random musical moments that have made the aforementioned cartoons TV hits. Yet the constant barrage of one-liners doesn't have the same mirthful effect in this 95-minute play as it does in a half-hour TV show. In fact, after the first 30 minutes, it begins to feel tired.
Alvin Gordon (Bruce Vilanch) is a 53-year-old television writer who left Los Angeles a few years back to write plays in New York with titles like "The Epilepsy of Fyodor Dostoevsky" in hopes of winning a Tony where an Emmy had eluded him his entire career. "A Tony is an Emmy on Lipitor," remarks Alvin's agent, Lee Rosenblatt (the perfectly cast and hilariously deadpan Jerry Adler). Unfortunately, his playwriting career proves to be a big flop and his wife divorces him, forcing him to return to the left coast with his tail between his legs to beg for a job from a network executive (Amy Wilson) who is looking to deflect a class-action lawsuit for age discrimination (they don't have any writers over age 50).
When a surprise earthquake causes the walls of her office to cave in and Alvin is trapped under a pile of rubble, he has a lot of time to reevaluate his life and choices. He also has time to hallucinate visits from Sigmund Freud (Jason Jacoby), Jesus Christ (Bryan McElroy), and three different versions of his father, only one of which is close to reality (Jeffrey Arnold Wolf).
"I'm giving monkeys gonorrhea," sings a box-stepping actor in an imagined musical version of one of Alvin's failed plays about the development of penicillin. This is a Simpsonian approach to an old Beckettian concept: burying a character in a mound of dirt as an obvious metaphor for the debilitating trappings of life. While Beckett's Winnie copes through joyful routine, Reiss' Alvin survives through snarky one-liners. "He's my second favorite Belushi," Alvin quips when asked what he thinks about Jim Belushi.
Only about 70% of the jokes land, with the remaining 30% crashing with a deafening thud. Is this the result of Vilanch's occasionally pained delivery or the consequence of not having a roomful of other writers to tell you when your jokes aren't that good? Either way, Rubble is not as funny as even one of Reiss' classic episodes of The Simpsons and it takes a lot more time and effort to watch.