FringeNYC's uneven experience

Reviews: Choosing shows at the New York International Fringe Festival is an artistic risk, as two fringe shows indicate.

The New York International Fringe Festival can only be described by one word: random.

Random in shows, random in jokes, and random in quality.

This means that when choosing shows, there’s always the chance that it will either be a questionable decision or it may be the best show that you’ve seen this season.

For me, the two shows I saw during the festival embodied this random occurrence concept.

I Don <3 U Ne Mor

It was a 12:45 show on a Wednesday afternoon and I sat down for my first FringeNYC production in a theater that was half full. The gentleman sitting to my left would soon fall asleep halfway into the show.

Hence began a 97 minute musical that was cute in some parts, kind of funny in others, and just awkward for the rest of it. The story is set in some foreseeable future where the biggest technology has taken over the world, or rather, people’s psyches. 

At an Internet company works Ron (Dewy Caddell), a likeable, average guy, who still uses a landline. Why Ron, who hates technology, is working at a software company is never answered.

But Ron fancies a girl in his office, Daliya (Felica Hudson) and wants to make a connection with her. So he gets a cell phone (which looks like a BlackBerry) and goes to the “Dark Side.” And from there, the musical becomes more entertaining.

The songs are true-to-life and relatable, with titles such as “The Internet Makes Stalking Okay” and “Technology Rocks!” Yet the vocals were sometimes shaky and slightly off-key, while the music was so loud that it drowned out what could have been some very clever lyrics. It could have been that the actors were not miked, an unfortunate decision.

In the end I Don <3 U Ne Mor is typical fare, something that doesn’t provide anything groundbreaking in terms of content or revelation. The show could have been improved with microphones and better vocals.

And personally, I would have liked more zombies. Something more outlandish could have elevated the show into something memorable rather than “cute though not anything original,” as my friend Jamie said.

For a musical that is meant to be satire on modern technology, it was played a little too straight at times.

Terms of Dismemberment

The show was at seven Friday night and coincidentally, at the same venue as I Don <3 U Ne Mor. The day and time naturally meant a mostly-occupied house, though the mezzanine was still almost empty. Yet judging from how much I laughed during this particular show, it may have also been that positive word had gotten out.

Terms of Dismemberment was directed and choreographed by Tony-Award-winning choreographer Hinton Battle. Just from that, the bar was set high. And the musical did not disappoint.

From the first line, the jokes were sharp and kept arriving in succession. Queenie (Mary Jo Mecca) is the mother of two daughters, Abstinence (Laurie Veldheer) and Chastity (Ashley Campana). Her husband just died and left Queenie with some formidable Mafia debts.

So what is a poor mother to do? Sell her daughters’ physical assets, of course, though not in the way that you would think. Her daughters’ names don’t allow for that kind of thinking.

For a show that incorporates spousal abuse, organ trafficking and guns, the laughs are continual and the blocking is sharp. The cast of six, who have to play multiple roles while singing and dancing, do so with infinite amounts of energy.

The songs are clever, with rhymes that are unexpected, such as, “If I give you cyanide, it means I want you by my side, I like you!” This made the music instantly hummable. 

And to prove that Terms of Dismemberment made an impression, my sister Thao, the lawyer, remarked after, “I could totally sell my eggs. Someone would want lawyer eggs.”

Future risks?

For my first foray into FringeNYC, the experience was uneven, with one show that had me checking my watch and the other, where the time flew by. Yet that is always the risk with choosing shows at the festival. For students like myself who are on a budget, taking recommendations from New York Times and Theater Mania is the most prudent thing to do.

For the theater lover, FringeNYC is a recommended venture, though there are always risks involved. For anyone who is sad that they missed this year’s Fringe Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is currently underway.

Here is a memorable song from Terms of Dismemberment that summed up my feelings on my first fringe experience.

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