My FringeNYC experience this year was as varied as always, exposing the rich diversity of the festival that has become the annual indie theater lynchpin of the summer. As usual I saw both some hits and some misses, but more of the former than the latter. And just about everything I saw was something I would never be able to see anywhere else than at FringeNYC.
I detected two prominent themes running through the shows I saw. The first was politics/social relevance. From the corrosive effects of capitalism and advertising on the everyday American citizen (Kevin Doyle’s not from canada) and shame of one’s own ethnicity and identity (Nancy Moricette’s Jaspora) to the global need for renewable alternative energy sources (The Revolutionaries by Adam Mervis) and even post-partem depression (In the Shadow of My Son by Nadine Bernard), it was refreshing to see so many shows tackling heady and serious topics. I got a lot of nourishment from these meaty subjects.
The other prominent theme I noticed was intimacy. Whether it was two famous luminaries bumming around town together (Truman Capote’s A Beautiful Child), a trio of urbanites trying to navigate a complicated love triangle (Chad Beckim’s Lights Rise on Grace), an indie theater actress looking for love and nookie (Adam Szymkowicz’s Susan Gets Some Play), or a band of boy and girl scouts discovering themselves and each other while lost in the woods (Ed Valentine’s Scout’s Honor), the efforts of people trying to connect as either friends or lovers proved to be an enduring favorite yet again. Some of these plays were funny, others were more serious and contemplative, but all of them were very moving and all-too-true.
One play that managed to straddle both the political and the intimate was Bucharest Calling by Peca Stefan, in which a quintet of characters searching for redemption also faced the challenges of forging a new cultural mindset in the new world order of the European Union. This was an impressive showing by the visiting members of Romania’s MONDAY Theatre.
In a nice blog post late last week, The Boss admitted that his favorite part of this year’s festival was “the wonderful chance meetings with folks before and after shows.” I concur. I had many of those myself, more so than at any other previous installments of FringeNYC, and they all helped me feel a much stronger sense of the theatre community and camaraderie that The Boss talks about. Chance encounters with a number of folks – including playwright and FringeNYC adjudicator Vincent Marano (whose play, a collapse, appeared at last year’s festival); Plays and Playwrights 2007 alumni and summer review squad member James Comtois; Associate Artistic Director of The Brick Theater, Hope Cartelli; and Brick regular Bryan Enk – doubled my enjoyment of each show I respectively ran into them at. To quote The Boss again: “This level of camaraderie and community really only happens at FringeNYC, and it’s probably my favorite thing about the festival.” Now it’s mine, too.