BWW Special Feature: 99 and Under the Radar; A Jurassic Jaunt...
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by Michael Roderick
Welcome to 99 AND UNDER THE RADAR: A LOOK AT INDIE THEATER'S MOVERS AND SHAKERS, BroadwayWorld's new weekly series that showcases standout productions and production companies from the independent theater scene in New York City. Each week, independent producer Michael Roderick will be discussing the latest goings on in the theatrical wings, highlighting those with potentially bright futures.
This Week's Topic: A Jurassic Jaunt, a Girl in a Park, and a script that soars
Every year the Fringe Festival takes over numerous downtown theatres and loads in close to 200 shows in every genre for three weeks. The festival serves as a way for Indie artists to show off the work of their companies, for Indie artists to try out their solo shows, and lastly for new audiences to experience shows of varying tastes and styles. While it is probably not possible to see them all, many audience members see close to the full number and run from one venue to the next seeing every show they can. This week will focus on three of the shows.
First up is The incredibly inventive and uproarious "Jurassic Parq: The Broadway Musical" This is no spelling error, and there is no mistaking that the piece is one of the most intelligent parodies of a musical since Fringe's other large irreverent hit: Urinetown. The show penned by Emma Barash, Bryce Norbitz, Marshall Pailet, and Stephen Wargo takes the all too familiar Dinosaur tale and takes out the humans. That's right, the show is the story of the dinosaurs which makes it incredibly fun. The dinosaurs are played by actors in leotards and cloth waistbands that are reminiscent of Christopher Guest's classic Waiting for Guffman and the tongue in cheek approach the show takes to musical theatre thrilled many members of the audience who were theatre goers. Mr. Pailet also serves as the director of the piece and makes some fantastic casting choices that challenge concepts of color blind casting as well as gender specific roles. The stand out of the evening though has to be the Mime-a-Saurus, played by Brandon Espinoza who does his job so well that there is even a moment in a large cast number where he manages to pull the entire audience over to him. The fact that the whole cast stops and yells at him for it, makes it even more funny. This production offers a whole new way of looking at this film, but more importantly it highlights the work of a team of musical theatre writers that are destined to go far. More info about the show can be found here.
Next is Dalliance Theater's impressive The Girl in the Park. Playwright Matt Owen has taken a group of fascinating characters and done some very intricate math. The show is constructed in such a way that the audience sees certain scenes out of chronological order and by taking away a year or adding a month, Owen manages to create a very powerful experience for his audience through the lens of dramatic irony. Each character is placed very specifically in a certain time and a certain place and only the viewers have the info about what happened after the scene or before the scene. In much the same way that one appreciates Pulp Fiction for its clever use of taking linear structure and presenting each piece out of its order, one can appreciate the way Owen chooses to tell his story. This is only enhanced by solid performances and creative direction. Ana Nogueira is particularly charming as the mysterious girl in the park and has an incredible facility with Owen's language which asks his characters to challenge language itself. In fact, one could argue that opening scene between Nogueira and Tom Patrick Stephens is practically musical in its execution and placement of words. These performances are guided by smooth direction from Jesca Prudencio who moves the show at a great pace and through her vision turns the transitions between scenes into a lovely blend of music and projected images. Dalliance has created another very solid piece and has nurtured a host of new talent. Owen is a fresh new voice in the theatrical landscape, and one who deserves to be heard. More info about the show can be found here.
Last in the Fringe collection is a play that can only be described as powerful art. When last we flew by Harrison David Rivers tells the story of a young student who is sits on his "throne" in the bathroom reading his copy of Angels in America and then, much like the the wings of an Angel, expands to tell one beautiful story with more than a few nods to Kushner's technique of blending fantasy with reality. It is clear that Rivers has a very strong understanding of magical realism as he seemingly effortlessly threads the stories of each of his characters together and gives just a hint of magic in each well crafted scene. Much in the same way Mr. Kushner made very strong political statements with his ground-breaking work, Rivers allows each of his characters to have their own voice and therein makes some very strong statements about topics like institutionalized racism, homophobia, and the current state of education. There are many moments of laughter and many moments that give us pause, but perhaps most impressive are the moments where Rivers challenges his audience to not laugh in creating a very funny scenario or line coupled with a heart wrenching truth. Colette Robert directs a phenomenal cast who dive into the world of the play so deep that the audience has no choice but to follow. Her staging is simple and elegant allowing for many moments where a split screen effect is created and the audience is invited into two worlds at once, never really knowing which is real. The reality is that this team has a real gem on their hands that needs to be seen by as many people as possible. A show this well crafted has no where to go but up. More info can be found here.
The Fringe has more shows to sample before it closes out this season and you can find a full listing here.
Needless to say, some of the most inspiring talent can be found on the Fringe.
Read more of Michael's insights at www.oneproducerinthecity.typepad.com.