The Playgoer: S/he Said, S/he Said, Pt. 1

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Monday, August 18, 2008

S/he Said, S/he Said, Pt. 1

by Brook Stowe

So far, I'm encouraged.

And not just from the shows I've seen a week + into the 12th annual NYIFF (I'll get to that in a moment). Walking across Bleecker Sunday morning from the #1 Houston stop, across Ave. of the Americas and Broadway to Lafayette, I was thinking what a freakily odd and perfect day this was, for mid-August in the City. The Fringe over six summers here has become about stacks of press kit folders warped and smeared from being pressed into service as emergency umbrellas during the obligatory pm thunderstorms; it's about stumbling gasping from theater to theater praying the next one will be air conditioned and that we'll all get through the performance without the circuits blowing.

But Sunday morning was gorgeous -- around 80, but with negligible humidity and a sky that was actually blue instead of the Summer standard-issue water-heavy white. Along Bleecker I did the math: late on an exceptionally beautiful Sunday Summer morning, all kinds of reasons to be out rather than in -- who would want to spend even part of it inside little dark rooms seeing strange shows no one has heard of?

Even from the other side of Lafayette I could see the answer to that question was a pleasantly surprising, quite a few. By 11:20am, lines had already formed for the two noon shows at the Lafayette Street Theater (former home of the Culture Project), lines that eventually merged and kind of pushed out into Bleecker itself by the time the doors finally opened.

I was encouraged also to find that whomever is now running the former Culture Project digs at #45 have retained the 45 Below space completely (as far as I could tell) unchanged. This is a good thing. 45 Below was always one of my fave spaces in town, and one I have been to many, many times since landing here permanently. I'm so glad it's not (yet) a neon sushi bar with rollerskating waitresses threading their way through lounge lizards and old Dean Martin tuneage. At least not yet.

Most encouraging of all was what was on the 45 Below stage Sunday at noon -- Brooklyn's Royal Jelly Entertainment's production of Ariel View, a picaresque, impressionistic "obsession" of the oft-examined, ever-enigmatic Sylvia Plath. Conceived and directed by Andrea Graugnard and Daniel LeBlanc, this Ariel burns outwardly from a hot central core that examines the myriad dismemberment of Plath's art and her subsequent commodification by various interests bent on repackaging her to champion their own agendas. This is, perhaps, inevitable when art meets fame in America. And, as a concept, it is certainly nothing new.

But RJE has found a fresh new way to take us down this well-trod road. The seven-actor ensemble is tight, well-disciplined and executes choreographer Justin Henry's acrobatically physical blocking with consistent grace and aplomb. Ariel View is a rare combination of sharp text and physical movement that works in balance throughout, without one overwhelming the other, which seems often the case when the physical meets the cerebral.

That's all for now, folks. Garrett said if I behaved myself I could post more than my twice-weekly allotment, so I might be back before Friday. I've been seeing a lot of stuff -- Fringe and beyond -- and they're starting to drop off before I can get word up even on the stuff I liked (Ariel, btw, has one more perf -- this Wed. at 9:45).

See how the week goes.

Til next ...

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