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East to Edinburgh 2007
In 59E59 Theaters' decade-old Brits Off Broadway festival, the theater welcomes shows from across the Atlantic. In four-year-old East to Edinburgh, the shows go in the opposite direction. Many of these productions headed for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, will have their first opportunity to be presented before an audience at 59E59 Theaters.
Elysabeth Kleinhans, 59E59 Theaters' artistic director, explains that the theater tries to duplicate the conditions of the Edinburgh Fringe, where shows have a limited performance time and must be set up and struck quickly: "We rent the space very cheaply. We give the presenters a two-hour slot, with fifteen minutes to prepare and twenty minutes to get out."
East to Edinburgh 2007 features 12 shows en route to the oldest of all the fringe festivals. Kleinhans says she does not curate the shows, although she sees every one. Nor does she decide on the ticket price, although she says, "we recommend the companies don't charge above twenty-five dollars, unless they have a following in New York."
The presenters also decide on how many times they want to present a show. There is, however, a three-slot minimum. "Some of them feel that's enough," says Kleinhans. "Others want to really practice and they take longer."
Time permitted only a sampling of two of the twelve shows— Kristin Stone's Inside Private Lives, from Los Angeles, where it has attractive considerable attention, and Infinity Repertory Theatre Company's MOD, which is premiering at 59E59 Theaters.
Inside Private Lives is an interactive theatrical experience which allows members of the audience to question actors who are playing famous people. Mary MacDonald is the racist and abrasive Marge Schott, owner of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team; Stone is Christine Jorgensen, the first American to have a sex change operation; Adam Lebow is the famed director, Elia Kazan, who gave names during the infamous communist witch hunt of Eugene McCarthy; and Paul Thomas Ryan is Bobby Sands, the IRA volunteer who starved himself to death as a protest while he was in prison.
All of the personalities are scrupulously researched, and the actors are quite convincing in both their lines and their delivery. Jorgensen says seductively, "I like men. . .real men." She sits on the lap of a man in the audience and tells him to "settle back in there." Sands asks pugnaciously, "How many times should an Irishman be driven from his home before he fights back?"' Shott complains, "I'm a woman in a man's world, and they're picking on me as usual."
The problem with Inside Private Lives is that it doesn't offer much more than one could read in history books or People. There are no new facts or insights. Even when people in the audience ask interesting or probing questions (which seldom happened when I attended) the answers never vary from the expected. Of course, the quality in a largely unscripted, interactive show depends a great deal on the contribution of the audience. But let's face it, individuals who make comments from the audience are most often more concerned with having their moment of glory than producing good theater.
Inside Private Lives is a lot like the show a group of bright high school kids might produce when given an assignment to dramatize moments in history for social studies class. MOD, on the other hand, is more like what a group of not terribly bright high school kids might produce if that same teacher had asked them to write a skit for the prom.
An original musical-comedy, with music and lyrics by George Griggs and book by Paul Andrew Perez, it's is about the sexual awakening of a group of teenagers going to Catholic high school in small-town America during the height of the Beatlmania.
The girls are all in love with the Beatles and one of their youthful suitors. The boys are pimply and awkward. There's an excess of crying, gasping and hands crossed on heaving bosoms.
The show is directed by Chantel Pascente, who's still a student at NYU and seems to have little control over her young actors, allowing each one to upstage the other in a series of endless mugging. Griggs' music has much energy, but it all sounds the same and is not distinguished by memorable lyrics. "My girlfriend's got a hickey but it's not by me" is a good example of Griggs' output. It's not the worst.
Other shows in East to Edinburgh 2007 are Rash, a Scottish human rights worker's autobiographical account of post-genocide Rowanda; Grasmere, about William and Dorothy Wadsworth; Stinky Flowers and the Bad Banana, a multi-media journey into the imagination; A Thousand Cranes, the story of a young Hiroshima victim; The Boys Next Door, about four mentally and emotionally challenged men living in a group home; An Age of Angels, a whodunit told in Roshomon-esque fashion; Tender, about a surprise birthday party and a journey into the past; La Femme Morte or Why I Should Not F%!# My Son, which includes music, dancing and boxing; The Nina Variations, 42 versions of the final scene in Chekhov's The Seagull; and Miracle in Rowanda, a one-woman show about the Rowanda genocide.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide