Drama Club

Sorting Out The Hot Gay Action At The New York International Fringe Festival

For the past 15 years, The New York International Fringe Festival has been bringing weird and wonderful productions to the Big Apple. The Fringe is one of the largest theater festivals in North America, with more than 200 performances mounted at some 20 venues around the city.  Known for outrageous high-concept/low-budget shows like the current Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera, FringeNYC is a great opportunity to catch exciting gay-themed and campy works.

This year’s series kicked off August 12 and runs through Sunday, August 28. After the jump are just some of the queer plays at this year’s FringeNYC, including Alex DeFazio’s 2 Burn (at right). For a full rundown of gay-related works—including Jeffrey Dahmer Live, Two Alone;Too Together and Parker & Dizzy’s Fabulous Journey to the End of the Rainbow—go to the FringeNYC’s Slice-o-Matic page and select “LGBTQ” under the Cultural Cruise pull-down menu.

If you can’t get tickets to the remaining shows, audience faves are remounted in the Fringe Encore series September 9–26. But the festival is also often a proving ground for works that go on to bigger and better things—Urinetown and Dog Sees God both debuted at Fringe—so there‘s a good chance you’ll see them on the stage again elsewhere.

Have you seen one of these shows? Did we miss a great LGBT-themed Fringe production? Sing out, Louise, in the comments below.

The More Loving One
Unincorporated Theater Company

Playwright Cory Conley (The Sunset Party) brings us the story of two twentysomething couples, one gay and one straight, and the underage sex trial that shakes up their relationships.

I Light Up My Life

I Light Up My Life
The Present Company

Mark Sam Rosenthal (Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire) brings us a new one-man show based on his “preemptive celebrity autobiography”—you know, in case he gets famous. With a title poking fun at the Debby Boone hit from 1977, Life traces his “rise to semi-obscurity” from performing in a second-grade French play to dabbling in  adult entertainment and his not-quite-breakout off-Broadway triumph as a cross-dressing, time-traveling Blanche DuBois.

Ampersand: A Romeo & Juliet Story
The Purple Repertory Theater Company

Shakespeare’s classic tale of star crossed-teen lovers has been revamped so many times we’re starting to forget the original. But this lesbian pop-musical —set in Verona, Iowa, where a prissy beauty queen falls for a guitar-wielding female firebrand—has been billed as “more than a juiced-up version of the same old love story.”

[Playwright Mariah] MacCarthy’s  Ampersand explores the sometime harsh implications of being attached to the other side of an “&”. How strong is the bond of the ampersand in the face of close-minded scrutiny, deep rooted adversity, and tragedy? Ampersand: A Romeo and Juliet Story has an answer that will leave you nodding your head, wiping a tear, and wanting more.


The Landless Theatre Company

Yep, Andrew Lloyd Baughman and Phil Close’s musical is exactly what its title implies: A  mash-up of Glee and the snarky slasher flick Scream. It follows a glee club filled with  all-too-familiar archetypes (the gay kid, sassy black girl, sensitive jock, etc) as they are stalked and murdered one-by-one by a masked villain. The New York Times called Gleeam “lively but uneven,” but conceded it was, “sure to amuse New York’s resident Gleeks.” Good enough for us.

Jersey Shoresical: A Frickin’ Rock Opera

While not technically gay, this musical has a lot of queer street cred: Co-written by Daniel Franzese of Mean Girls fame and directed by YouTube’s “Chloe” himself, Drew Droege, this send-up of Guidos, reality TV and Broadway musicals is safe bet if you’re looking for an entertaining and outrageous evening.

2 Burn
Elixir Productions Theatre Company

In Alex DeFazio’s gay noir drama, English professor Paul, fresh from a bad breakup, falls into the arms of sensitive student Manny. But Manny’s secret leads to a battle for control over language, sex, and each other.

TheHappiestMedium writes:

Love is merely a social construct deployed by people for their own ends, Paul declares, and not in a tone that is hard-bitten or love-weary. Rather in an earnest and instructive manner, careful that his listeners do not fall into the folly of believing in such an illusion. Person’s Paul exudes an openness, an unblinking wholesomeness, apparently devoid of shadow. He’s kind of like a nihilistic Julie Andrews. Which is why we settle back and read him as a sort of chump, heading for a classic theatrical pratfall. Of course he’s going to fall in love. And love is going to rip him a new one…

LaFazio has produced a serious and deep-delving piece of drama here, and is to be applauded for that much. Nevertheless, it is profoundly difficult to establish an erotic atmosphere on any stage, be it a platform or a basement, and while one can sit through the present production willing the best for all concerned, sadly this 2 Burn just does not spark.

Still, the comely leads have us intrigued.

Bobby and Matt
Grove Theater Center

In Kevin Cochran’s dramedy—told through a series of missives a la Love Letters—two boyhood friends grow up into very different men: One is a Brigadier General; one a renowned gay writer. Their friendship survives Vietnam, Kent State, Watergate and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell until, at age 50, they finally realize the depth of their bond.

Hello, My Name Is Billy
No Hope Productions

One of the festival’s most buzzed-about productions, Billy is a filthy, unapologetic musical joyride courtesy of writers Scott Schneider and Tim Aumiller (who also directs). Through a series of 12-step meetings, we learn of Kansas boy Billy’s downward spiral from experimenting with cock and crack at 18 to his dalliances with pot, coke and acid in college to discovering Oxycontin and other narcotics—E, Special K, GHB, and finally, Meth.

Backstage gave a praising review:

Hello, My Name Is Billy is the kind of wincingly accurate and familiar show that feels as if someone has been listening to your phone conversations and then exaggerating the stories you tell into song. The details—from Billy’s increasing interest in drugs and partying at the expense of his college career to the nice guys who find Billy appealingly damaged instead of a sloppy addict—are dead on, and the sense of humor that writers Tim Aumiller and Scott Schneider have layered into their script keep the show from sliding into bathos.

And boy, can that cast sing! Everyone but McClellan also contributes an instrument (even if that instrument is simply a bottle of pills), and the sound is improbably lush given the cramped stage. As Billy recounts his story through the course of several 12-step meetings, we’re treated to a wide-ranging cast of characters, from the older co-worker who takes his virginity (Aaron Kliner, who also plays Billy’s father) to his imposing and sexy college best friend (played to perfection by the big-voiced Tush) and his introduction to New York City nightlife by Scott (a hilariously campy Robert Maril).

The show’s regular run is over, but  Billy will most certainly be part of the Fringe Encore series in September.

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