So yeah, I didn't get to one movie this weekend. Nada. Niente. Nothing. I meant to. I even tried to. But between seeing seven Fringe shows and the other random stuff I had to do, I just couldn't make the time to get to anything.
As I mentioned previously, I'm covering the Fringe Festival for Gothamist. Shockingly enough, more than half the shows I saw didn't suck. I KNOW! Who woulda thunk it. I hope this doesn't make my expectations too high for everything I've got left. Meanwhile, here's my first Gothamist post of Fringe reviews. Included are thoughts on The Miss Education of Jenna Bush, Jesus in Montana: Adventures in a Doomsday Cult, The Great Official Subway Musical, The Rude Pundit in the Year of Living Rudely, Dance With Me, Harker, Shakedown Street, ScrewBall. I'll give a quick thumb up to the first four, and down to the last three, with ScrewBall receiving an honorary prize for most unbelievably bad piece of crap I've seen in a very long time.
My experience with the Fringe so far this year has been interesting. It reminded me of the way you have to look at The Fringe before going to a show; you know, in order to not get pissed off at the part of your life you just lost forever. I've always looked at the Fringe as being very similar to Las Vegas. No, for real. See, when I lived in LA, after turning 21, I hit Vegas all the time. It's just a four-hour car ride, you know? So at least once every six weeks to two months, I'd get myself to Vegas for the weekend. I had a very specific philosophy about gambling in Vegas in order to stay in control and sane. It went something like this:
When I go to Vegas, I expect to lose! That's what people do -- lose money in Vegas. The house has the advantage, etc. If you go expecting to lose, which you likely will, you've simply paid for the time of enjoying gambling. Hoping that enjoyment won't cost too much.
Second, when I go to Vegas, I hope to break-even in the casino. By break-even, I mean pay for everything -- the hotel, gas for the car, meals, etc. If you're able to leave Vegas with the same amount of money with which you arrived, that's a successful trip. It likely won't happen that way most of the time, but it's a realistic hope, and the way you act (and play!) can contribute to that happening.
Finally, when I go to Vegas, I dream about winning a bunch of money. Oh sure, it's likely not going to happen any time soon, but at least it's a realistic dream. You never go to Vegas expecting or even hoping to come home with more money than you had when you left. But that's rarely what happens. Sure you can think about it; but you need to be honest with yourself, and chances are, you're not coming home with extra money. Casinos don't like to pay their patrons to have a good time.
So what does all this have to do with The Fringe you ask? Simple, actually. With shows in the Fringe Festival, you expect that they're going to suck because there is ample proof that many of them do. Meanwhile, you hope that you get at least one show that isn't bad. It may not be amazing, but it's fun or interesting -- entertaining in its own right. That is a successful Fringe ticket. And the you dream about the possibility that you'll see something that's actually great; something that's going to blow up into a magnificent hit, that will transfer to Broadway, but you know you'll always be able to say you saw it when it was just a small show trying to make it without much support. And you just want to see some good theatre.
The shows I saw this weekend are a perfect example. I would happily recommend people see The Miss Education of Jenna Bush, Jesus in Montana: Adventures in a Doomsday Cult, The Great Official Subway Musical and The Rude Pundit in the Year of Living Rudely. On the other hand, I would suggest you run screaming if you encounter ScrewBall; and while neither Dance With Me, Harker nor Shakedown Street are as bad, I would suggest skipping them as well.
But this serves my point: I expect every show to be bad, so there was no shocker. Then I got The Rude Pundit, The Great Official Subway Musical, Jesus in Montana and The Miss Education of Jenna Bush, and they were each all I could have hoped for. Subway is an especially good selection. It's not a great play, nor is it a great musical -- certainly the songs are all relatively weak, even if some are hysterically funny. However, Subway is still all I could have hoped for -- a light, funny, entertaining hour of theater.; (Miss Education comes closes to being a "dream" show, but it's not. That's why I dream about it -- it's rare ... maybe never going to happen.
Here's hoping (again) that with this year's Fringe, hope stays alive. I've got at least 10 more shows to see, and even if my expectations are nil, I'd still prefer to be surprised by something good than sit through 90 minutes of annoying theatrical blather.