It’s not just the numbers—1,000 performances of 200 shows over a mere 16 days—that make the annual New York International Fringe Festival stand out in a sea of summer events. Unlike Broadway or many Off-Broadway performances, Fringe shows take place downtown in small, nontraditional venues. And the pieces themselves span a wide range of theatrical experiences, from one-person tours de force and crazy experiments to semi-conventional dramas and decidedly offbeat musicals. If you like live theater of any kind, you’ll find something to enjoy.
Running August 12–28, the cultural cornucopia offers more than just the main-stage events: Fringe JR shows geared to kids ages 6–12; Fringe Al Fresco, which presents free outdoor performances; Fringe Art, a multimedia gallery exhibition; and Fringe Plus, a series of special postshow meet-ups geared toward mixing and mingling with creators.
Below is a sampling of the wide variety of happenings at this year’s Fringe. For a complete schedule, and to purchase advance tickets, visit fringenyc.org.
All Together Now at Alpha Omega
Fringe shows are often intimate experiences, with most theaters holding fewer than 100 seats. This one limits the audience to 20 for a show that has the audience lying on the floor of an indoor tent. Projections of animation and family videos tell the playwright’s personal story of love and redemption, with a dash of Virginia Woolf thrown in for good measure.
At the Flash at Under St. Marks
This one-man, multicharacter drama tells the decades-spanning story of the LGBT rights movement through the patrons of a fictional gay bar called the Flash. After acclaimed runs in LA and Chicago, the play makes its NYC debut starring David Leeper, who co-wrote the show with playwright Sean Chandler.
Cabtivist at The Huron Club
What do you after driving a cab in New York City for 35 years? You write a one-man show about it, of course. This comedic look at life behind the wheel stars John McDonagh, a long-time activist, radio star and Irish raconteur who tells the incredible story of his only-in-NYC life.
The Extraordinary Fall of the Four-Legged Woman at the Flamboyan Theatre in the Clemente
True tales often inspire Fringe shows, and this one unearths the story of a famous sideshow curiosity from the 19th century: Myrtle Corbin, a woman born with four legs. This unusual musical focuses on Corbin’s life under the big top and how it all changed when she met the man who would become her husband.
Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show! at Drom
This variety show features the longest, wackiest title in Fringe 2016. The raucous and politically incorrect performance by the musical duo known as Slanty Eyed Mama (Kate Rigg and Leah Ryan) takes on Asian-American stereotypes with a healthy dose of music, laughs and Hello Kitty.
Homo Sapiens Interruptus at 64E4 Underground
In the tradition of famed monologuist Spalding Gray, actor-rocker Carlos Dengler (formerly of Interpol) sits behind a desk as he tells the story of his personal evolution growing up in Queens. His tale intertwines with that of Lucy, the 3.2-million-year-old fossil that has shed new light on the evolution of the human species.
Lunt and Fontanne: The Celestials of Broadway at 64E4 Mainstage
Taking a look at Broadway history, this new drama tells the story of Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontanne, the original theatrical power couple whose extraordinary partnership, onstage and off, spanned the 1920s through the 1950s. A real-life married couple, actors Mark Lang and Alison Murphy, play the famous pair in this NYC premiere.
A Microwaved Burrito Filled with E. coli at The Huron Club
The Fringe is famed for its quirky titles, but this show takes the cake or, in this case, the burrito. Performer Molly Dykeman returns to this year’s festival with a new show about a woman trapped in a Mexican restaurant with a chatty waitress. This two-hander promises some belly laughs along with a side of refried beans.
Murder at the Food Coop at the Flamboyan Theatre in the Clemente
The Park Slope Food Coop is the unusual setting for this farcical comedy about murder, food and PC values. This wacky musical kicks off when the owner of the coop is found in a “Gore 3000” freezer, setting his coworkers on a mission to solve his offing with song, dance and locavore jokes.
Red Devil Moon at the Flamboyan Theatre in the Clemente
Not all Fringe musicals are about the laughs. This more serious-minded show, by poet and playwright Robert Earl Price and singer-songwriter, Pam Ortiz, adapts the novel Cane, by Harlem Renaissance writer Jean Toomer.
Rent Control at Under St. Marks
Ripped from the headlines, this one-man show follows a struggling actor in NYC who turns his rent-controlled apartment into an Airbnb cash cow. Evan Zes portrays 30 characters who turn his life, not to mention his Upper East Side abode, upside down.
The Secret Life of Your Third Grade Teacher at 64E4 Underground
Micaela Blei is a two-time winner of the Moth’s GrandSLAM storytelling championship. Blei also taught elementary school for nearly a decade, and she uses that lively source material for her one-woman show.
Super! at SoHo Playhouse
At a time when summer multiplexes are awash in superhero flicks, this Fringe musical brings the popular genre to the small stage. Telling the story of a young man named Mark who learns he has special powers, this show is the work of NYC-based writer and composer Aaron Michael Krueger.
Walken on Sunshine at SoHo Playhouse
When a down-on-his-luck filmmaker fibs to investors that Christopher Walken is starring in his movie, comedic chaos ensues—as do a few musical numbers. Originally conceived by screenwriter Dave Droxler as a film, this show was inspired by the diverse resume of that quintessentially New York actor, Christopher Walken.
Individual show tickets are $18. Tickets are cheaper with package deals: five shows for $85; 10 for $150; and the so-called Lunatic Pass, covering the whole shebang, for $500. You can buy tickets online, at the venue or the official Fringe Festival Lounges; Downtown Art in the East Village and the Clemente on the Lower East Side. For more details on ticketing, visit fringenyc.org.