(First published on Red Bank oRBit August 25, 2009)
“Life is hard,” quoth Mary Lynn Dobson in regard to her wanting to write side-splitters instead of soul-searchers. “And sometimes you don’t want to have to work at enjoying the theater.”
Not that the theater isn’t a lot of hard work in the service of what sometimes turns out be disaster. If there’s just one grain of true-life adventure in the Middletown-based playwright and director’s ensemble comedy Two on the Aisle, Three in a Van, then we can only assume that the whole process of putting on a show is just one stuck signal away from total train wreck at all times.
In the world of Dobson’s fictitious community stage troupe the Neighborhood Actors Summerfun Repertory Company, such warmed-over chestnuts as Oklahoma!,West Side Story and Sound of Music are fraught with their share of blown cues, wardrobe malfunctions and near-lethal miscasting — but the Summerfun players manage to up the ante on the fail factor, mounting a very ill-advised adaptation of Medea (with Scottish accents, yet) that nearly shoots their season in the cradle.
Going the backstage perspective of Noises Off one better, Two on the Aisle takes us through this disastrous summer-stock season by watching it all unfold from behind the playhouse — with the back parking lot as dressing room, and an old van as tech booth, break lounge and de facto office. Throw in some vividly nutty characters — the inexperienced ingenues, the dyspeptic producer, the disaffected crew, the two-bit visionary lobbying to produce his original opus (Mime: The Musical), and the acid casualty who’s nursing a new addiction to Yoo-hoo — and you’ve got a comical recipe for catastrophe that’s just gotta be drawn from real life. Right?
Actually, according to Dobson, “there aren’t many situations in this show that have actually happened to me…I choose not to write about my own experiences, because the therapy is too costly.”
So, unfortunately for many aspiring Broadway success stories, is the notion of bringing an original theatrical work to the live stage — even something like Two on the Aisle, which took major honors at Northern Kentucky University’s Y.E.S. Festival of New Plays in 1999 — and which saw a professional premiere a few years later at Monmouth University. A decade after its first fully staged performance, it’s still regarded as a new and untested property — a not-uncommon scenario that should discourage anyone out there who thinks they’ve got the next Urinetown.
Of course, every child of Urinetown could use a little boost from the New York International Fringe Festival, the annual multi-arts showcase that each August takes over some 20 downtown venues in Manhattan, with more than 200 new works for the stage produced by hopeful creators from all over the US and beyond.
Dobson, whose popular children’s theater comedy The Somewhat True Tale of Robin Hood continues to put checks in the mailbox, has directed a new revival ofTwo on the Aisle, Three in a Van for the 13th annual edition of Fringe NYC, with Tony nominee Gordon Joseph Weiss returning to the cast. Three more performances remain, all at the Cornelia Connelly Theater — tonight at 9:15pm, tomorrow at 4pm, and Saturday, August 29 at noon. Admission to all shows is priced at $15; take it here for ticket info, and here for more facts and fun stuff.
And that’s not the only product of a Monmouth County creative currently lurking about the Fringe. Continue Reading to scope out another.
A couple of times in recent months, we’ve brought you some breaking news here inoRBit regarding a show by the name of Far Out!, a satirical tunefest subtitled The New SciFi Musical Comedy.
The mutant brainchild of a couple of Long Branch guys — composer Brian Breenand actor-lyricist Michael Chartier (both collaborated on the show’s book) — Far Out! has all the stuff of such 1950s creature-feature classics as Invaders From Mars and It Came From Outer Space: an atomic-age desert town, eyeball monsters from another planet, a stalwart scientist in league with the brain-bending space commies, and a pair of (literally) star-crossed young lovers. As an added bonus, it’s also got a fun score of doowop-pastiche pop songs a la Little Shop of Horrors.
Having seen their show (which, like so many other “new” works, has been kicking around for years in one form or another) selected for a spot on the Fringe schedule, Breen and Chartier set about organizing a series of preview parties (read: fundraisers) at such favorite local haunts as the Langosta Lounge and Ron’s West End Pub, where wellwishers were treated to mini-concerts of tunes like “Duck and Cover Fugue,” “The Most Popular Teen in Town” and “You’d Better Keep an Eye on Me,” delivered by, among others, Sheena Marie Ortiz of In the Heights.
Well, the little show set in fictional McCarthyville has made it to the big city, where it plays on the stage of the Minetta Lane Theatre for four more performances — tomorrow at 8pm, Thursday at 4:15pm, Saturday at 5pm and Sunday at 2:45pm. Admission to all shows is, once again, priced at $15; take it here for ticket info.