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BY SCOTT STIFFLER | From Chicago, Toronto and other chilly climes they come — to perform daring acts of indie theater and mock a weary Manhattan’s notion of what passes for excessive snowfall.
Over the next three weeks, as the predictions of a certain Staten-Island based groundhog will likely continue to prove annoyingly accurate, the eighth annual FRIGID festival is giving you over 30 reasons to brave the cold and take a chance on those who’ve won the lottery. Literally.
Horse Trade Theater Group’s nod to the risks and rewards of chance fills this annual winter fest with content chosen by first-come electronic submission. The selection process may be random, but the rewards are a lock: 100% of box office proceeds go directly to the artists.
Not everything is a random act, though. The Canuk Cabaret series tips its beaver fur top hat to our neighbors from the Great White North, by giving stage time to native and “honorary” Canadian talent. A little payback seems only fair, considering how Horse Trade liberally cribbed from the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals’ nurturing mission statement. Late in the FRIGID run, some notable standouts will get one more performance, at HANGOVER night (happening simultaneously, at The Kraine and UNDER St. Marks). As for what’s warming up the regular old FRIGID boards, quite a few entries just happen to fall into convenient categories.
SHOWS WITH A NEW YORK STATE OF MIND
EAST IN RED
New York’s Estraña Theatre Company brings twists, turns and psychological thrills to this modern telling of London’s Jack the Ripper murders. Set in the East Village, a prostitute takes it upon herself to bring a brutal serial killer to justice, after four women (one of them, a close friend) “fall victim to ghastly acts of contempt.”
THE EYES OF ORBACH
As if his long run on “Law & Order” and that memorable guest spot on “The Golden Girls” weren’t enough, Jerry Orbach further secured his good guy reputation with a final, visionary act: the donation of his corneas. Written by four members of the No. 11 Productions collective, this musical comedy imagines the two recipients of Orbach’s gift as lonely New Yorkers who meet and fall in love.
STEVE: A DOCU-MUSICAL
Brooklyn-based twentysomething Colin tells the story of his five-year collaboration with Steve, a retired railway clerk in Australia. Although the two never meet, their exchange of over 6,000 emails yields some 100 songs (many of which you’ll hear, augmented by “bells, flags, clocks frogs, maps, a stylophone and other curious artifacts”).
SHOWS WITH SHAKESPEARE ON THE BRAIN
Packed with ecstatic beats from the 1980s A&M Records portfolio — and inspired by the narratives of “A Chorus Line” and “Hamlet” — playwright Gregg Barrios merges 70s Chicano politics with AIDS-era club culture to tell the story of queer DJ Amado Guerrero Paz (aka Warren Peace). Old school dance floor attitude meets the new dub-step style, when a younger DJ challenges Peace to a winner-takes-all musical standoff.
Draped in a blood red dress and surrounded by tormentors clothed in tones as black as her soul, Lady Macbeth awakens to find herself trapped in “a purgatory created from her own gruesome misdeeds.” New York’s Everyday Inferno Theatre Company tears into the heart of Shakespeare’s text, to deliver a new tale that pulses with highly choreographed movement, moody music and dark humor.
SHOWS WITH ONE PERSON AND MULTIPLE PROBLEMS
ALMOST A GENIUS
Dressing like a banana, playing the accordion or speaking frankly about her suicide attempt — Chicago’s Maja Wojciechowski will do whatever it takes to find the comedy in her struggle with bipolar disorder and panic attacks. “Sometimes,” she says, “the most human part about being a functioning human being is not being able to function.”
CHARLOTTE THE DESTROYER
A washed-up children’s book author battles booze, phobias and poisonous thoughts, as the deadline for her latest project comes and goes.
CHICKEN-FRIED CICCONE: A TWANGY TRUE TALE OF TRANSFORMATION
The longest (and best-titled) FRIGID fest entry puts a guitar in the hands of actor-playwright J. Stephen Brantley, whose journey from heroin user to Mr. Clean is told with ample samples from Madonna — the ultimate queen of reinvention.
A DATE FOR THE EVENING
Celestial Zenith takes you through one woman’s breakneck attempt to mend her broken past, during a difficult night of speed dating.
SHOWS PLAYED FOR LAUGHS
BOOGIE OF THE APES
Travel back in time and experience over ten hours of monkey business, in just under sixty minutes — as Madison, Wisconsin’s own Broom Street Theater players dance, fight and masterfully mug their way through every increasingly cheesy installment of the five original “Planet of the Apes” films. Their lip-synched performance of highlights from the Power Records adaptation lampoons and critiques everything from the 70s that has aged poorly — including TV variety shows, the audio version’s bombastic, kid-friendly aesthetic and every “Apes” film that didn’t have Charlton Heston as its star.
I SHALL FORGET YOU PRESENTLY
New York’s own Dysfunctional Theatre Company — an always-entertaining member of the Horse Trade stable — uses the poems and letters of Enda St. Vincent Millay to bring out the funny, sexy, sacred and profane dimensions “of a woman who captured love, defined feminism and shaped the 20th century.”
THEATER | THE FRIGID NEW YORK FESTIVAL
Through March 9
At The Kraine Theater (85 E. Fourth St., btw. Second Ave. & Bowery)
At UNDER St. Marks (94 St. Marks Place., btw. First Ave. & Ave. A)
Midnight: Wed-Sat., Feb. 22-March 8
At UNDER St. Marks
March 8, 5:15pm (at both venues)