On the Fringe

By Mike Diamond

Originally published on Advocate.com August 21 2008 11:00 PM ET

Above:David LeBarron in The Chronicles of Steve: The
Bossy Bottom

The New York
International Fringe Festival descended onto the Big Apple
with an impressive lineup of compelling productions from
up-and-comers and established theater talents alike.
Since 1996 the two-week festival has thrown the
spotlight on alternative theater from around the globe. As
North America's largest multi-art festival (run mostly by
volunteers), Fringe NYC also serves as an incubator
for future hits -- previous years have included
Urinetown and Debbie Does Dallas -- garnering
critical acclaim and packed audiences. With more than
200 shows strewn about lower Manhattan, this
year’s fest featured many LGBT productions, ranging
from the sexy to the silly to the sublime.

Among the
highlights were David LeBarron’s provocative The
Chronicles of Steve: The Bossy Bottom.
The
hourlong one-man show is a frenetic, funny, and raw
exploration of loneliness, sex addiction, and
contemporary gay life.

LeBarron, a
performer with strong stage presence and comic timing,
delves into sex clubs, Internet hookups, and cruising
at Starbucks. His portrayal of a queen tweaking on
crystal meth was unnervingly dead-on; he nailed the
disjointed jumpiness and cock-hungry desperation of every
tina queen you've ever had the misfortune to
encounter. But it’s more than just tricks and
giggles -- throughout the show, there are intermittent
flashback sequences of a young boy struggling to rationalize
the cruel behavior of his violent daddy.

Was this abuse
and molestation the seed for the later quest for rough sex
and debasing encounters? The journey is nonlinear -- as one
character says to a disappointing date, "It’s
not you, it’s me. I deserve someone better."

Fringe Festival: See How Beautiful I Am, The Return of Jackie Susann x180 (publicity) | Advocate.com
  

Camp queens
flocked to "See How Beautiful I Am: The Return of Jackie
Susann", a one-woman show about the scandalous
author of the legendary trashy novel Valley of the
Dolls.
In this production West End stage star
Debra Weston (right) portrays the deliciously
irreverent author (she of the black French poodle and
false eyelashes) as she reminisces about her life from
a hospital room in New York City (Susann died of
breast cancer in 1974).

All the major
elements of Susann’s dishy story are touched upon,
and Weston plays them to the hilt: Jackie’s
upbringing as a plain girl with a daddy complex; her
early career as a stage actress; her swinging ’60s
roller coaster of parties, pills, and sex. This literary
diva lived the lifestyle she wrote about and immersed
herself in that glittery glam world, reveling in her
bisexuality and A-list celebrity status. Weston, a
cat-eyed beauty, was riveting onstage, tackling the ribald
humor and aching pathos with steeliness as well as a
charming grace and confidence.

 The Naked Dead Elephant in the Middle of the Room x395 (Publicity) | Advocate.com

Larson
Rose’s The Naked Dead Elephant in the Middle
of the Room
was among the more unusual offerings and
was an audience favorite as well. Billed as "a
satirical comedy with adult themes and nudity about
creating a satirical comedy with adult themes and
nudity," this 45-minute production was exactly as loopy as
advertised.

Taking dead aim
at stage shows that employ "pointless" nudity to sell
tickets (and, by extension, the skin-seeking audience),
Larson has written a charming, clever play within a
play within a play, and yes, there was indeed nudity.
As in all gay plays with naked in the title, the
bare skin was decidedly unerotic, but in this case
that unsexiness is intentional. All of the cast
members (Zach Held, Roy James Brown, the adorable Jim
deProphetis, who knows how to work a jockstrap, and
the hilarious Jesse Stewart) brought just the right
blend of dry wit and goofy charm to Rose’s sly gem
of a show. Naked was an enjoyable romp, the
très gay cherry on top of Fringe NYC’s
tasty confection of cruisy, campy theater works.