According to Lincoln Center's new LCT3 project at its slogan, it takes "New Audiences for New Artists." It also takes new critics, hence the establishment of Theater Talk's New Theater Corps in 2005, a way for up-and-coming theater writers and eager new theatergoers to get exposure to the ever-growing theater scene in New York City. Writers for the New Theater Corps are given the opportunity to immerse themselves in the off-off and off-Broadway theater scene, learning and giving back high-quality reviews at the same time. Driven by a passion and love of the arts, the New Theater Corps aims to identify, support, and grow the arts community, one show and one person at a time.

Friday, August 18, 2006

FRINGE 2006: Minimum Wage: Blue Code Ringo

Review by Aaron Riccio

Minimum Wage: Blue Code Ringo
is an infinitely catchy, abundantly energetic, absolutely ridiculous, half-musical half-improv Frankenstein's monster of a show. It's great fun, but for a show that's four years old, it's remarkably unpolished. The music, co-composed by Jeff & Charlie LaGreca with Sean Altman (the witty a capella punster, formerly of Rockapella), is so crisp and delightful that it seems unfair to match it with poorly staged multimedia presentations (interruptions, really). Or maybe it's just that Jeff LaGreca's beatboxing talent is so good that it actually makes everything else less interesting (in particular, a scene about the uses of the spatula that devolves into a D&D-inspired "swordfight").

But you know what? They've got the heart, and the darkly comic wit, to succeed. They've also got an utter disregard for inhibition; this brings the sometimes mediocre staging to a simmering temper. Suzanne Slade goes all out when shaking her booty with danger, Tony Dassaunt's deadpan "Kooky, the Happy Burger Clown" is fantastic, and William Caleo, who plays the slapsticky-Altman role, pulls faces like no other. Charlie LaGreca, who plays the diminutive nerd Orwell, is tremendous in his own right: he plays his character so seriously that when he departs from the norm, as in "Connecticut," you can't help but giggle.

The plot, by far the least important thing, involves the cast training you, the audience, to become new employees of the Happy Burger franchise (where you can rise to the middle), and serves as little more than an excuse to impart anecdotal wisdom (through songs) about love affairs with grills, or what to do when you start hallucinating about psychopathic french fries. It works to get through the show, though the real justification is in the way the cast interacts WITH the audience, most notably in their innovative finale, "Balls!!"

The playful simplicity of the project is reminiscent of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, but the lack of character development keeps the production too reliant on sheer energy. This is fast food theater that happens to be about fast food--but unless drinking Red Bull causes you to hallucinate a really good vocal a capella group, Minimum Wage is still worth watching.

Players Theater (115 MacDougal Street)
Performances: FRI, AUG 18 @ 7:30; WED, AUG 23 @ 4:30

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