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, July 27, 2007

The Moxie Show

An open mic entirely dependant upon audience participation, The Moxie Show provides an evening so chockfull of meta-theater that it's anyone’s guess where the alienation ends and the dramatic effect begins.

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Reviewed by Cait Weiss

When I was a kid, I saw Man in the Moon, that Jim Carrey-is-a-serious-actor-stop-laughing vehicle all about the crazy antics of Andy Kaufman. I was fascinated by how offensive the reenacted Kaufman was, but I was even more intrigued by the audience, people who turned up night after night to be insulted and subjected to the art of painful, unending, and unapologetic awkwardness (and it is an art, even if some of us excel without formal training).

Later, in my college’s Intro to Drama class, I would learn that, despite all my deep-seated beliefs at the time, neither Carrey nor Kaufman created the theatrical art of awkward. No, the watching world owes that debt to Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artuad. Thank you both very much. Because of Brecht’s plays and Artuad’s pen (resulting in the actual articulation of “The Alienation Effect”) we can now all go pay money to see productions where people sing off-key, deliberately stare into the audience and otherwise outwardly antagonize us.

Despite sounding curmudgeony, I very much enjoy a little A-Effect now and then. You just have to know what you’re getting yourself into. I wouldn’t want to show up to my high school prom naked, and I wouldn’t want to show up to an A-Effect play without a little pre-performance heads-up.

So, without further ado, consider yourself warned – and consider The Moxie Show.

To begin with, The Moxie Show is not a show. It’s an open mic, and it's part of Collective:Unconscious’ Undergroundzero Festival. Being such, the performers and material change every time the "show" is put on. The evening I went, the first of the series, only two audience members were brave enough to sign up, and both were redheaded women performing T-and-A obsessed stand-up. While each woman had her moments, a lot of those moments felt oddly similar, and the evening could have used a few more participants and a fair amount more variety. It's not Moxie's fault, though; we, the audience, were the only ones to blame. The Moxie Show’s eventual goal is to get a variety of performers up and on the stage, minimizing the role the show’s hosts will have to play, and maximizing the theatrical experience for all attendees.

And what a wonderful goal that is. The show’s host Trav S.D. is, at best, bemusing to watch, and, at worse, painful. However, Trav S.D. points out early on that this awkward alienation is exactly the point. Like Brecht, who used the A-effect to jolt the audience away from schmaltzy sympathy and into logical analysis (and, ideally, into action), Trav aims to irk us out of our cushy role of watcher and into the more active role of performer. Should you refuse, well, he is happy to perform some of the worst sketches and scenes he can scrape together. This threat is clearly stated at the start of the open mic. Attention: he isn't joking. Theater at The Moxie Show is not about easy fun, per se; it’s about participation. And if it’s not about participation, it is, quite clearly, about punishment.

So the best I can say for this show is, for all our sakes, go. Go and take over the open mic. Do your part in the name of Fringe Theater everywhere. It’s not everyday you get to play a role in a burgeoning theatrical community. And even if that movement’s fundamental tenant is alienation, well, at least you won’t be alienating alone.

If all else fails, you could always perform an emotionally-stirring dramatic monologue from Man on the Moon...

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Collective:Unconscious (279 Church St., just south of White St.)
Tickets (, 212-352-3101): $5.00
Performances: The second and fourth Tuesdays of every month, sign-ups at 7:30pm, performances at 8:00pm.

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