Wednesday, August 18, 2010

FringeNYC 14: The Headscarf and the Angry Bitch and The Altoona Dada Society Presents The Velvet Gentleman

The Altoona Dada Society Presents The Velvet Gentleman is one of those unfortunate shows that is so rife with possibilities and missed opportunities one feels like shaking it. First a word about dada. This anti-art movement sprung from the death, ugliness and violence of World War I. It was abstract and anarchistic. Nothing, and I mean nothing in this particular production has anything to do with Dada. Nothing.

The Velvet Gentleman is a play within a play being presented by the titular Altoona Dada Society of Altoona, PA. Now, there are a lot of ways they could go with this. The Velvet Gentleman is a biography of Erik Satie, a composer strange enough that people are still unsure whether he was brilliant and ahead of his time, or simply mad. Scenes of Satie's life are interrupted by the members of the ADS (Altoona Dada Society) as they bicker amongst themselves, and explain to the audience all the internal conflicts surrounding the dismissal of their anti-artistic director. All is told in a pretty ordinary linear fashion. Which is not necessarily a terrible thing, but the play feels underwritten. The behind the scene story doesn't really go anywhere and feels repetitious. We don't get quite enough of Satie or his music. There are parts of the show that had great potential, but the execution was a little sloppy and poorly directed. The actors all spoke their lines as if they had quotation marks around them which got increasingly tiresome as the show went on.

Dada was meant to be a desecration in the face of an increasingly violent and meaningless world. There are a lot of things that could be done with the material they already have, but they would need a lot more spontaneity and chaos to do all their references any sort of justice.

The Altoona Dada Society Presents The Velvet Gentleman

Writer: Jon Steinhagen
Director: Kevin P. Hale
The Studio@Cherry Lane Theater, 38 Commerce Street
remaining performances: Wed 25 @ 2 & Thu 26 @ 9:15

Zehra Fazal's Zed Headscarf is a completely delightful creation and Headscarf and the Angry Bitch is a smart entertaining show that is tailor made for the fringe festivals of the world. Zed Headscarf is a chirpy, young Pakistani-American (dubbed the "Muslim Weird Al") who is touring Islamic Community Centers, educating the American public on Islam. After seeing dozens of one person shows over the years, I've come to realize that pretty much only one thing counts, everything else is gravy: that the performer is the sort of person one would be happy to watch and listen to for an hour. Fazal has this quality in spades.

Her show is divided up into chapters in which she explains various aspects of Islam and Muslim culture to us. As the piece goes on, her self revelations about sex, dating, family and religion become deeper and more transgressive and funnier and funnier. She also sings funny song parodies about things like losing her virginity on Ramadan and about dating a blonde girls - just like her ex-boyfriend. The show is also a meditation on otherness within American culture which, it might be argued, is the whole story of American culture and something that some people seem to have forgotten. It's also about being first generation American born, about awkwardly straddling two cultures, about being made to feel uncomfortable with your body, about trying to reconcile opposing parts of oneself. And it's all very, very funny.

Note: it seems to be selling out like crazy so get your tix in advance.

Headscarf and the Angry Bitch

Writer: Zehra Fazal
The Studio@Cherry Lane Theater, 38 Commerce Street
remaining performances: Wed 18 @ 8:15 & Fri 20 @ 3:45

1 comment:

Headscarf said...

Caviglia--Thank you so much for your kind review of Headscarf and the Angry Bitch! I'm so happy you came out to the show.

All the best,
Zehra F.