Tuesday, August 24, 2010

FringeNYC 14: The Hurricane Katrina Comedy Festival

My first year as a true FringeNYC civilian, my first year reviewing shows without it being a complete conflict of interest, has been a delightful experience. There's so much theater here: some of it has been beautiful or inspiring or funny, some has made me angry or bored, but, really, that's the nature of this particular many tentacled Kraken.

I saw The Hurricane Katrina Comedy Festival last Wednesday, then got distracted by some plumbing problems and an asthma attack and more show seeing and finally some quality boyfriend time, so I didn't get around to writing it up til now. Which is a little inexcusable, but whatever. The worst thing about this show is the title as it is terribly misleading. Both my delightful escort and I were under the impression that it might be some sort of stand up thing (possibly) with comedians from New Orleans. Which wouldn't much appeal to me. But I heard from some of my Mysterious Inside Sources that it was both very, very good, and poorly titled. Right on both counts.

What the show actually is, is a meticulously constructed oral history of the hurricane and the aftermath as told by five residents of New Orleans. The play is as simple as can be. Five actors sit on chairs. They each tell their own first person account of what happened to them during the storm, with the other actors occasionally stepping in to play other participants in that person's tale. That's it. The stories are true. The stories are riveting. The stories are funny. The stories are completely heartbreaking.

Back in 2004, when In the Shadow of No Towers came out, I saw Art Spiegelman speak at The New School. One of the things he talked about was how he never understood why as things in Europe got worse and worse people stayed. Why not flee? He said he finally understood it after 9/11, when he saw inklings of apocalypse in his own city. This was his home, and he didn't even think of leaving. You don't think it's going to get that bad. This is essentially the position of most of the five people whose stories we hear in this piece. This is their home. Why should they leave? Their homes had withstood hurricane after hurricane, even that really bad one.

One of the most ignored economic principles is that past performance is a bad way to gage future performance, and this applies to hurricanes as well. We all know what happened and saw it on TV. The levees broke and the city of New Orleans was flooded. The disaster response was abysmal. For that, and for hiding in a bunker or whatever after and during 9-11 may be the two things that make me say in regards to out wretched former president, "God damn him to hell, and why didn't Laura smother him with a pillow when she had a chance."

The five actors give extraordinary, mature performances. Any young actor who wants to see how it's done should see Hurricane Katrina for that alone. But the stories themselves are the real draw. There are two performances left, go just go. I haven't heard or seen much about this show in the press, but just go.

The Hurricane Katrina Comedy Festival
Batture Productions
Writer: Rob Florence
Director: Dann Fink
Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street
remaining performances: Wed 25 @ 3 & Sun 29 @ 4:15

As an added bonus:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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