Go To the Fringe Festival – See Viral

If you are new to New York or just visiting, you might be wondering what’s “The Fringe” and why should you go? The NYC Fringe Festival is one of the largest and best festivals of new plays in the world. Every August for the past nine years companies from all over the world have come to NYC to showcase their work (from dance to theater) and hopefully get some needed recognition and sponsorship of producers. Many little Fringe shows, playwrights, actors and directors go on to be quite successful. Urinetown came out of the Fringe as did Matt and Ben and many others. Doing well in the Fringe can really help a playwright get to the next level in their career. I’ll be short and sweet with this one because this play will close and you must see it. Viral, a new play by Mac Rogers (who has written several other successful Fringe plays and other plays around the city – read my review of his last one) scores on so many levels that I think newbie playwriting students should go see this play as an example of how to hit every element needed to make a great play, which is extremely difficult to do and rare to see. Talk about it afterward and try to analyze what makes it so great. In Viral, Rogers brings the audience into his characters bizarre world effortlessly; and by the end we almost don’t want to leave it. First of all, he starts out right by choosing an intriguing subject matter (watching someone’s last breath). However, a great subject matter does not alone make a great play; it’s the je ne sais quoi that makes a play go from good to great, but playwriting professors will tell you that it’s the combination of craft and the uniqueness of the world that you create. This play has both. Rogers didn’t just create compelling characters with believable dialogue, he makes us root for them. More importantly he gave them something to do, a problem — with life and death stakes that takes the entire hour and half to resolve. Viral centers around three fabulously dysfunctional misfits who get off sexually by watching people die via “painless suicide.” The forth star of the play is the client, the dark and sexy Amy Lynn Stewart, the victim who wishes to die. The big question to be answered by the end of 70 minutes is clear and you won’t be disappointed. Obviously I don’t want to give too much away, but just know that the ride in Viral is a hideous and beautiful journey, well worth and hour and half of your time. Playwrights of every pedigree (and producers) should pay attention to this one. It’s extremely rare to see a play working so well with so much craft in place. I can’t tell you how many plays that have been lauded in recent years actually aren’t terribly well crafted or worth all the hype. I’m not saying these plays aren’t  enjoyable to watch; they are. In my opinion they are just a tad overrated. Those of us who know better, who are shooting to someday write a play that follows the rules that are so hard to master, should look no further than Viral, found in the bowels of New York City at the Fringe Festival: it’s perfection!

Viral is only playing for two more performances, so catch it while you can.

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