The NYC International Fringe Festival kicks off today and this year the festival is biling itself as New York's best "staycation". Tix are cheap at $15 per show, less if you get one of the passes that are offered...my favorite being the "Lunatic Pass" which admits you to all the shows for $500. And with 16 venues and more than 200 shows, there's plenty to choose from, everything from confessional one man shows to wacky musicals.
The one thing about the Fringe is that quantity is not a problem. It's the quality of shows that can be rare. It's best to check the listings in TimeOut, New York Magazine or the NY Times, where they often highlight a few select picks. If you do, you may be lucky enough to see next year's "Urinetown", "Blanche Survives Katrina In A Fema Trailer Named Desire" or even "WTC View", which was my second feature starring UGLY BETTY'S Michael Urie. It started it's life as a play in a 50-seat blackbox on 4th and B in the '03 Fringe.
Finding a good show is tricky. Some show titles certainly jump out and are very Fringe-y, like "Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party", "Sperm-a-lot" and "I Can Haz Cheezburger: The MusicalOL", based on the infamous LOLz websites. But whether or not these are any good? There's the rub. I often will check with my theatre friends who might have some tips or know the buzz. Even though they generally believe that 4 out of 5 Fringe shows suck, doing that math still leaves 40 shows that technically could be decent. However, the only sure way you'll really find out is putting down your $15.
So the key is to shop around, don't jump at the craziest title and maybe take a look at the credits to see if the people or theatre company involved have some cred. But in the end, it's ultimately a crap shoot...which is part of the fun of the Fringe too. It's nearly the same cost as a movie and, given that August is the traditional dumping ground for studio movies that do suck, the bottom line is that even the worst show is gonna be better than seeing THE TIME TRAVELERS WIFE.