Trying to decide which New York International Fringe Festival shows to see might revive the kid-in-a-candy-store dilemmas of your youth. There will be 185 productions to choose from in the annual event, which takes place from Friday through Aug. 25, and runs the theatrical gamut: comedies, dramas, musicals, solo productions, children's shows, puppetry and performance art. With tickets at $15 (if purchased in advance; $18 at the door), theater-goers typically sample a variety of the offerings, which will be performed at 20 venues in lower Manhattan.
How, though, do you make selections? Here's a rough guide -- an unofficial, unguaranteed list of "best bets," suggested by a person close to the festival:
* "Rubble": Actor-writer and Paterson native Bruce Vilanch portrays an aging comedy writer trapped under the debris of a Los Angeles earthquake, in the comic play by "The Simpsons" writer Mike Reiss.
* "The Spider": From Bulgaria, a play about conjoined twins, celebrating their last birthday before an operation that will separate them.
* "Bradley Cole": A musical about a friendless nerd re-creating himself as a blog personality, "Bradley Cole," who becomes famous around the world.
* "Old Familiar Faces": A drama by Nat Cassidy about murder, obsession, love and "the astounding true story of two lives saved by the works of William Shakespeare."
* "The Unfortunates": It's London, 1888, and a young prostitute meets a man in a pub who may -- or may not -- be Jack the Ripper, in the drama by Aoise Stratford.
* "Still Life": A play by Zeke Blackwell about two grapes who fight, joke and cry.
* "Waiting for Waiting for Godot": Two understudies in Beckett's absurdist classic sit around backstage discussing life, art and existence. Written by Dave Hanson.
* "Clown Play": A group of clowns converge on an abandoned suburban home in this play by Paul David Young.
* "Naked in Alaska": A solo show about the life of a stripper, written and performed by Valerie Hager.
* "Ex Machina": Two workers endure the pressures of laboring in a smartphone factory. Written by David Jacobi.
* "Recipe for Success with Chef Michael Denardi": Peter Grosz, formerly a writer for Stephen Colbert's "The Colbert Report," plays a wannabe celebrity chef with issues.
* "Someone to Belong to": It's "Mad Men" territory in this play by Christine DeNoon and Lorie Steele: a New York ad agency in the 1960s, with work and personal lives mingling.
* "The 3rd Gender": Science fiction, by Peter Zachari, set in the year 2397, when the world is ruled by spiritual beings who live in an intermediate state between man and woman.
* "Double Heart": A prequel to Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing," by David Hansen.
See fringenyc.org for more information, including a complete list of Fringe productions with venues, dates and times, as well as news about discount passes.
Here's a simple get-rich-quick scheme: Invest in a Broadway show that stars Denzel Washington.
After warming up with the romantic comedy "Checkmates" in 1988, he returned, as a full-blown film icon, in revivals of "Julius Caesar" in 2005 and "Fences" (for which he won a Tony Award) in 2010. His presence made both productions box-office powerhouses.
It would be a rash man who'd bet against that happening again when Washington returns to Broadway next year.
It was confirmed last week that he'll headline a revival of "A Raisin in the Sun," Lorraine Hansberry's piercing drama about an African-American family's struggle to improve its life in 1950s Chicago. Previews begin March 8 for an April 3 opening at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre.
Washington, whose character's mother will be portrayed by Diahann Carroll, is a couple of decades older than the mid-30s man he plays. It's doubtful his fans will care.
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