Theater Review (NYC): STUCK! at the Frigid Festival

The Frigid Festival is one of those idealistic, from-the-grassroots alternatives to bigger, more corporate events such as the Fringe Festivals. In this self-described "celebration of independent theater," all box office income goes to the actual productions, while the Festival rather cutely passes the tip bucket for itself.

A one-woman play written and performed by Jennie Franks, STUCK! is a fine example of the kind of (literally) underground theater that flourishes in the context of an event like the Frigid. Kiki, a no-longer-young suburbanite with children and a jittery marriage, is trying – with a faint air of desperation – to maintain a cosmopolitan social life by staying on top of fashion trends and clinging to an Upper West Side lifestyle. Her frazzled morning slams to a halt when she gets locked in the basement bathroom of a Starbucks, with little more than a weak cell phone signal, a giant turd, and her own insecure inner narrative.

Expectedly, Kiki lays her neuroses out for us as she talks herself through her unsanitary ordeal. Unexpectedly, breaches in the fourth wall toy with the audience's assumptions, as the character of Kiki flowers into a bearer of social and political commentary. Ms. Franks' convincing New Yorker morphs into the character of the actress herself (complete with British accent) and back. The first of these shifts disturbs and discomforts the audience, but as the play progresses they become sort of the point, and although last night's fairly sizable crowd contained a lot of Frigid supporters and friends, the cheers for Ms. Franks at the end of her original little piece weren't just friendly, but well-deserved.

The Frigid productions are all supposed to be under one hour, and with their tiny budgets it's not too surprising that quite a few are solo shows like this one. But while small in scale they are large in creative energy. I attended a "Snapshots" presentation last week, where each of a dozen productions staged a five-minute taste, and I'm going to try and catch at least a couple more. You can check out the whole schedule here.

Presented by <a href="" target="_blank">Horse Trade</a> and EXIT Theater, through March 9 in repertory at the Frigid Festival. At the Kraine Theater, 85 E. 4 St. (across the street from La Mama).