Bad Theater Festival: Better Than It Sounds


Courtesy of Gavin Starr Kendall

The Bad Theater Festival was full of absurdity and cultural comedy, providing a very entertaining season of shows.

Michael Landes, Staff Writer

The name of the Bad Theater Festival doesn’t inspire confidence, nor is that its intent. The festival, which recently concluded its fifth season, relocated to larger accommodations this year. But with the toilets broken, the bar open all night and free movement between the audience and backstage, the experience would have fit perfectly on East 4th St. or St. Marks Place.

To review the plays at the festival would give an oxymoronic perspective, as each play was only produced once, making each night completely unique. However, the few plays that went up last Thursday gave a fair overview of the material the festival produced.

The first play, a realist portrayal of Christmas tree sales people, focused on verbal sparring generated by a haphazard mix of characters: a well-meaning Texan, a foul-mouthed Jew, the two abusive suppliers of the trees (the older male partner hilariously called Junior) and the lot owner all exchanged insults.

This was followed by a decidedly more absurd comedy about two best friends competing for YouTube fame and global dominance as promised by two aliens who aim to invade Earth and hijack human genitals for their own procreation. The night was rounded out by a hilariously terrible performance of Shakespeare. The show was peppered with wonderfully self-effacing jokes about off-off Broadway shows. (The actor performing the opening monologue from “Twelfth Night” has to leave rehearsal early to catch “a futuristic steampunk a capella fully-immersive production of ‘Hamilton’ at Arlene’s Grocery.”)

The Bad Theater Festival certainly relies on cultural and social experience of the show, which is not to say that the plays performed are in any way bad. Focused primarily on comedy, there was no doubt that the purpose was entertainment  — and judging by the laughs and applause from the audience, the festival certainly delivered. New York’s theater scene needs more Bad Theater Festivals to embrace the off-off spirit and to continue the fringe tradition, even in such strange places as Lutheran churches with busted bathrooms. Though it may have closed this year, the Bad Theater Festival is worth looking out for next season.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 7 print edition. Email Michael Landes at [email protected]