If you live in or around New York City, you probably know about the New York International Fringe Festival going on right now. The largest multi-arts festival in North America, it runs from August 14 to August 30.
One of the most highly acclaimed plays being presented is Viral, a dark comedy written by Mac Rogers, a two-time FringeNYC award winner. Patrick Lee, reviewing in Show Showdown, calls Viral “the first must-see of this year’s Fringe Festival. In lesser hands the story – of a suicidal woman who consents to let three fetishists videotape her death – could make for nothing more than lurid, soulless shock, but the playwright uses it as a high-stakes example of the potential for dehumanization in both fetish and in Internet culture. The cast effectively form a tonally cohesive unit but Amy Lynn Stewart, compelling as the suicidal Meredith, and Rebecca Comtois, vibrant as one of the fetishists, stand out in the show’s most pivotal roles.
Mark Peikert of Back Stage called Viral “blessed with an unflinching script and a quartet of very funny performers…the play begins as the blackest of comedies before transforming into an uncompromising look at how we choose to live.” He goes on to say, “…as funny as Viral is, it’s [Amy Lynn] Stewart’s harrowing monologue about the courage it takes to recognize one’s weaknesses that will haunt you for days afterward.”
TheaterMania Review said that Viral explores not only the ways people can exercise control in their lives, but also the ways in which human existence — in its widest sense — has become a commodity in the Internet age… Viral satisfies and its story lingers well after its final moments.”
Critic Nathaniel Kressen describes Viral as “one of the most cohesive productions I have seen come out of FringeNYC. The cast proves adept at both the comedy and the dramatic moments; each has his or her niche and plays it to perfection. Amy Lynn Stewart as Meredith (the subject) embodies a haunting sadness that gives rise to an explosion late in the play. Even during long stretches with no dialogue, she is magnetic.”
I’m no theater critic, but I also heartily recommend Viral. Of course I may be a tad prejudiced. Amy Lynn Stewart is my granddaughter.