Self-professed "storyteller" and two-time "Best in Fringe Festival" winner Antonio Sacre returns to the New York International Fringe Festival with his first new work in five years. This undeniably entertaining performance, Rise Like a Penis From the Flames—A Phallic Phoenix Story, chronicles Sacre's adventures with love, fame, and faith during the intervening half-decade. Though his audaciously (and misleadingly) titled monologue only concerns itself marginally with mythology and even less so with male anatomy, Sacre's piece frankly addresses many aspects of contemporary romance. As he recounts the story of his relationship with his wife during her rising acting career, we are led through tangential side stories. These vignettes don't inform the main narrative very much, but some hilarious episodes—like Sacre directing disinterested Los Angeles high school students in a production of Antigone aptly counterpoint the superficiality of his wife's new life in the movie biz.
Sacre's performance certainly confirms his day job as a storyteller and teacher in elementary schools. He describes each embarrassingly adult situation—like failing to pick up a girl at a singles club—as innocently as if he were in a fairy tale. Sometimes this juxtaposition works to great effect, but occasionally this wide-eyed mushiness threatens to cheapen his story's more adult themes, as evidenced in his lengthy, mawkish sermons dedicated to his wife.
While Rise is more schmaltzy than its misogynistic title suggests, Sacre's earnest account provides much insight into modern romance, with all its absurdities and calamities.
Note: This production is part of the New York International Fringe Festival.