BOTTOM LINE: Truly a show for our times, Jeff Kreisler creates pitch-perfect satire with his mock wealth-building, self-help seminar, managing to skewer public figures as diverse as Bernie Madoff and Alex Rodriguez along the way, and leavening chilling social critique with lots of great punch lines.
Get Rich Cheating is a show with an effective, but simple, conceit: the audience has come to the theater not to see a comedy show, but to attend a seminar that will teach them how to get filthy rich - by cheating. Based on his book of the same name, writer/performer Jeff Kreisler appears to us as the ultimate motivational speaker; he is smarmy and charming and knows how to appeal to both our basest and highest instincts at the same time. If we open our hearts and overcome our deepest fears, we, like him, can achieve our wildest dreams, to become filthy rich through any means necessary. Kreisler uses real-life "success stories" in his talk - people who borrowed, stole, and lied their way to the top with few serious consequences. While you are laughing out loud at his expertly written set-up and punch, another part of your brain is screaming "Oh my god, how did these criminals get away with all this?! Is our society really that corrupt?'" The cold-hard truth, as elucidated by Kreisler's extensive real-life research, is "Yes, it is." The fun of the show's premise is that, hopefully only for the duration of the piece, we can suspend our outrage and become hopeful participants in the "culture of cheat."
There is a fair amount of audience participation in the show, mostly group chanting ("People are dumb!"), and a few people are asked specific questions about their cheating dreams and other related subjects, but no one is uncomfortably singled out or made to come onstage. The audience on the day I saw the show played right into the premise, shouting out the slogans and answering questions about what they would do when they made their first ten million from cheating, as if they really were at a seminar. It was great fun.
Director Anne Teutschel has wisely kept the production simple; Kreisler delivers his monologue on a bare stage with only a few well-chosen images on the projection screen to back him up, so that the focus can remain on the excellent writing and well-timed delivery. Kreisler, a stand-up comedian by trade, is able to interact with the audience spontaneously while seamlessly maintaining his persona. The improvised moments add fresh unpredictability to the piece, without breaking the reality that has been set up.
Overall, this piece is a great blend of compelling performance elements: it includes laugh-out-loud humor, scathing social critique, a fun premise that literally pulls the audience right into the action, and excellent writing, performing and direction. Definitely a must-see on your Fringe list!
(Get Rich Cheating plays at the Soho Playhouse, 15 Vandam Street between 6th and Varick, through August 27th. Remaining performances are Wednesday 8/18 at 5:15pm, Sunday 8/22 at 7:30pm, Tuesday 8/24 at 2pm, and Friday 8/27 at 10pm. For more information visit www.getrichcheating.com. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door, and are available at FringeNYC.com, by calling 866.468.7619, or in person at FringeCENTRAL, located at 1 East 8th Street at 5th Avenue. There is NO LATE SEATING for Fringe NYC shows.)