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Dementia Americana (FringeNYC)

From 7 critic and 51 member reviews
Members say: Great acting, Relevant, Clever, Absorbing, Ambitious

About the show

A FringeNYC Encore: Sex! Murder! Insanity! John Philip Sousa! Enjoy all this and more in this darkly comic play about the scandal surrounding Evelyn Nesbit, Harry K Thaw, and the murder of famed architect Stanford White. More…

Synapse Theatre Ensemble presents Louis Aquiler and Chris D'Amato history-inspired play. New York, 1906. Heir to a vast fortune, Harry Kendal Thaw spends most of his days gambling, recklessly pursuing his curious sexual appetites, consuming incredible amounts of cocaine, and generally scandalizing all of New York high society. Two things in the world command Harry’s attention: Evelyn Nesbit, the 'girl on the red velvet swing,' idolized as a paragon of beauty and innocence, and famous architect Stanford White, who possesses an unnaturally large mustache. A powder keg of anger, betrayal, madness and violence leads to the crime of the century.

Theatre is Easy

"Despite heavy-handedness and a certain lack of finesse, 'Dementia Americana' is well received in a contemporary moment of billionaire politicians and celebrity culture. If only it trusted its audience to come to this conclusion themselves...Though the acting is uneven, everyone clearly is giving their all...A work in progress, rather than a completely polished piece. The show—to its benefit—has made some changes since its initial run...However, there is still work to be done." Full Review

The Highlighter

for a previous production "'Dementia Americana' may not exist in the sense of what it was meant to, but is a frighteningly apt term for what the American climate looks like today. Between the ingeniously clever stage setup, flawless scene transitions, and utterly incredible acting, the production becomes a fantastical event. It’s a comical, farcical commentary, and succeeds in every aspect. Those who could be labeled as suffering from 'dementia Americana,' and those who couldn’t, would do well to watch it." Full Review


for a previous production "Zany and thoroughly engaging…While it gets a little long near the end, director Paul Mancini keeps the energy high and the performances focused straight through the unsettling Brechtian final moments. Aquiler and D'Amato's script effectively delivers the historical facts while making them dramatic...History may have forgotten this minor cultural moment, but in Aquiler and D'Amato's hands, the story is especially timely." Full Review

DC Metro Theater Arts

for a previous production “Turn-of-the-century costumes, Bentwood chairs, and recorded period music evoke the era, and dramatic lighting by JT Diaz accentuates the plot points. With its intelligent and well-researched script, fine acting and direction (including some entertaining segments of silent-film-style miming), and effective design, ‘Dementia Americana’ succeeds in conveying both a fascinating event from our past and a socio-political statement that remains relevant in the present.” Full Review


for a previous production "'Dementia Americana' has many, many scenes that move along, never showing more than needed or wasting time belaboring. A key scene features a very clever instance of reverse-staging. D'Amato, who plays Harry Thaw, absolutely slays with his fearless and energetic acting. The versatile cast truly impresses in shifting roles...This show's a keeper. If you go, do try to sit down front." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

for a previous production "’Dementia Americana’ features strong performances by Buckley and Marlo but suffers somewhat from a lack of focus. It swings back and forth from being a wild ride through the fractured psyche of a spoiled playboy to being a sober drama about a poor but beautiful young woman cruelly used by rich men. There’s obviously a connection between those two themes, but the playwrights haven’t found a tone that encompasses both of them." Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

for a previous production "The cast does what it can with the enactment of the story realizing it is more informative rather than action packed and broken up into short vignettes. There is a problem with hearing some actors especially when directing dialogue upstage or into the wings...Director Mancini moves the story along but could pick up the pace during some stagnant scenes that seem to drag. This production is more interesting than exciting and a look at a strange, bizarre character and a notorious murder." Full Review

Clever, Entertaining, Great acting

See it if You love historical dramas, you know Evelyn Nesbit from your cast recording of Ragtime!

Don't see it if You aren't into bare bones, stylistic theater

Entertaining, Funny, Great acting, Great writing, Original

See it if like shows based on a true story, you like witty writing and fantastic acting, you like seeing a lot of characters with a small cast.

Don't see it if have no interest in history, are triggered by sociopaths, don't want to support small theatre.

Clever, Absorbing, Relevant

See it if you like NY history, architecture, scandal, and crazy rich people

Don't see it if you are angered by the super wealthy and their ability to be above the law

Ambitious, Relevant, Great acting, Great writing, Intense

See it if are in mood for a deeply dramatic period piece with contemporary relevance and extraordinary acting.

Don't see it if you want a lighthearted musical experience.

Quirky, Great acting, writing & staging, Delightful, Clever, Original

See it if you're ready for a cure for all the bad theatre you might've been seeing lately; delightful performances & timely script tightly presented.

Don't see it if you're easily confused by imaginative narrative or staging, have no interest in history or current events or in innovative theatre.

Also A great evening of theatre, with great humor and subtle wit suffusing ... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Relevant

See it if you like very well acted NYC historical FICTION with relevance to today.

Don't see it if you don't like having a real person who was NOT around during the events acting as narrator. Easy to question event details.

Absorbing, Funny, Great acting

See it if you want to see theater tackle difficult subjects (mental illness, power of money) in an absorbing way. I give it a B/B+ grade.

Don't see it if you dislike violent depictions and want a completely true historical account.

Absorbing, Great acting, Relevant, Great staging, Entertaining

See it if You're an NYC history buff, like small theater, smart staging and directing, a dollop of humor and quirk.

Don't see it if You prefer more drama, less exposition.

Also Lizzy Ana Lincoln and Chris D'Amato were excellent. The rest of the ca... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Intelligent, Profound, Thought-provoking, Intense

See it if you want to know about the REAL Crime of the Century (not OJ!). Accurate and powerful, it's about the Monica Lewinsky of the Gilded Age.

Don't see it if you don't want to know about one of the most fascinating, accomplished, brilliant and intelligent men of the last century, Stanford White.

Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Original, Resonant

See it if You enjoy literate, soaring scripts. And a production with immensely skillful, clever direction - plus D'amato's knockout Thaw.

Don't see it if You need to see a seasoned, finished production - this is the Fringe, right? Be happy you got to see them when...

Entertaining, Intelligent, Original, Relevant, Thought-provoking

See it if you are interested in an historical event about which few are aware; are interested in the miscarriages of justice.

Don't see it if history doesn't interest you at all.

Educational, Intense, Thought-provoking, Intelligent, Distracting

See it if U like gossipy nyc history, like when actors solidly play multiple roles. The Harry Thaw actor specifically caught lots of attention.

Don't see it if you're easily distracted by 1906 dialog peppered anachronistically with modern terms "wow" "huggies!" and the like.

Ambitious, Disappointing, Indulgent, Overrated

See it if you'll enjoy seeing a young enthusiastic company in a play about a sensational event in US history--the murder of architect Stanford White.

Don't see it if you dislike inserting a REAL person who had nothing to do with a historical event into it or preachy plays that have to TELL you the moral.

Also The play introduces a "fictional" character who acts as a narrator of ... Read more Read less

Ambitious, Intelligent, Original, Relevant, Intense

See it if You enjoy historical dramas about significant events in American history that remain relevant.

Don't see it if You're not interested in stories of mental illness or murder -- whether factual or fictitious.

Talky, Too much history lesson, Proselytizes, Disappointing

See it if interested in the 1906 Stanford White, Evelyn Nesbit, Harry Thaw murder trial, & birth of "Dementia Americana" defense update to "Twinkie"

Don't see it if not interested in talky history lesson with appeals that we do something about it

Quirky, Slow

See it if You're interested in American history and ensemble shows.

Don't see it if You want something with polish.

Ambitious, Indulgent, Original, Slow, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy seeing theatre about historical figures. I found there to be some intense moments and good use of staging.

Don't see it if don't care for narrative theatre. We're told more then shown. Didn't get a sense of the time period from many of the actors.

Also I also was left questioning whether it was a show about mental health ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Clever, Great staging, Great acting, Resonant

See it if you've got a flair for darkness and have been uncomfortable with the political climate of late

Don't see it if you're made uneasy by simulated (sexual) violence and vulgarity

Relevant, Chilling, Twisted, Brilliant, One-of-a-kind

See it if You are interested in history, current events, and socioeconomic class issues. It's funny, exhilarating, dark, and EXTREMELY relevant!

Don't see it if You think the top 1% is peachy keen.

Absorbing, Clever, Resonant, Riveting, Intense

See it if You're interested in historical dramas more fantastical than fiction that leave you with something to think about.

Don't see it if You have triggers for violence or sexual abuse.

Entertaining, Clever, Hilarious

See it if You like funny, and entertaining. On of the best things I've seen at fringe in 3 years.

Don't see it if You like solo shows or musicals

Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Great writing, Riveting

See it if You are interested in a fascinating true crime story that is very well staged and acted

Don't see it if you are not interested in a historical story.

Entertaining, Relevant, Suspenseful

See it if you'd enjoy a fascinating true crime story from the turn of last century, with deeper socioeconomic, legal and psychological implications

Don't see it if you're too young for some of the mature subject matter?

Clever, Great acting, Original, Relevant

See it if You are interested in an obscure character and story in history whose lessons are especially poignant today.

Don't see it if You are waiting for it to get to a bigger better theater. Then see it there.

Ambitious, Absorbing, Quirky, Thought-provoking

See it if you are interested in a different exploration of local history

Don't see it if you don't like "bare bones" black box performances

Cast & Creatives (12)