by Josh Sherman · August 22, 2014
The premise behind the new solo project titled Seven Seductions of Taylor Swift, finishing up this weekend at the New York International Fringe Festival, is to showcase the wide variety of reigning America’s Sweetheart Taylor Swift’s taste in men. All of said men are played, quite endearingly in almost all cases, by the comedically talented Thaddeus Shafer. To deepen the experience, the show draws on seven short scenes contributed by seven different female playwrights, one per celebrity ex-boyfriend. And Shafer delivers the goods – tricky to have to truly vary one’s persona every ten minutes – and with swift (bad pun, sorry) direction from Amin El Gamal, this 70 minute concoction washes down quite smoothly.
Starting chronologically with the perpetually unseen Ms. Swift’s dalliance with Joe Jonas (the eldest Jonas brother) up to and including Harry Styles (from British boy-band sensation One Direction), Shafer carries out the various playwright’s pop-culture skewering with glee. The show is augmented with a multimedia element as well, featuring footage from most of the ‘seduction’ targets conversations – an excellent touch from El Gamal. As one might expect, each scene strikes a different tone with the audience, but overall it felt to me that momentum built from short-lived boyfriend to the next, and that the final three seductions (Jake Gyllenhaal, Conor Kennedy, and Harry Styles) took the roars of laughter to higher levels, which I will focus on.
In fact, the absurdity provided in the Jake Gyllenhaal scene (by Joanna Bateman) comes in the form of text messages back and forth between Taylor and Jake on Halloween night perfectly encapsulated how we would think such an exchange might go between these two people in real life. Shafer does a terrific job, without any dialogue to speak, of portraying a flighty, semi-aloof Jake who waffles back and forth about whether he’s even really interested in a real relationship with Swift. That scene rolls right into a rollicking fictional monologue letter (by Kit Steinkellner) as read by Conor Kennedy, who can’t wait to create a new pop-culture family dynasty with Kennedy-Swift children. Shafer’s Kennedy accent is so over the top, I don’t think they’d let him onto Martha’s Vineyard with it. And the devious plot to conquer the curse of the boy-band in the Harry Styles scene (by Kari Lee) , brings us to the edge of lunacy as Styles tries to sneak his way backstage to seduce Swift in drag.
Seven Seductions of Taylor Swift feels like a brisk lark, but was clearly meticulously directed and well-executed by the creative team behind the piece. Some FringeNYC shows feel slapdashed and rushed – this solo show runs like a well-oiled pop-culture machine, to match its title character. Kudos to Shafer, El Gamal and company on creating such a fun little morsel.