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New York Theater

Sides: The Fear Is Real...

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"Don' t worry -- I' m trained," says the boy in the Juilliard T-shirt.

The hilariously pathetic snippets of auditions in "Sides: The Fear Is Real..." bring to comic fulfillment the slogan "respect for acting." Only a loving group of insiders could so hilariously send up the entire process of auditioning, and this company-created show by Sekiya Billman, Cindy Cheung, Paul H. Juhn, Peter Kim, Hoon Lee, and Rodney To, directed by Anne Kauffman, subversively suggests that "respect" should include screening out the crackpots on both sides of the table. Fortunately for us, the goofballs make great comic fodder.

They are all here: the earnest, nervous actor whose "dramatic reading" is a medley of song lyrics; the grotesquely smiling dancer updating "Thriller" ; the well-intentioned graduate with three backstory questions for her one line; the ditzy photographers wondering how to fix the camera while an actor waits in his underwear; the egotistical playwright-director who makes up contradictory backstories while chanting "U-ta Hagennnnn" and "Stakes, you know what they are!" "Sides" hits close to home: One woman in the audience began hooting as soon as the play started.

The show moves briskly and includes snippets of screen tests (video design by Jamie McElhinney; a surprising quantity of comedy can be mined from variations on actors mistaking the word "slate" ). The scenic design by David Korins shifts quickly between audition rooms and backstage areas. Elizabeth Flauto' s costume design allows the ensemble of six to make fast and clear transitions as they change from part to part, hopeful to hopeful. Each ensemble member is funny, assured, and brave; Rodney To' s hip-hop choreographer is almost too wonderfully irritating to bear.

The happy, knowing comedy of "Sides" is a privilege for insiders and a delight for outsiders -- including teaching them what "sides" are.

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