Fringe is the best time of the year, isn't it! Here are my thoughts on the shows that I have seen.
Spy in the House of Men: A One Woman Show With Balls
Penny Sterling's solo show, A Spy in the House of Men, "maps her journey through a life-long coming-out process". The one woman show is wonderfully told, split up into chapters that help to move the narrative forward. Like life it is heart breaking while also being uplifting. It is a show that is told with both a great amount of humor and also a great amount of honesty.
The Three Crazy Sons brings us Macduo, created Hubbard husband and wife team, the show brings Shakespeare's well known Scottish play to the Minnesota Fringe festival in under 60 minutes with only two performers. This "cliff-notes" Macbeth was a good refresher to the show, I hadn't read the play since High School and I have never seen it. It reminded me of how much Macbeth is ingrained in our popular culture from common phrases to stanzas from Hamilton. The two performers still seem to be working through the rhythm of the show but they are both obviously very talented.
Moving along to Jungle Theater, Little Oblivion Theater are putting on a powerful show with a title that is hard to pronounce. But don't let the vague title, or description of an interactive show scare you away. This is an extremely powerful exploration of abuse in its many forms juxtaposed with the theme of ghosts and hauntings. Successful theater is able to transport us, often to a time or place, but it is even more difficult to transport the audience into a state of mind and true understand but I think that is just what "_______" did. It is hard to pick a favorite of the shows I saw tonight but this is up towards the top.
Crash and Burn: An American Success Story
Middle Names Productions is at the Jungle Theater. It explores "A teenage girl with big dreams, a single mom trying to hold it all together, and a folk hero who may or may not be all he's cracked up to be. Inspired by Greek myth and stories about Evel Knievel." I really enjoyed the show, it was extremely touching and gripping story with very empathetic characters. At the end of the shows during the bows I was surprised to see only three actors, the world that they created, although intimate felt so much larger. A live musician also helped to add to the mood of the show. I hope that this show can have a life outside of the Fringe festival.
Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant: A New Musical
This show is a hilariously dark look at small town America, beauty pageants, and the challenges of becoming an adult. It made me laugh more than almost any other show at Fringe has so far and I've had the songs stuck in the head ever since. The show written by Keith Hovis follows four older twenty somethings as they reminisce on the good old days of the Junior Talent Pageant, and decide to bring the good times back. The show fits a lot into it's hour time span, each character gets multiple moments to shine and they all have great chemistry with each other. If you are looking for a musical comedy this just might be your fringe show.
Couple Fight 3: Weddings
The Couple Fight shows have been some of my favorite of past Fringe Festivals. This year they took on weddings, planning of weddings, the ceremony itself and the aftermath. I got engaged less than 48 hours before seeing this show, and although it is very hilarious I also took it as a warning list on what to avoid. Just like our own disasters can seem so much more funny after the fact, when funny people reenact fights that they have had in the past you are sure to have comic gold. If I haven't sold you on the show yet perhaps the amazing cast will - featuring Andy Kraft, Rachael Davies, Laura Zabel, Levi Weinhagen, Nicholas Leeman, Colleen Somerville Leeman, Shanan Custer, Eric Webster, Jim Robinson, Heather Meyer, Rita Boersma, Lacey Zeiler, John Zeiler, Anna Weggel-Reed, and Tom Reed. It you are looking to laugh this Fringe festival, Couple Fight is a must.
The Memory Box of the Sisters Fox
The Memory Box of the Sisters Fox is a fascinating show about, unsurprisingly, the Fox sisters, who I was unaware were the founders of the spiritualism movement. The show contained all the ghostly eeriness and other-worldness that the show's subject demanded. Although the show seemed to exist on another plane, it was also heartbreakingly human in telling of the lives of the Fox sisters, and how they lived within and shaped the culture and history of the mid 1800s. The show by Winding Sheet Outfit was directed by Amber Bjork and the sisters were brought to life by Megan Campbell Lagas, Kayla Dvorak Feld, Kristina Fjellman, and Boo Segersin. This show was on many people's must see lists for a reason, the writing, acting and design all worked together beautifully. I recommend seeing it before Fringe ends.
The show description for On the Exhale on Minnesota Fringe Festival's website reads, "When an act of violence changes her life forever, a liberal college professor finds herself drawn to the very weapon used to perpetrate the crime, and to the irresistible feeling of power that it brings." It is a one woman show, performed by the very talented Jane Froiland, the story of the crime and the layers of the woman's life who Froiland portrays are skillfully unraveled as the minutes of the show tick on almost unnoticed. The show is funny while being honest about human fear and grief and giving a personal exploration of the gun debate in America. The show's hour flew by as I was completely engulfed by the story being told.
Ghoulish Delights is reenacting haunting, strange and "shadow" themed radio stories of the 1940s, commercials and all. The overall effect is transporting. The only connection I have to radio drama is in podcast form (like The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society podcast). But going back to the 30s and 40s the art form has always been very theatrical, so it is thrilling to see it on a stage. The glow of the old radio sets the stage and seeing how the sound effects are created adds so much more than just hearing them. The cast of Joshua English Scrimshaw, Tim Uren, Eric Webster, Shanan Custer and Joe Weismann are all extremely talented and hilarious, taking on multiple voices and characters. If you have recently become interested in radio or audio drama through podcasts, why not see a recreation of how radio drama was at the beginning with The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society.
I had no idea what to expect before walking into Intermediate Physical Comedy for Advanced Beginners. All I knew is that I had heard great things about the comedic talent of both Levi Weinhagen and Joshua English Scrimshaw so I was looking forward to seeing them. I was not disappointed. This completely silent show, with the exception of music by Marc Doty, has easily made me laugh more than any show at Fringe so far (and Fringe is filled with many funny shows). It took place with a series of lessons that explore many facets of physical comedy. Some could be expected such as the banana peel trick but so many more were entirely creative, unlike anything I had ever heard of or seen before. The audience was filled with fans of all ages, and this show really is great for the whole family. This show has to be one of my top recommendations for the Minnesota Fringe Festival, go see Intermediate Physical Comedy for Advanced Beginners!
Odd Man Out, a new, powerful play by Twin Cities Theater Bloggers favorite Kory LaQuess Pullam, explores a family throughout time. It is hard to explain what it is about. But at it's core it is a play about a family dealing with grief and coming to terms with years of repressed feelings. My main complaint about the show is that it wasn't longer. The Minnesota Fringe Festival is a great place for shows to experiment, and later grow into longer productions, hopefully that is the case here. Odd Man Out is also a vehicle for some very powerful performances as well. I was particularly moved by Malick Ceesay as James, an actor that I have never seen before. Kory LaQuess Pullam and Underdog Theater have been doing very impressive things in the Twin Cities and Odd Man Out is no exception. If you haven't seen it yet, add it to your list.
Bollywood Twistery, playing at the Ritz Theater is a fun show, it is a murder mystery, a comedy and it filled with high energy Bollywood dancing. The scenes and the dancing switched back and forth so you are never bored of one of the other. I did particularly like the dancing. The songs taken from Bollywood movies were well choreographed and also well danced. Many of the scenes also had be laughing. It was particularly nice to see all of the crew backstage come out during the bows and receive the credit that they were due. All of those involved in this show obviously worked hard, the scenes were funny, the dancing impressive and the costumes were very fun to look at. It has one show left on Sunday at 7pm.
At the Ritz Theater Mainstage a trip to the boundary waters turns into an intense political debate about knowledge and leaks, the ability/right of the government to keep things confidential to protect their citizens up against citizens rights to know what their government is doing. I have never seen a show that integrated Minnesota and camping jokes with intense political rhetoric in such a way before, plus Walking Dead references. The show mixed all these things seamlessly and did a great job of presenting both sides of the debate, making the stakes feel very personal and present. It was both intellectually stimulating and refreshing to be thinking about politics without having to think about Trump. You have one last chance to see it on Sunday at 1 pm.