Fringing Reflections

Wednesday, I made it to Criteria at the Intermedia Arts building for the 7:00 showing. I met up with barondave, davidwilford, and Erin. Good show.

Then I got to believe 6 impossible things, although not before breakfast, at the 8:30 show of Wonderland, at the Rarig. The next show was also at the Rarig. Yay for staying in the same place! So I saw The Children of Lir, at 10:00.

I then decided that I had enough energy left to see another show, so I went to Cannibal, the Musical at the Mixed Blood. I found good parking, and pre-show “entertainment,” in the form of a car blocking part of the road in front of the theatre, surrounded by several cops. I never did find out the Real Story, but when I exited the theatre 110 mins later, the car was still there.

So barondave mentioned in his review of Cannibal that it was “sick, disgusting, violent, profane ” (but he loved it). Perhaps this is just a reflection of my jaded generation inundated with violent video games -- and regular viewers of South Park --, but I didn’t find it all that sick, disgusting, violent, or profane. Just a bit macabre, a bit absurb, a touch gross – it is about cannibalism, after all -- and very funny.

Fringe Reviews Part 6

Star Guidelines reiterated: I'm not likely to give many 5 stars; a show has to totally blow me away for that. Four stars is definitely a good show, and worth seeing. Three may or may not, depending on your own interests and biases (and whether or not you have an empty slot to fit in at your venue). Two is not really recommended, and one is avoid unless a friend or relative is in it and you have to go.

Mittens For Fat Kids

Stand-up comedy. This show, by Ben Sandell, has gotten good reviews, and a number of the jokes were quite funny. Unfortunately, the comedian never really jelled with the audience, which was smallish. I know other reviewers praised him for his ability to work the audience, so I can only conclude that this was an off night (Tues 5:30).
3 ½ stars.

Depth of the Ocean

Great show at the YWCA, in the pool. I especially liked the movement in the water incorporated in the piece. A story of five survivors on a raft in the middle of the ocean, and how they relate to each other. Anna, played by Alia Mortensen, was my favorite, but all the actors were good. Presented by the Perpetual Motion Theatre Company.
4 stars.


One of the comments about a lot of fringe shows is that it seems to take awhile, like 15-20 mins, to really get the audience involved in the piece. Not so this show. Upon entering the theatre, you are immediately confronted with the actors posing as security personnel. Wearing costumes that make them look like frumpy middle age airline ticket agents, and funny accents, plus bright yellow kitchen gloves, they wand you with kitchen brushes. All quite absurd. They direct you where to sit, and arbitrarily move people around. A number of absurd interactive skits (plus dance and song numbers)follow, but all part of a larger plot/ theme. Bureaucracy, paperwork, security and ultimately -- love -- are all targets.

One song in particular is stuck in my head, so now whenever I think about airport screenings, “Security; you can never be too safe. Security, watching you while you wait. Security, you can never be too safe. Security, touching you while you wait. Security you can never be too safe. Security, playing with you while you wait.” Also of note, is when they play telephone operator across the TransAtlantic – where what gets said at one end comes out completely different on the other. Katie Melby was great as the ditzy blond secretary Betty, even if she squeals. Overall: bizarre, absurd, over-the –top, and very funny. 4 ½ stars.

Fringing Along Swimmingly

Tuesday I went off to see Mittens for Fat Kids at the Acadia at the 5:30 showing. Rush hour traffic was better than expected, and parking was plentiful. And the Acadia has Belgian beer on tap!

The plan was to meet up with Lee at the YWCA for the 7:30 showing of The Depth of the Ocean. That was not meant to be. (Un)Fortunately he had an interview that went long; past the show start time. Parking wasn’t too bad, and since the show time was off schedule, I had about 15 mins to sit in the park with the fountains next to Orchestra Hall.

I love the sound of the flowing water. It makes me miss the ocean, tho; in a way that the pool doesn’t – the pool stinks of chlorine instead of brine and seaweed. There are no seagulls, no sand, no tide pools, and the water is too warm. But mostly, the pool is always too quiet. My favorite part of the ocean has always been the sound of the water; crashing on the rocks, slapping the sides of the boat, shushing across the sand.

So I walked into the show, with the sound of flowing water in my ears, dreaming of the ocean. The show was quite good, and with a little suspension of disbelief , it became – visually -- the ocean. I loved what the actors could do in the pool, the way they could move, and swim, and just float. It was a cool venue. At the same time, tho, it was actually harder for me personally, to imagine/believe they were in the ocean, despite the optical input, because it smelled wrong. That whole primal wiring of the senses, where smell goes straight to the brain, do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

The final show of the evening, the 10:00 showing of Borderlines, was at the Mpls Garage Theatre. Again. I swear I will end up seeing every show that locale has to offer, with only two in a row. I’m clearly doing something wrong.

Fringe Reviews Part 5

Star Guidelines reiterated: I'm not likely to give many 5 stars; a show has to totally blow me away for that. Four stars is definitely a good show, and worth seeing. Three may or may not, depending on your own interests and biases (and whether or not you have an empty slot to fit in at your venue). Two is not really recommended, and one is avoid unless a friend or relative is in it and you have to go.

Wonders of the World: Recite

This may be my favorite show so far. It's a bit vaudevillian. I like the script and the acting is pretty good, and they make wonderful use of props. Sit in the front to get cake, unless you're allergic to baby powder, which gets liberally thrown around on stage, and then swept up, but the dust particles float around a bit for several mins. Ten year old Eugene has been raised by his eccentric grandmother, who has once danced with Ulysses S. Grant and flirted with Napoleon, as well as being married to a bank robber ;) Otherwise, her outlook is a bit nihilistic. She has her list of the wonders of the world, which include a number of diseases, bacteria, and the possibility of meteors hitting the Earth. Playful, a bit absurd, and a bittersweet ending. Everything I like in a play. Madeline ffitch and Donna Sellinger as Eugene and Grandma were great. It's not as good as Please Don't Blow Up Mr. Boban, but it's probably still worth 5 stars.

A Brewed Awakening

Great show. The venue is, appropriately, in a coffee shop. The show revolves around two barristas working in the coffee shop, and the regulars that come into the shop; their lives, their loves. Good acting; I especially liked Tedra Bonner as Sam, the cute, butchy Lesbian barrista; and also the actor portraying Poetry guy (Khary Jackson?). The actors bring a lot of energy to this show. The seating, however, is a bit problematic. The action takes place around the counter up front and at a couple of tables near the front. No matter where you sit, I think it's going to be hard to see one of these. Up front and to the left is probably best. Also, a word of warning: the show is 75 mins long. It does say that on the website, but I failed to note it. 4 stars.


From Masa at the Heart of the Beast, and Kats D Fukasawa, who is a fabulous dancer. The show is totally in Japanese, with a few visual aids and words taught. They have several shows, and they roll the dice at the beginning to determine which one to perform. I love the idea in abstract -- quirky and weird; but in reality, I hate it because 1) I want to see a lot of shows, and given limited time, I can only slot this show once -- thus missing out on their other performances. And 2) that makes it really hard to review and recommend, because each show will be different. The show we saw was quite fun, with godzilla and hydra facing off to battle -- via taiko drumming! Also a bit of Kabuki meets monster movies. Another sketch involved a traditional Japanese dance piece, which was totally gorgeous and also too long. Finally, the wait in between sketches while they change costumes and set pieces is a bit too long, and there wasn't a clear finale for the audience to know when the performance was done. Overall, there were lots of really cool things about this show, and the performers were fabulous, but patience is required to deal with the logistics. 3 1/2 stars.

Fringe Reviews Addendum

As requested by Karen, additional commentaries on specific performers:

Love in the Time of Rinderpest

I particularly liked Maren Ward (as Rick “Dick” Thunderhat) and Sarah Paley Garner (The Oracle of Chaska), both of the Bedlam Theatre Co., as well as Kimberly Richardson, (Bimby Gundersquat) who also played Beatrix (the girlfriend) in last year’s Boban.

Kill the Robot

Improv piece directed by Jon Ferguson of Boban fame. The actors are all high school students, and overall did a great job. If I had to pick someone notable from that show, it would probably be Julie Harrison, who played Digit, the cute girl robot.

Deviled Eggs

Lee Richards did a great job as Jesus, looking like a babyfaced Mid- western preacher rather than the traditional depiction.

The Star Chamber

I liked them all. Andrew B. Dahl as Fred Hoyle, Latif Nasser as Thomas Gold, and Neelesh Tiruviluamala as Hermann Bondi.

I think for the rest of the shows I’ve reviewed, I’ve either mentioned the artists I liked, or there was nothing notable to mention.

Fringing a Gogo

So on Monday, I continued my endeavors to see as many shows as possible. Not wanting to drive in rush hour traffic, I went shopping at Bill’s in uptown in the afternoon, then headed over to La Societe du The for some tea and relaxation, and awaited the arrival of my friend J. She was later than predicted due to job demands, but she arrived in time for one cup of tea before we headed to the Mixed Blood Theatre for Wonders of the World: Recite. We met up with saracura and pied_piper70, who, I was glad to see, had alisgray in tow.

Next, J and I headed on down to the May Day Café, a Fringe BYOV, for Brewed Awakening. It’s a bit off the path, down at 34th & Bloomington, but not too bad a drive from the Mixed Blood Theatre – just straight down Cedar, then over a few blocks. Parking on the street was pretty easy.

It was almost 7, and we had both planned on getting a sandwich at the café as dinner, and J wanted coffee desperately. DENIED. Apparently the café closes at six, and while the space was available, the services were not. We did manage to purchase a couple of muffins to tide us over, but J was still coffee deprived.

The show was good, but long. It was 8:16 as the curtains closed (metaphorically) with the next show starting at 8:30. That we have to drive to, park, get tickets, etc. So I drove like a bat outta hell to the Southern Theatre, dropped J off at the curb, and looked for parking while she tried to get tickets. This was at 8:29. Luckily, I got a spot about a block and a half away, behind the theatre and on the side of the freeway wall. That’s actually probably the best place to park for the Southern, and it’s free. Luckily, they let us in, and we walked into Japonesque just as it was starting.

We saw saracura , pied_piper70, and alisgray again, as well as lsanderson. After some debate, (show, bar, home) J and I returned to our respective cars, and J went home. I had been hoping to pick up either Body Bazaar or Great Hymn of Thanksgiving as this was the last night for both of them. However, fringe fatigue caught up with me, spurred, no doubt by the lack of dinner, and subsisting on only a muffin and tea since 11 in the morning. I was also down in Uptown, near La Societe du The, with less than 7 mins to get anywhere, and get tickets, etc – and I just didn’t have the energy. If I’da had time to grab a sandwich somewhere, and a bit of a breather, I probably could’ve refreshed enough to see one more show. But it was not meant to be.

Fringe Reviews Part 4

Star Guidelines reiterated: I'm not likely to give many 5 stars; a show has to totally blow me away for that. Four stars is definitely a good show, and worth seeing. Three may or may not, depending on your own interests and biases (and whether or not you have an empty slot to fit in at your venue). Two is not really recommended, and one is avoid unless a friend or relative is in it and you have to go.

Jungle Mary Bang Bang

Sherman Bros Showtunes. The music was fun, the singers were really great. I especially liked Windy Blowsby, but the entire cast was good. The music and staging arrangements were well done. This production is all music, no dramatic plot or "musical", which I think was a good choice for an hour long show. If you like Disney music, it's a definite go see for the nostalgia alone. For my personal tastes, about half the songs were fun, and half were "No -- it's evil Disney!!" And there were no exploding birds. On the plus side, Scott Keever's jazzy arrangement of the truly horrific song (It's a Small World) made that palatable, so we did not leave the show with that stuck in our heads.

I have hated that song since I was a kid and we went to Disneyland. We waited in a line outside for THAT ride for 40 some mins. And the ride itself was kinda cool, with all the costumes on the dolls, and all the different languages. BUT. While waiting in line, the entire time, THAT song is playing continuously, over, and over, and over, and over. And you can hear it at all the neighboring rides. Suffice it to say that not only is that song invasive and sticky, but it makes me want to smash things. But now, I can just superimpose Scott's version whenever I hear it, and while that may stick in my head, I will no longer want to smash things. Which I think is a win. Thanks, Scott. 4 stars for Disney fans, because its a good show. (3 stars for everybody who hates Disney)

Corncobs, Hot Dogs, and Other Dirty Secrets

Red neck humor plus hitchhikers. This was a funny show, and entertaining. The humor is mostly low-brow, altho there's some witty commentary by the hitchhiker in the second section. It didn't change my world, or give me a take home message, or something to chew on, or haunt me like Emily's She, So Beloved. It wasn't edgy, or experimental. The actors were good, but not exceptional. But it was funny and entertaining. 3 Stars.

Fringe Reviews Part 3

Star Guidelines reiterated: I'm not likely to give many 5 stars; a show has to totally blow me away for that. Four stars is definitely a good show, and worth seeing. Three may or may not, depending on your own interests and biases (and whether or not you have an empty slot to fit in at your venue). Two is not really recommended, and one is avoid unless a friend or relative is in it and you have to go.

Fresh Meat

Very funny SNL style skits. As per usual, some were funnier than others, but overall they were quite good. I especially liked a version of The Odd Couple sitcom, staged as The Arab and The Jew; as well as the skit with the traveling American couple, not a new idea by any means, but funny none the less. The best skit, tho, was all about getting into an exclusive club ... Sam's club. And the need to buy 5 pounds of fennel. (Altho the irony is that, in some ways, the actress resembled buttonlass, and I can so see her saying that she needs 5 lbs of fennel. And it would be true!) Between set and costume changes, they showed pre-done film skits/ or radio bits, which was a great technique, especially since there were only three of them and they were usually all in the live skits. The artists are Fresh Meat NYC, from New York City, of course. They can be found at 4 1/2 stars.

Sock Puppet Serenade

This wasn't so much a puppet show per se as an exhibit of what puppets, actually marionettes, can do. Even the "sock puppet" is a marionette made from socks. I thought it was fascinating, and quite amazing what the artist, Kurt Hunter, can do by attaching a few strings to miscellaneous items. Add a pinch of suspension of disbelief, and even a cardboard box can come alive before your eyes. 4 stars because I'm a geek.

Carpe DM

Two words: Afterschool Special. There were some gaming references, but mostly it's teenagers facing graduation and the dissolution of their social group. The skit was short -- blessedly so -- about 1/2 hr. The plot climax and resolution was alot like mediocre sitcoms, and the so-called "educational" programs featured after school when I was a kid. In other words, shallow, trite, and god awful. Some of the actors were ok, but nothing great. 1 1/2 stars.

H.P. Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Walls"

Tim Uren is absolutely fabulous. ( I know mizzlaurajean wasn't impressed, but I think that's Lovecraft, not Tim. What Tim does is tell Lovecraft's stories -- essentially verbatim. He doesn't display much emotion until the angsty horror parts. That's the Lovecraftian style: establish no-nonsense, staid, rational, sensible, and above all "civilized" characters (usually British), then contrast that with unspeakable horrors, unmentionable acts, blasphemy, and unimaginable evil (usually associated with foreign savages). Often the contrast is "evil outsiders", but the stories I like best are when the "civilized" characters find the "savage" in their own psyches. The Rats in the Walls is such a story. Tim does a fabulous job with the Lovecraftian material. But that means that the first chunk can be a bit monotonous, as the point is to establish the normal, almost boring character to contrast the nightmare that overcomes him later. Lovecraft's prosaic verbosity can also be a bit trying sometimes.

I loved the conceptual venue of the Mill City Museum, as the setting for Rats is a reconstructed country manor (British, of course) with only the original stone walls standing, much like the museum. I'd be even better if, when the story takes you down to the crypts, we could've gone out to the preserved ruin bits ... at night, with only flashlights. I wish the projection screen was less dominating in the theatre room, but I realize that this is its prime purpose in the normal operating of the museum. The other problem was that the room was a bit warm and stuffy. Just enough so that with the sensible monotony of the first bit, I became drowsy. I know I wasn't the only one. A cold room would've established a better spooky environment, but I know that Tim had no control over that. I'm giving it 4 1/2 stars, with the caveat that if you don't like Lovecraft, or really aren't up for the slow, long-winded first part, you probably won't like it.

Fringing: The Madness continues

On Sunday I saw 6 out of 7 possible shows. I'm definitely channeling Karen, altho she at least has the sense to camp at one venue, instead of running all over town like a crazed harridan.

My plan was to meet up with dreamshark early, like 45+ mins before showtime to see 1926 Pleasant, which has very limited seats. It's in a condo at ... 1926 Pleasant. But alas, the best laid plans of mice and men ... (Indeed, rodents would come to haunt me later in the day at the Lovecraft show...) I was later than hoped, arriving merely 30 mins before showtime. By then, the tickets were long gone. In fact, the show was sold out long before the ticket sellers arrived, causing much consternation and dissension among fringe goers. Fortunately, I had a back-up plan, and wandered over to the Red Eye Theatre to see Fresh Meat.

At 4:00, I met up with friends "J & I" again, for Sock Puppet Serenade at the Mpls Garage Theatre. "J" had packed me a lovely basket of cheese and goodies, as well as refreshing my water supply; much appreciated during the hot day. After some deliberation, "J & I" headed home as the last notes faded from the sock puppet's swan song, with plans to meet up later in the evening.

I met Lee for Carpe DM at the Acadia Cafe for the 5:30 showing. I actually got there first, but it's just down the street from Mpls Garage, and parking's usually easy. I love seeing shows at the Acadia around dinner time, because they have food!! And it's good food. Not to mention, excellent beer on tap, including a few Belgians. You can even take your beer into the show space, and have a place to set it. (Bryant Lake Bowl also has the food advantage, but I've yet to see a fringe show there this year.) Food at the venue is especially important when you're insanely trying to see shows every slot, and have to drive between the venues, so you have like 5 mins downtime to catch your breath.

After a relatively short show, blessedly, in this case -- we drove down to the River for H. P. Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Walls" at 7:00. This was at the Mill City Museum, which is like, the perfect venue, at least in the Twin Cities. Or rather the perfect "conceptual" venue. Actual space was a bit stuffy and dominated by a large projection screen, but a fair bit of the original stone walls were still present, and that was good. I had remembered that there was plentiful, cheap parking in the area. But that was before the Guthrie moved in. So now it's scarce and expensive. I did park in the Lock and Dam parking, and paid the meter, which isn't really all that bad. Lee, after plunking in several quarters for parking, discovered he was short by one for the time needed. After observing the diligent meter maids patrolling the area, he decided to move. Clever man, he discovered that the parking under the bridge was not only plentiful, but free. Silly me had assumed that all had been annexed to meters in order to fund the upscale renovation craze, and I didn't even look.

Next, I made my way back to the Mpls Garage Theatre, like a yo-yo, and Lee went home. Somehow, I've seen a lot of shows at the Mpls Garage, but none in a row. I'm beginning to reconsider my tactics here. "J & I" arrived, and we had the pleasure of seeing Jungle Mary Bang Bang. But no penguins, or even pigeons. Let alone other exploding birds.

Upon dreamshark 's recommendation and a desire to remain stationary ( NOT move forward), "J" and me (not to be confused with her husband "I") saw the next show (10:00 pm) at our current venue (Mpls Garage Theatre), while "I" (the husband) went home. Corncobs, Hotdogs, and Other Dirty Secrets, presented by Dennis Monn, up from New Orleans. Now that sandwich at the Acadia was a looong time ago... and I desperately want cornbread and Southern Fried Chicken, just like grandma used to the actors are presently eating on stage... Luckily the audience is laughing hard enough that no one can hear my stomach grumble.

So, after the show's over, I run "J" home, and do NOT stop at KFC. I'm not that desperate yet. I have quesadillas when I get home and vow to make Buttermilk Fried Chicken when the Fringe is over. Anyone up for a themed Southern meal, perhaps even New Orleans style? Served with Mint Juleps, Jack Daniels (the good kind) and hurricanes? On second thought, hold the hurricanes.

Fringe Reviews Part 2

Star Guidelines reiterated: I'm not likely to give many 5 stars; a show has to totally blow me away for that. Four stars is definitely a good show, and worth seeing. Three may or may not, depending on your own interests and biases (and whether or not you have an empty slot to fit in at your venue). Two is not really recommended, and one is avoid unless a friend or relative is in it and you have to go.

She, So Beloved

Dramatic solo show by Emily Gunyou. Emily explores the feelings of Eurydice, beloved of Orpheus, when he's almost delivered her from Hades, but then he does the forbidden and turns around; thus dooming her forever. In classic mythology, it's all about Orpheus. Emily's show is all about Eurydice. Angst- ridden, anguished. She's a fabulous actor; very expressive with body and voice. Beautifully done. Also a nice counterpoint to the more comedy driven pieces I saw the rest of the day. BUT. It's too long. My friend "J" liked the show, but her husband's eyes started to glaze over about halfway thru. I liked the show as well, but I can appreciate that it won't be to everyone's taste, and would be better if it was 15 mins shorter. Altho the tag line keeps haunting me, " move forward." 3 1/2 Stars.

Deviled Eggs

Another comedy piece by some talented actors. Lucifer is bedeviled by impotence, and cannot conceive the Anti-Christ, thus failing to bring about the Apocalypse. Persephone, Charon, Jesus, and Mother Mary, as well as God themselves, also make appearances. As one reviewer stated, "a nice mix of low brow and high brow humor". Good acting, funny dialog, nice plot with a Deus ex machina ending , only without the machine. 4 stars.

The Star Chamber

Totally geek humor, and puntastic. “The proof is in the pudding” A couple of astrophysicists and a mathematician gather around a pudding (English cake) sent by Mummy. The nature and origin of the Universe are discussed, with the pudding serving as Exhibit Alpha. Very funny. Lee would’ve loved it. 4 1/2 stars for geek humor; only 3 for non-geeks.

Sin City 7

This show runs several nights, with a different theme and varying contributors each night. The first night, Lust, got rave revues, but we all know that sex sells. We saw the Greed show. It didn’t live up to the press. I really liked the featured musicians Dameun Strange & Omaur Bliss and some of the comedy readings, but the whole just wasn’t better than the sum of the parts. To be fair, one of the contributors didn’t make it, and the rest of the group filled in with some nice improve. We also found the hostess (Bobbi Miller) to be a bit annoying, Mizz Laura more so than I. She’s got a nice voice, but I wish that the other host, Dave Mondy, would’ve done more of the talking, and that she would’ve limited herself to only two songs. 3 ½ Stars.