Three and a half days of Fringe
The Minnesota Fringe Festival, www.fringefestival.com, is always fun. This year, there are 168 different shows, each presented five times in the 11 days. My previous record for a Fringe Festival is seven shows. As of the middle of Sunday afternoon, I've beaten my record and have seen eight! Here are my reviews, posted on the site, sort of in order of recommendation (though the more I think about it, the more I regret not giving Mr. Boban a higher rating). I'm a tough reviewer, and have yet to find that elusive five-star performance...
Also check out the Shockwave Radio Theater interviews on www.kfai.org (follow the links to the archives for Shockwave); the two most recent shows feature Fringe performers.
Kung Fu Hamlet, four and a half stars
"Dubbed Into English": Returning to the Fringe, Kung Fu Hamlet feels like professional martial artists getting revenge on 11trh Grade English class. The show is a combination of choreographed fight scenes, broad acting, offstage vocal work and Shakespeare... and a little of a lot of things. Allen Wong, in the title role, knows his moves and the cast uses a variety of fighting styles to great effect. Whether you know the original play is unimportant as they flit from scene to scene, fight to fight, visual joke to visual joke. The Illusion Theater is a good venue for this production.
Pentecostal Wisconsin, four and a half stars
"Growing Up Pentecostal": Ryan tells his life story growing up in a Scandinavian Pentecostal town with wit, humor, sharp observation and even respect for many of the church-centered town of his youth. His family and friends are not spared, but we know them more, and even understand them a little. We also understand Ryan and the choices he makes. The one-man show features guitar playing (and a sing-along) to illuminate his journey. The well-written and well-acted monologue gets laughs from (but rarely at the expense of) the people around him and the G_d who doesn't talk to him. A highly enjoyable hour.
The Princeton Seventh, four and a half stars
"A Play In Two Acts": The Princeton Seventh is very funny at times, but isn't really a comedy at heart. It's a cleverly constructed story of writers and poets, fame and lost opportunity; great writing, great acting. The hour-and-a-half play is in a restaurant, so you can order food and drinks!
The Scrimshaw Show, four and a half stars
"Wildly funny and ribald": The Scrimshaw Brothers get to display their individual talents in this cabaret-style show. The routines are hilarious, and the interstitial video bits are great. It's an hour-and-a-half of politics, news and blue humor. The improv/audience question segments are more hit-and-miss, as these things tend to be, but they keep the guffaws coming. The guests (which change every show) were good. Not for kids, but for most anyone who appreciates a ribald belly laugh.
Please Don't Blow Up Mr. Boban, four stars (but I should have given is another half star)
"Funky Tone Poem": There is no fourth wall in this funky tone poem. The actors scamper in and out of the theater-in-the-round, scattering potatoes and optimism in the face of death. The story is both tragic and funny, the acting is sharp and the music/special effects amplify the surrealism. The performance runs a bit more than an hour, but this is the kind of show that the Fringe does best: Experimental, participatory, gritty, emotional.
Boob Toob, three stars
"Beware Simulated Reality!": Boob Toob is an ambitious project that doesn't quite gel. Claire Simonson's one-woman, live-camera multi-media show tries very hard and sometimes succeeds. The show starts off with the Nazi plan to use television to spread their propaganda to the world, and then she really gets mad. TV broadcasts 'simulacra' and not reality, and her far-reaching history and personal anecdotes illustrate her point. But it's all been said before, and she offers no solution save smashing the set. The production I saw had numerous technical problems, which didn't help. Still, any production that tells the story of Philo T. Farnsworth can't be all bad and watching Claire change from one simulacra to another is fun.
L'an: Four Jewish Characters In Search of Israel's Future, two and a half stars
"Issues discussed but not argued": I didn't get mad, not once in the entire hour. That's unheard of in a discussion of Israel and the Palestinians. The issues are laid out very broadly, and serve as a good introduction if don't know much about any of the Jewish sides (and you probably don't unless you're Jewish). But despite the contentiousness of the characters in the play, I never felt like there was a real knock-down Talmudic argument. Okay as part of The Spiritual Fringe, but the lines could be drawn a great deal sharper.
Chicks In Space, two stars
"A Utopian Ideal That Misses": I wanted to like this show, I really did. It's a spoof of many science fiction themes and I usually like that sort of thing. But this show misses the mark. It's not very funny (though there are a few laughs scattered along the way) and the allegory is heavy handed (except when it doesn't work). To be fair, the production I saw was beset by technical problems and the feminist I was with liked it considerably more. The costumes and sets are good and the acting is fine. On The Muppet Show, the Pigs In Space segment is around three minutes and then ends before the laughs go dry. Chicks In Space had about three minutes of great material stretched into an hour.