August 8th, 2008

New Tilley Hat

2008 Minnesota Fringe Festival Day 8

A B+ Day. All four shows were around four stars, and I kept bumping into old friends. This was another semi-lucky day, as I'd tagged three of these based on their Showcase performance and/or meeting them, and one that was recommended by several people and was in the right place at the right time to make for three shows at the Rarig and a quick hop to the Southern.

Leaving Normal *** 1/2

"I'll do anything for a moment"

Melissa McNamara
Melissa McNamara
After 8/7/08 performance
Xperimental Theater, U of M

Melissa almost dances her way through the show, shifting gravity and closing herself into luggage. I've never seen a performer with their back to the audience as much, though she more than makes up for it by interacting with and crawling through the attendees. She changes personalities to tell an odd, interwoven set of stories that didn't really gel but were fun to watch. Three and a half stars rounded up for the cookie.

Melissa is terrific with the audience and has a pleasant innocence about her that masks the physicality of the show. I wish the story were more understandable, though it's possible I just missed something and that another performance will be clearer.

Sun Tzu's, The Art of War ****

Fun Concept, Terrific Playbill

Except for the beginning and ending bits, this is read directly from Sun Tzu, with ninja demonstrators and a mambo to break things up. Who knew that Stooge Fu was invented by the Chinese 2500 years ago? While episodic and slow moving at times, it's authentic and you might learn how to defeat your enemy. Almost a whole kitty goes to the playbill and Fringe website write-up.

This Play Is Trash ****

Street Vignettes

This Play Is Trash
The cast of This Play Is Trash
outside the Bedlam Theater after the Ootie Fest 7/30/08

Nicely done character studies of various people on the street or waiting for a bus, all dealing with some aspect of garbage though that was rarely the main focus. Funny and sometimes sad, inspired by a true garbage event in New York. The drummer and sax player were great street musicians.

Gone, Gone, Gone ****

Pas De Deux With Tape and Paper Towel

Gone, Gone, Gone
Monica Rodero & Daniel Schuchart
Ootie Fest, Bedlam Theater, 7/30/08

Two excellent dancers create a sensual flowing synergy. I don't know what the title means but the duets were funny, flirtatious, earthy and true.

If you're counting, that makes 30 Fringes. if you're not counting, it's even more, adding in the Showcases. Four in a row is sometimes hard on the viewing psyche, but the venues were all close. Beforehand, I had a nice dinner at K-Wok, one of my favorite restaurants. And I had a camera with me! Ah, but that's a story for another day...

Three more days left. I don't consider it a true Fringe Festival until I've seen something I don't like, and so far it's all been good. Too good. I've now seen most (but by no means all) of the shows I had flagged to see and may just randomly pick shows just to see what happens. Tomorrow is the Vikings game to avoid, so I'm trying to stick to venues far away from the Dome. And I have almost nothing down for Saturday. Ah well.
New Tilley Hat

2008 Minnesota Fringe Festival Day 9

Day 9

Fringe buttons
Long-time Fringer wearing all the buttons and showing her ticket
waiting for "This Play Is Trash"
Arena Theater, U of M 8/7/08

By one informal measure, I hit a Fringe wall: I managed to miscount the number of Fringes seen. Not a big deal, but when that happens, usually in the second week, it's time to slow down. I was scheduled to see five Fringes today, but between the Vikings game and the attempt to schedule shows in different venues to tidy up I pooped out after the third one. I'm sitting here watching Monk rather than a dance show, mellowing out and typing reviews.

I don't even have time to do another Fringe podcast...

On the other hand, all three shows I saw today were good, ranging to great.

Red Tide *** 1/2

"I wear second hand bras, you bitch!"

Red Tide
Red Tide
Ootie Fest, 7/30/08

Well acted story that slides up and around the timeline. Everyone demands the truth and no one gets it. The characters verge on likability but always skitter away just when you think there might be something salvageable. Three and a half kitties, rounded up for all the breast fondling.

Only half-kidding about the breast fondling. To be sure, there was some. The show is not for kids. It was sometimes hard to follow the interwoven stories, but that was secondary to watching everyone on stage self-destruct. This is the type of thing I usually don't like -- unpleasant people doing unpleasant things -- but there were enough odd twists and a bit of depth to the characters that kept me interested.

The Gypsy and the General ****

A Journey

Astonishingly staged production that changes the definition of "up". With just a few props, minimal lighting cues and a live singer, the show morphs not just the location but the locale. The plot is thin, though effectively presented, and the performance only lasts 45 minutes, so it almost loses a kitty but I had too much fun so it stays at four.

A lot of people liked this more than me. There is a lot to like. If you're into stagecraft this is a must see. If you follow the 3 Sticks company you won't be disappointed. I was expecting more.

The Mistress Cycle *****

The Female Equivalent of "Kept Man"

Of the shows I've seen, The Mistress Cycle is easily the most professional -- and least Fringy. Five women slip in and out of historical characters to chronicle their lives, loves and loves lost. The acting is superb, the singing operatic. The script manages to avoid preaching while telling stories from a uniquely female point of view. Kudos to the piano player as well, as the music is nearly continuous.

This is the kind of play that could never have been performed fifty years ago, been scandalous forty years ago, would have played to packed Gyno-American audiences thirty years ago, and could easily have descended to whiny pseudo-feminism in more recent stagings. The Mistress Cycle has just a minimal amount of male-bashing and makes the point many times over that these women (with a few exceptions) could just say "no" to the relationships. I was hearing The Roches "The Married Men" in my head...