At the Fringes

THE DEVIL AND BILLY MARKHAM Shel Silverstein's clever children's writing is beloved by many, but it's the author's work as a jazz poet and playwright that's on display here to dramatically different ends. The first production from a new local company, Valhalla, The Devil and Billy Markham puts a fresh spin on the familiar premise of dealing in souls with the prince of darkness. The hero here is a gambling man whose luck runs out in dice and pool, forcing him to use devious methods to regain what he's lost. It's a bit disconcerting at first to hear Silverstein's upbeat rhymes employed to describe a sleazy gambling joint and a whorehouse--not to mention the use of the word fuck--but soon the seeming incongruity fades and the production becomes downright amusing. Sa 5:30 p.m., Su 7 p.m. Whitney Main Stage, Minneapolis Community College. (Bridgette Reinsmoen)

STOLEN CIRCUITRY  with Matt Jenson and Heidi Geier
STOLEN CIRCUITRY with Matt Jenson and Heidi Geier

NO REDEEMING SOCIAL VALUE "Hi! I'm a blatant dramatic device!" So says Tao Jones (Joey Metzger) to us, the audience, as the impresario of Matt Sciple and Bald Alice Theatre's farce. Tao instructs us to find our inner sluggards and retire at home on the soft spot in our couch, rather than venturing out to live entertainment. We don't know it, but Tao is preparing us for his theatrical modest proposal, an ingenious grant-getting device (supported by the NRA). While Tao is talking, museum guide Agatha falls in love with a painting; the painting (Ellen Apel) invites her in and lets Agatha lick her banana. The play dabbles with questions about how spectatorship defines art, funding prescribes theater, and artists devalue reality. Mostly, though, it's funny. F 10 p.m., Sa 8:30 p.m., Su 2:30 p.m. Whitney Main Stage. (Ursu)

SEX, DRUGS & WACKA WACKA The words "Wacka Wacka" need to be used with extreme caution. Witness the sketch comedy of the Scrimshaw Brothers (Joshua and Joseph Scrimshaw and brother-in-spirit Tim Uren), who focus too much on the wacka wacka to the detriment of the subtler rhythms of comedy. No matter how wacky your Chris Farley impersonation is, how funny is it really at this particular cultural moment to do a sketch centering on his widely reported insecurities? The sketches occasionally reveal promise in the young group, as in the one that depicts a director of mime pornos who aims to "put the pant back in pantomime." But the all-important Hee-Hee to Ho-Hum ratio is far too low to make this performance anything more than Wacka Wacka. Sa 10 p.m., Su 5:30 p.m. Whitney Main Stage. (Ursu)

V.I.P. CIRCUS Carla Stangenberg's one-woman show purports to tell what reality lies behind the many facades in a New York City topless club, with Stangenberg depicting sundry dancers, employees, and customers. The transitions from character to character are smoothed by the music and introduction provided by Divaship, her onstage DJ. Divaship's music not only creates the scene but nearly steals the show. In one scene, Matt the doorman lures a customer into the club with a snippet of the bass-heavy beats that emanate from inside. As the door swings shut, we return to "Staying Alive" and Matt's Travolta-style posturing. W 7 p.m., Th 7 p.m. Red Eye. (Reinsmoen)

5 CLOWNS AND A CIRCUS This little circus won't pose a threat to Ringling Brothers, but for pure absurdity and big-top bravado I'll take the endearingly loopy world of locals Laurie Van Wieren and the B-Specifics. These would-be clowns adopt ordinary feats and turn them into daring maneuvers. See Judith Howard walk the tightrope that lies on the floor! Be amazed as Van Wieren balances a goldfish bowl on her head! Watch Tom Carlson guide Rosillini the cat through feline contortions! Thrill to Fawn Bernhardt's command of a rubber ball! And behold Pablo, the very sad clown, who whimpers his way throughout, injecting a doe-eyed sense of pathos into the hyper-hilarity. A gem of a piece. Th 8:30 p.m., Sa 8:30 p.m., Su 5:30 p.m. Ballet of the Dolls studio. (Palmer)

...AND THE FEAR CRACKED OPEN Call it Scenes from a Marriage, Minnesota-style. Local performers Audrey Crabtree and Lynn Berg have crafted a fresh and witty telling of the making and unmaking of a love affair. It's an old story, but this production delights in exploiting the clichés. A chance encounter leads to inane flirting, which leads to a crackling-voiced phone call, which leads to the first date, which progresses as first dates will: Here's my life story, now let's have sex. We then see a film of the relationship's salad days (a black-and-white beauty that looks like one of Buñuel's home movies), meet the mother (a very opinionated body puppet), and feel some pain through a '50s-style musical break. The meta-theatrics slyly inform a production that explores just how surreal love can be. Th 8:30 p.m. Red Eye. (Ursu)

PSYCHE! OR HOW I BECAME A LOVE GODDESS Psyche! casts Greek love goddesses as S&M fembots hanging out in a seedy leather club. They go about their business there in the company of ugly mortals who primp in the bathroom in a ritualized dance. Tease hair, check teeth, fluff breasts, smell armpits. Tease hair, check teeth... Aphrodite (Lisa Cesnik), a dominatrix/icicle in spandex and Frank-N-Furter makeup, fixes her hatred on the stunning Psyche (Kelly Hilliard), who wears a white tube dress and mary janes. The story is told mostly through wordless movement, including a gorgeous seduction scene between Psyche and Eros (Leif Jurgensen in leopard-print getup). It could be a bit more user-friendly (character names in the program, say), but this combination of skill and originality is the Fringe at its best. F 8 p.m., Sa 10 p.m., Su 7 p.m. Ballet of the Dolls studio. (Ursu)

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