Safety in Numbers

Nymphomaniacal roommates! Meta-Willy Lomans! Dancing Canadians! City Pages reports from the biggest, baddest Minnesota Fringe Festival to date

 

House

Fully Reciprocal Theatre Co.

Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor's study of middle-class Weltschmerz got off to an inauspicious start when Victor (John Schaidler) threw a chair at me (note: if a script necessitates the tossing of furniture, try not to hit the only critic in the audience). Luckily, things got better as they got worse. Victor, it seems, has some unresolved issues with his father ("the saddest man in the world"), his wife (who is also his cousin), his job (septic tank maintenance), and the world at large (a surreal and capricious construct designed to humiliate him). MacIvor's funny and demented script and Schaidler's manic performance as an alienated schmuck make a few flying chairs seem a nominal price of admission to this house of lumpen pain. Wed 10:00 p.m., Sat 2:30 p.m., Sun 7:00 p.m. (Ritter)

 

Whitney Mainstage, Minneapolis Community and Technical College

1501 Hennepin Ave.

 

...and God Laughs

Crooked Mirror Theatre Co.

This assortment of Yiddish-inflected sketches uses puppets and masks to tell stories about God's indifference to Man. But, oy vey, when the puppets are shoes, and the masks muffle the voices, how interested can you get? Striving for both humor and insight, these incoherent bits come across as the shtick cut from Fiddler on the Roof. Only some pleasant ambient music, provided by stand-up bass and mandolin, shows glimpses of a culture that is more than the sum of its cute accents and colorful phrases. Thu 10:00 p.m., Sat 4:00 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m. (Collins)

 

Free Beer

Rhombus Theatre

Although it fails to deliver on the promise of its title, this energetic collection of sketches has enough laughs to win forgiveness for a little bait-and-switch. Playwright Christian Gaylord shows a fine ear for frat-boy vernacular in presenting the party culture of young white folks. (One insightful advice team responds to every comment with the line, "Shut the fuck up!") Rhombus Theatre's animated cast breezes through this material, overcoming the occasional and awkward attempt at significance. Ultimately Free Beer's look at wasted youth makes for intoxicating theater--without any hangover. Thu 8:30 p.m., Sat 5:30 p.m., Sun 8:30 p.m. (Collins)

 

Willy Loman Is Dead and Gone?

Sapphire Players

Playwright David O'Sullivan's premise is witty: A surreal local production of Death of a Salesman unleashes the angst of the play into the actors' lives. Unfortunately O'Sullivan attempts to mix in a dose of backstage farce, resulting mainly in awkwardness. For purported actors, this crew is markedly undisciplined: Unnecessary accents and highly mannered line readings abound. Which is to say nothing of the bad jokes (they mistake a gardening trowel for a handgun?!). The best moments of Willy are when the pathos of Salesman rules, but you have to sit through a few fried-fish-eye and unzipped-fly jokes to get there. Tue 8:30 p.m., Sat 2:30 p.m. (Branum)

 

Whitney Performance Space, Minneapolis Community and Technical College

1501 Hennepin Ave.

 

Marlowe: To Ride in Triumph

Mary Worth Theatre Company

But for the twist of an assassin's knife, Christopher Marlowe might now be the playwright enshrined as "The Bard." Fittingly, Mary Worth Theatre Company's adaptation of C. Douglas Abel's play takes place in the fateful moment before the blade cut short the writer's frighteningly prolific career. As Marlowe, played by Andrew Worm, contemplates the coming rapture, his life's history, literary exploits, and political intrigues flash before our eyes. Much is riding on the shoulders of Worm--and he carries the deliciously lyrical script with a passionate and ultimately tragic portrait of the man who might have been for all seasons. Wed 10:00 p.m., Fri 8:30 p.m., Sat 7:00 p.m., Sun 1:00 p.m. (Ritter)

 

Put Yourself in My Shoes

Jennifer Arave

Based on a Raymond Carver story, this production includes plenty of the stunned malaise and dysfunctional verbal interaction that mark the troubled author's work. It is difficult to determine whether the discomfort onstage comes from the original story (adapted and directed by Jennifer Arave), or from the performers' difficulty in dealing with their subject. Several clever production techniques keep the story moving: A campy lounge singer croons Christmas tunes between scenes, voiceovers provide ballast for the minimalist action, and a lighting trick opens and closes the play as if to announce that something eerie has occurred. And maybe it has. Wed 7:00 p.m., Fri 10:00 p.m., Sat 1:00 p.m. (Michael Fallon)

 

Howard Conn Performance Space at the Plymouth Congregational Church

1900 Nicollet Ave.

 

Y2K and the Seven Dwarves

Ari Hoptman

Ever wonder how the Egyptians approved the building permits for those pyramids? Or what country names Popeye likes to recite? Well, Ari Hoptman, a polylingual etymologist, has taken time out of his busy schedule to enlighten us on these and other topics, using some far-fetched--and often hilarious--impersonations and tall tales. At one moment Hoptman (whose stage presence is akin to an animated Ray Romano) becomes an angry swan and the next he leads a religious sing-along (in Latin!) while saving souls in the audience. Careful build-ups spiced with fast laughs make this set appealingly unpredictable. Wed 7:00 p.m., Thu 8:30 p.m., Sat 1:00 p.m., Sun 8:30 p.m. (Palmer)

 

Kabuki!

Kathy Welch

Kabuki performances are rare enough in these parts that even if Kathy Welch's adaptation of the traditional Japanese form were not very good, it would be worth seeing purely for edification. And Welch's adaptation is very good indeed. The stylized movement and shrill elocution are handled with admirable reverence for the conventions of the form, yet Welch also peppers the timeworn tales of betrayal and revenge with enough bawdy body humor and clever anachronistic references to sell Kabuki! to a Western audience. Sat 4:00 p.m., Sun 7:00 p.m. (Ritter)

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