Safety in Numbers

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

 

A Sense of Place

Christopher Watson Dance Company

Homeis a loaded word. For some it means security, the reliability of the past. Others loathe their memories of stifling environments and endless slights. For choreographer Christopher Watson, home is "seductive if you stay too long." His dances reflect all the bittersweetness and ambiguities of the places we claim as our own--whether we want to or not. Driven by movement, text, and projections, the piece is full of sensations, and endowed with shape and confidence by one who knows his subject well. Manjunan Gnanaratnam's vibrant score provides extra fire in this graceful and mature work. Wed 8:30 p.m., Sat 7:00 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m. (Palmer)

 

Samson Agonistes

Peter Peter Pumpkin Theater

In Samson, the blinded and betrayed hero of Israel, the blind poet John Milton found both a natural muse and a tragic figure around which to build his last epic allegory. That Milton never intended his final masterpiece for the stage has not deterred director Mark Abel Garcia from the Miltonic task of reinventing it as drama. Not surprisingly, the results are mixed. While Samson Agonistes is an indisputably beautiful poem, Garcia's cast, and most particularly Dave Tufford in the title role, struggle with the language. And even a few clever theatrical conceits (a cowled tri-chorus acts as the voice of Samson's self-doubt) cannot conceal the fact that this staged poem is just a bunch of actors standing around orating at one another. Fri 8:30 p.m., Sat 5:30 p.m., Sun 1:00 p.m. (Ritter)

 

Women's Club

410 Oak Grove St.

 

blink

blink

Call it postmodern vaudeville or metajuggling or whatever you like: The pas de deux of blink is eye-popping. In this year's performance as in past Fringe appearances, the Maine-based duo combines juggling and contortionism to hypnotic visual effect. Even as they toss and twist, however, Fritz Grobe and Morten Hansen plant tongue firmly in cheek with a charming mock ceremoniousness. The slyly achieved objective is, as Hansen suggests, to open our eyes to the possibility of all things. Thu 7:00 and 10:00 p.m., Fri 8:30 p.m., Sat 1:00 and 7:00 p.m., Sun 4:00 and 8:30 p.m. (Ritter)

 

Soapbox

Upstart Theatre

By turns funny, scathing, and poignant, Upstart Theatre's production samples the voices of five opinionated authors and social critics. Starting with Virginia Woolf, who becomes an emcee for the event, the performers bring to life the characters of a young Jane Austen, a bristling Jonathan Swift, a wry Dorothy Parker, and a dignified Oscar Wilde. The characters not only employ any and all rhetorical tricks to make their points, but also use humorous slides, overhead projections, and a constant centerpiece: the titular soapbox. In the end the show strives to examine exceptional people who think against the grain. Wed 10:00 p.m., Fri 10:00 p.m., Sat 8:30 p.m., Sun 5:30 p.m. (Fallon)

 

Music Box Theater

1407 Nicollet Ave.

 

Four Pianos, No Hands

The Gentlemen Callers

Shifting between song stylings reminiscent of They Might Be Giants and energetic sketch comedy, these three boys from our northern neighbor manage to entertain even when the occasional joke doesn't work. Before the audience has a chance to realize how flat a bit about teen sex is, Michael Oliveras has leapt into a goofy monologue he delivers as an eccentric Latin American gigolo. The songs are uniformly amusing, especially "When You're Ugly" and a French-Canadian folk song about Jesus, ham, and pants. The worst one can say of the GCs is that they dance like Canadians. Wed 10:00 p.m., Thu 8:30 p.m., Sat 8:30 p.m. (Branum)

 

I.V. & Violet

Deborah Jinza Thayer/Soft-Eyed Collaborations

St. Elsewhere meets a pack of Dorothy Parker wannabes in a shared program that first succeeds in disturbing hypochondriacs with its clinical fetishism, and later confounds with some excessively cerebral choreography. Deborah Jinza Thayer adorns her dancers with IV tubes and ties their comatose forms to beds, creating a chilling, well-crafted reminder of modern medicine's detached control over the ailing body. Would that "Violet," directed by Heidi Geier of Soft-Eyed Collaborations, had such focus: The perpetually askew work rambles about the stage, revealing its roots as an improvisational exercise while falling short of its more erudite aspirations. Wed 8:30 p.m., Fri 8:30 p.m., Sat 2:30 p.m. (Palmer)

 

The House at the Edge of the World

Theatre of the Invisible Guests

One half of a play by Minnesotan Richard Zonober, House is the solemn tale of a young woman who has forgotten how to live in a world not dominated by the memory of her rape. Living in a halfway house filled with wacky former mental patients, Ann (Amal Bisharat) has found a balance between insanity and reality. Then an eccentric truck driver falls for her, and things become more complicated. It's an affecting exploration of post-traumatic recuperation, but without a second act, that journey ends abruptly, leaving an ambivalence as honest as it is dissatisfying. Tue 10:00 p.m., Thu 7:00 p.m., Sat 1:00 p.m. (Branum)

 

Gardens & Spirits

Precipice Theater

Love is an inescapable subject for dancemaking, and frequently a trite one as well. Luckily Risa Cohen, Penelope Freeh, Brian Levy, and Benjamin Johnson of Precipice Theater manage to avoid florid clichés in their relationship-themed choreography. Freeh's "The Virgin in the Garden" and Johnson's "Hindsight" both embrace emotionally charged partnering but also gently remind us that foolishness sometimes fuels intimacy. "Kissed," a collaboration by Cohen and Levy, has multiple personalities--not all of them compatible. There are indelible moments, though, including a duet that seamlessly blends world-dance influences and a quartet that evokes very private rituals. Thu 10:00 p.m., Sun 4:00 p.m. (Palmer)

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