Indie 500

With roughly 100 productions and 500 performances, the Minnesota Fringe Festival turns low-budget theater into a two-week marathon

Sex With David Mann

David MannFirst off, the title of veteran Fringe performer David Mann's new one-man show is expository rather than interrogative. Nevertheless, those who come won't be disappointed (pun only slightly intended). Embodying a dozen or so characters throughout, Mann offers a mix of dramatic monologues and coital comedy, including, it should be noted, the most outré use of produce for demonstration of sexual technique since Phoebe Cates made sweet love to that carrot in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Mann's sex talk isn't all giggles, though. He's also able to guide us through some fairly rough emotional territory: insecurity, desire, fear, and uncertainty. Come to think of it, isn't that what sex is all about? Thu 8:30 p.m., Fri 1:00 p.m., Sat 10:00 p.m. Minneapolis Theatre Garage. (Ritter)

Such Tricks (Shakespeare the Magician)

Theater Zero presents Ben KreilkampWhen Ben Kreilkamp tells his audience, "Make yourselves comfortable. There's a lot of words to absorb," everyone settles obediently into chairs, as if conditioned for a lecture. In addition to the roles Kreilkamp tackles in the 17 monologues of this one-man show, he also plays the rumpled professor onstage, stopping to explain an odd word or to expound gently on the background of the speeches. Kreilkamp can be nearly anyone in the Shakespearean repertoire--Juliet's nurse, Lear, Puck--and he savors every line with an obvious love for the Bard. Wed 8:30 p.m., Fri 8:30 p.m., Sat 1:00 p.m., Sun 4:00 p.m. St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral. (Cornell)

Super Freaks

Frontier TheatreMusicals may be making a comeback, and indeed this production is back for its second Fringe Fest. The show features a cast of attractive young people hoofing their way through a series of off-color scenes poking fun at local sexual mores. If you're the kind of person who laughs at nuns singing about self-stimulation or at the spectacle of a man serenading a blow-up sex doll, then this is your ticket. But you'll have to sit through endless goofy aphorisms about sex, some half-assed choreography, and two horrible German accents along the way. Thu 10:00 p.m., Fri 8:30 p.m., Sun 4:00 p.m. Hennepin Center for the Arts Little Theatre. (Michael Fallon)

Tall Tales from the Kentucky Cycle

The Polar ProjectThis excerpt from Robert Schenkkan's Pulitzer-winning epic takes place shortly after the Civil War and features a family of naive, self-described hillbillies who are visited by a slick-talking traveling "storyteller" with a hidden agenda. "J.T. Wells," as he calls himself, successfully uses his charm and a cache of entertainments, including a fractured version of Romeo and Juliet, to win the group's trust--with the exception of the daughter's wary boyfriend. A few clichés ensue (country girl is taken with sophisticated newcomer, doubts the simple life she has never before questioned), but there are some humorous--and maybe even touching--moments. Fri 7:00 p.m., Sat 4:00 p.m., Sun 1:00 p.m. Phoenix Playhouse Mainstage. (Reinsmoen)

The Last Cherry Pit

Ministry of Cultural WarfareWith comedy troupes sprouting in the Twin Cities like crabgrass, it is nice to see a group that tackles more than improv games and hastily assembled, yawning sketches. This first production of the Ministry of Cultural Warfare offers a jolting, dreamlike look at the life of István Örkény, a Cold War-era Hungarian writer known for bitterly absurd short stories. The resulting production is disquieting and smart--a good thing for comedy to be. Fri 5:30 p.m. Acadia Cabaret. (Sparber)

The 17 Rules of Show Business

Fifty Foot Penguin Theatre CompanyThe reunion of actor chums who chose different career paths provides the background for this big-issue debate forum, which pits TV vs. Theater, Career vs. Family, and Commerce vs. Art. Regrettably, this original script by Fringe czar Dean J. Seal often forgets Rule of Show Business #18: Ponderous exposition is no substitute for witty dialogue. Still, the cast is energetic and likable, and there are enough zingers lobbed at the biz to make the endless explaining go down more smoothly. Edwin Strout is properly saintly as Chaz, a children's theater producer, and Zach Curtis plays Foster, an avaricious Hollywood exec, with oily glee. Fri 10:00 p.m., Sat 5:30 p.m. Sun 1:00 p.m. Acadia Cabaret. (Cecile Cloutier)

These Shorts Feel Funny

Breath of Fresh TheatreThe woman sitting next to me summed this one up succinctly: "The sketches were kind of like Saturday Night Live," she said, "except they weren't funny. Or maybe I just didn't get it." While one could quibble with that analysis--who would confidently claim that SNL is funny?--her description isn't far off. Kyra Mesich's four short comedies and three "interludes" leave the audience struggling to understand the premises and plots. They almost definitely involve romantic relationships and a classic by MC Hammer--that much is known. But are the stories at all connected? How? And what's the point? One thing is for sure, though: Coming in from the heat and sitting through this show can leave one's shorts feeling funny, indeed. Wed 8:30 p.m., Fri 4:00 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m. Phoenix Playhouse Mainstage. (Erin Adler)

Three Ship Armada

Three Ship ArmadaPicture this: Three friends get together and decide to put on a show, but their talents are, well, rather uncomplementary. What to do? Well, in the case of Three Ship Armada, they decide to do the show anyway. That is, Daniel Schultz performs his Italian clown act; Raymond Yates sings hootenanny-style ballads; and Gabriel El Gato dances classical Spanish flamenco. And the show culminates in a hilarious show-stopping slapstick free-for-all that involves a dance on top of breakfast cereal, a frenetic chase through the audience and auditorium, and a slow-motion violent collision that would do Mel Brooks proud. Sat 2:30 p.m., Sun 7:00 p.m. Hennepin Center for the Arts Little Theatre. (Fallon)

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