City of Sideshows

Amid all the carnival barking of the fringe, we tell you which tent shows deserve your ten bucks

 

THE AMERICAN DREAM
Afrika's Ensemble

American history is defined by amnesia--a convenient forgetfulness about sins of the past. But selective memory is dangerous because it prevents healing and progress. Afrika's Ensemble topples this barrier through a collective spirit dedicated to beauty and the beat. Improvising confidently through jazz and African rhythms, reed-player Rene Ford leads percussionists Kevin Washington and Eliezer Santos, and bassist Yawo Attivor. Joining them are dancers/singers Aimee Bryant and Tarloh Quiwonkpa, plus a roster of guest artists. The result is a vibrant journey highlighted by Bill Cottman's projected photographs and the soaring poetry of Langston Hughes and J. Otis Powell! A memorable performance. Wed 8:30 p.m., Fri 1:00 p.m. Intermedia Arts. --Caroline Palmer

 

ANTIGONE
First Magi

A retelling of a remake of a classic, this story of one woman's middle finger at authority should be as relevant in these, our terror-scare days, as it was in Bertolt Brecht's World War II Germany, or Sophocles' warring Greece. Yet in this well-intentioned attempt at agitprop, nothing much gets agitated. The action is set in Brecht's Berlin of 1945. We know this because it's spelled out for us on a chalkboard, although that reference point is never really explored. Likewise, we're never truly pulled into the action here--with the notable exception of the Bacchus festival. It's even hard to get worked up about Creon, the prick. Wed 8:00 p.m., Thu 10:00 p.m., Sun 2:00 p.m. Bryant-Lake Bowl. --Christina Schmitt

 

BRING ME THE HEAD OF DOMINIC PAPATOLA
Pigs Eye Theater

The stage is emblazoned with unexpectedly barbed mots from the same Pioneer Press theater critic whose murder is demanded in this production. But the greatest savagery in Randall J. Funk's comedy is reserved for actors, here represented by Adam Fielitz (who was skewered by Papatola in last year's Fringe), Ann Michels, and Don Eitel. Besides being petty creatures whose cruelty toward each other exceeds that of the harshest critic, they prove to be so incompetent as killers that they are only capable of causing themselves harm. Papatola, seated at the back on opening night, sniffed at its conclusion. "Well," he said. "There it is." Thu 8:00 p.m., Fri 8:00 p.m., Sat 8:00 p.m. Cedar Riverside People's Center. --Max Sparber

 

BURNING CAGE
Woman Alone Theatre Company

Heavy material made even heavier, this dramatization of brainwashing experiments conducted upon U.S. and Canadian mental patients during the Fifties lets no one escape: neither inmates nor audience. Two women, imprisoned in adjoining rooms at a Boston asylum, have identical daily regimens: shock treatment, meds, and deprogramming. Real and dream worlds blur, and the wall between the two patients' rooms dissolves. The women can now commiserate, the only moment of hope in this entirely depressing story. Told with minimalist artiness and strong performances, this pedantic tale of power abuse and mid-century prejudice is well told--though the homicidal climax leaves a big fat question mark where a period would have sufficed. Thu 7:00 p.m., Sat 10:00 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m. Loring Playhouse. --Christina Schmitt

 

THE CANDID BIOGRAPHY OF A SINGLE CHESS TABLE CHOSEN AT RANDOM ON AN AMBIGUOUS SPRING DAY IN CENTRAL PARK
Shantz Theatre

There aren't many theatrical performances relating to psychological theory, but Shantz Theatre's production is clearly Gestaltist in scope. Alone, each of the 14 vignettes is a fine piece; united, they represent a tightly acted composition that evokes the gamut of emotions. Using its Central Park setting as a constant, Matt Fotis's script enlivens both mundane and bizarre human interactions. The cynosure, however, is the cast's versatility in adopting multiple roles, each done adeptly. Hey, any performance that successfully mocks pretentious Borders clerks, incorporates Rod Stewart songs, and garners nervous titters at suicide jokes must be as effective as any talking cure. Wed 8:30 p.m., Sat 4:00 p.m., Sun 5:30 p.m. MCTC Whitney Studio. --Erin Adler

 

CHARLIE BETHEL'S BEOWULF
Charlie Bethel

Theater doesn't get much more storied than this: Storytellers have been retelling the adventures of the son of Scyld for more than a millennium. Charlie Bethel's version is about as rip-roaring a good adventure as one can imagine, focusing on the graphic details, which can be quite gory indeed. This is the tale of Grendel, a beast who, when feeling a bit peckish for Danish, feeds on 30 Vikings, leaving their dashed brains behind. Bethel's telling is filled with good humor: He delivers Beowulf's dialogue with an absurdly slapdash bravado and lingers lovingly on every ghastly detail as sword rends flesh, sinew, and bone. Fri 7:00 p.m., Sat 4:00 p.m. Hey City Theater. --Max Sparber

 

CIRQUE D'ÉTÉ
Jay
Gilligan

If juggler Jay Gilligan has seemed very much a club kid, throwing dazzling patterns of balls and rings as deejays spin rhythmic accompaniment, with this show he seems to be more of a camp kid, tossing beanbags by the campfire as somebody strums guitar and sings thin-voiced folk songs. Accompanied by three singers, a guitar, and a boom box, Gilligan creates inventive, sometimes dazzling juggling patterns. Mostly, though, he seems to be enjoying a mellow, late-night sing-along. Sat 12:00 p.m., Sun 6:00 p.m. Bryant-Lake Bowl. --Max Sparber

 

THE COMICAL MISADVENTURES OF MR. PUNCH
Galumph Interactive Theater

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