City of Sideshows

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

Chris Griffith's fuzzy-eyebrowed Punch doesn't gets his hand on a noisemaking stick until midway through this production, and he spends a happy moment beating the floor with it, delighted by its exaggerated thwack. "I like this!" he declares. "I could do an entire show about this!" But this is a gentler Punch than the murderous puppet given to us by British tradition, so he spends most of the play searching for his lost infant rather than attempting to kill it. Still, great chaos is afoot, and more than a few times Punch displays his historic delight in comic carnage. Wed 8:30 p.m., Thu 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Fri 8:30 p.m., Su 1:00 p.m, 2:30 p.m., and 8:30 p.m. Grace Trinity Lutheran Church. --Max Sparber

 

CONFESSIONS OF AN ART SCHOOL MODEL
Theatre on T.A.P.

That Confessions is a true-to-life portrait of the way artists and models interact is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It's a disadvantage because the exchange that occurs as the artist and model work (for real) onstage is less dramatic than it could be with a little more hyperbole thrown in. Still, this is the Fringe, and it's only reasonable to expect an audience to pay attention to what comes out of a naked model's mouth and to read between the lines to find her deeper messages. Besides, it's worth it to see a naked 50-plus-year-old woman do the splits without skipping a beat--or a line. Wed 8:30 p.m. Red Eye Collaboration. --Michael Fallon

 

DANCE WHIRX
Ann-Marie

It begins simply with a Renaissance pavane followed by dancer Monique vamping through an Egyptian Raks Sharqi number. Then, the first of many non sequiturs: Ann-Marie arrives with plastic bags taped to her body, plucking imaginary objects from thin air. Extra loud applause down front--her husband. More sumptuous dancing, this time by Middle Eastern maestra Margo Abdo O'Dell. Next, Ann-Marie is birthed from a pile of Mylar and performs in reptilian regalia (her alter ego, apparently, is the slithery alien being Zlagathor). More enthusiastic applause. Finally, a group shimmy, including Zlagathor, tail swishing in the spotlight. Ah, Fringian unity. Thu 5:30 p.m., Sat 5:30 p.m. Intermedia Arts. --Caroline Palmer

 

DREAMS AND SCHEMES
Tim Tucker and Edie Baumgart

Dreams and Schemes is the story of a woman who could have chosen two paths in life--either one leading to man troubles, career struggles, and sundry midlife crises. The dialogue--peppered with cranky one-liners and throwaway comebacks--is a serviceable vehicle for the song list ("Both Sides Now," "Philosopher's Stone," "Passionate Kisses"), which shows off the real joy of the show--Baumgart's vocals. Her singing does for canned music what Jack Daniel's does for a Coke. The knockout rendition of "I'm Changing" is a damned good reason to occupy a seat. Thu. 8:30 p.m., Fri. 10:00 p.m., Sun. 5:30 p.m. Loring Playhouse. --Sarah Sawyer

 

ELLEN'S EMPTY CHAIR
Illusion Theater

Though the premise has more sap than a giant sequoia, this story of an elderly woman remembering her past is a fine piece of theater indeed. Barbara Kingsley plays Ellen, a 78-year-old lady talking to the ghosts of her two dead--but still very handsome--brothers. There's Andy (Sam Rosen), the prankster who was killed during World War II; and Hugh (Peter McCain), the poetically tormented brother who had killed himself years ago. Then we have the Chair, which acts as a metaphor for childhood games as well as trauma and death. So much happens here with so little, thanks to a witty script and humorous and humane performances. Thu 8:30 p.m., Fri 5:30 p.m., Sat 5:30 p.m. Illusion Theater. --Christina Schmitt

 

GRENDEL'S MOTHER
Dorothy Cleveland

Between Charlie Bethel's performance of Beowulf and this riff on the tale's monstrous materfamilias, this year's Fringe certainly doesn't skimp on the Old English sagas. Since Grendel's mom appears in the original poem only as a man-eating cipher, however, Cleveland's performance is less a straight retelling than an extrapolation in the spirit of John Gardner. In Cleveland's richly imagined--though largely improvised--yarn, Grendel's mother gives up a promising career of killing and retreats to her cozy cave to raise a little beast of her own. "I have a growing boy," she explains apologetically. "He eats and eats and eats." So long as he doesn't fill up on Geats. Wed 8:30 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m. Acadia Café. --Peter Ritter

 

GEORGE BUSH'S NUTS (OR HOW I LEARNED TO ENJOY REAL TIME WAR FOOTAGE ON LSD)
DareDevil Psychonautic Research Ensemble

A post-9/11 patriot seemingly fresh from Wayne's World (he smokes pot and carries a "God Bless War" sign) is the first character in this series of one-man vignettes. Yet just when the stereotypes--the geographically indeterminate "trashy" accent, the mullet--are becoming as problematic as the worldview under attack, our dude switches characters. Now he is a flamboyantly gay man, whose friends find it fashionable to go to political protests. Next he becomes an FBI agent in charge of retrieving all known photos of George W.'s genitals. Over the course of this long rant, the jokes get progressively funnier; the message more sincere and pointed. Wed 7:00 p.m., Sat 10:00 p.m. Brave New Workshop Theater. --Christina Schmitt

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