City of Sideshows

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


Heidi Arneson

In a red, white, and blue, star-spangled short skirt, Heidi Arneson go-gos madly, chanting her usual singsongy, beatniky observations. But Arneson's musings here concern America after 9/11, and she has some pointed comments to make. After all, the country we are so eager to defend is still filled with aching, marginal characters, and Arneson essays a few of them in a handful of chilling monologues. These include a prisoner whose filthy cell is a reminder that prison is not his home, a homeless man struggling through a bitter night in a shelter, and a failed bulimic who has only mastered bingeing, until her ravenous appetite consumes toilet paper rolls, small businesses, and even Third World countries. Thu 8:30 p.m., Fri 10:00 p.m., Sun 5:30 p.m. Hey City Theater Downstairs. --Max Sparber


Illusion Theater

Aimee Bryant and Amy Anderson are such engaging performers you'll wish their material were more sure-fire. When you milk ethnic stereotypes for satire (Bryant is black, Anderson Asian), your jokes had better be zingers, because the satire is inevitably obvious. But the pair do score several direct hits: A skit in which two 11-year-old Thriller fans write to Michael Jackson is heartfelt and gains resonance by excerpting a video clip from Free to Be You and Me with MJ cooing, "We don't have to change at all." Thurs 5:30, Sat 8:30, Sunday 7:00. Illusion Theater. --Keith Harris


In the Basement Productions

Isn't it strange how a play can become dated? Just check this Molière satire, written mere months before his death by hemorrhage way back in 1673. First off, there's an old dude complaining about exorbitant medical bills--what's that about? It gets even weirder when the same dude wants to marry off his daughter to a doctor, just for the health benefits! Yeesh--hasn't he heard of "domestic partner" benefits? Okay, so Molière may have been more prescient than even he imagined. This nimble cast (featuring a star turn by Kjersti Brekke as the "impudent hussy") reins in the ironies and never lets the convoluted logic of the farce stop them belly laughs from comin'. Wed 10:00 p.m., Saturday 8:00 p.m. Bryant-Lake Bowl. --Nick Phillips


No Refunds Theatre Co.

Stripped down to its revenge essentials, the plot of Hamlet becomes as economical and precise as this show's title. Voices emerge from offstage as actors move their mouths out of synch, the slightest provocation results in swift fist flashes and roundhouse kicking, and the inhabitants of Elsinore neatly correspond to kung-fu-flick stock characters. (Horatio as the cowardly servant is a masterstroke.) The flattened language wears thin over time, but the choreography is sharp and a potentially slight comic idea is successfully stretched past the breaking point. Sat 8:30 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m. Hey City Theater Upstairs. --Keith Harris


Media Noir

A crime melodrama designed to sound like one from the golden age of radio, this production is acted out in front of microphones while a harried and somewhat incompetent foley artist (Elizabeth Hawes) scurries around, slamming doors, stomping feet, and firing pop guns to provide the appropriate sound effects. The script is bad and clichéd, but no more so than the radio shows it borrows from, and the performances are wooden, but appropriately so. Occasional comedy comes from the cast members, who prove as inept as their sound-effects woman, dropping their scripts and shooting each other eye-rolling glances at every minor mishap. Wed 7:00 p.m., Fri 5:30 p.m., Sun 5:30 p.m. Minneapolis Theatre Garage --Max Sparber


Illusion Theater

Singer Connie Evingson suggests the lasting popularity of the Beatles has to do with boomers' nostalgia for the music of their youth. Indeed, she cites her Duluth-childhood memories of sneaking Beatles LPs into the turntable rotation between the Duke Ellington records of her father. And while her current musical trick--mixing songs like "Can't Buy Me Love" with Peggy Lee's "Fever," or "Blackbird" with Miles Davis's "All Blues"--is not really intellectually challenging, Evingson smoothly transfers the achy sexuality of Liverpudlian rock 'n' roll into an exquisite kind of cool. The backup band and the overall production are top quality, too. Fri 7:00 p.m., Sat 4:00 p.m. Illusion Theater. --Michael Fallon


The Coders Union Theater Company

The funniest scene in Liability is also the most believable: A tyrannical office manager is pushed to--and, eventually, over--the edge by the two employees she supervises. The rest of the plot concerns a jaded academic resigned to temp work and the rebellious newcomer he takes underneath his wing. Anne Bertram's clever script places a great burden on the actors, demanding extensive character development during silence, gestures, and, yes, filing. Although the relationship forged between the protagonists occasionally seems contrived, the dialogue still offers ample rewards for anyone who has tasted humility in the office or the ivory tower. Wed 10:00 p.m., Fri 2:30 p.m., Sat 8:30 p.m. Acadia Café. --Wendy Weisman


Green T Productions

Kabuki purists might balk at Green T's production, which, under the guiding hand of director/performer Kathy Welch, commits such cardinal sins as allowing women onstage (in men's roles, no less). But there are precious few kabuki purists in the Twin Cities, and, without Welch, there would be even less of this terrific Japanese theater form. Welch's cast, although amateur kabuki performers, boast solid résumés as performers. They act out this comedy of a kabuki master (played by Welch) and his gadabout son with relentless good humor, even as the characters are possessed by the spirits of errant lions. Wed 8:30 p.m., Thu 8:30 p.m., Fri 7:00 p.m., Sat 7:00 p.m., Su 2:30 p.m. Hennepin Center for the Arts Studio 600. --Max Sparber

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