Tripping the Light Fantastic

At the Minnesota Fringe Festival


Ashes to Ashes

Harold Pinter's short 1996 play Ashes to Ashes takes place in an English country house on a day that somehow allows Devlin (Brian O'Neal) to sport a turtleneck, sweater, and jacket while his presumed wife Rebecca (Shannon Jankowski) appears comfortable in a sleeveless dress. That's okay, though--you're not supposed to understand everything in a Pinter play. Rebecca has just confessed an infidelity, or perhaps she's recalling the Holocaust, or maybe she's delusional. Whatever it is, she's serene about it, disquietingly so. "I am very upset," she says at one point, cheerily. A painfully arty close in which offstage players echo Rebecca's lines is among the few misfires of Jason Bucklin's direction. Fri 7:00 p.m.; Sat 2:30 p.m. Loring Playhouse. --Dylan Hicks



City Girl!

Self-referential in the "meta" style of stuff like Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation, City Girl! from Chicago's Neo-Futurists is a winning musical comedy mainly about its failings as a musical comedy. The show is frequently interrupted by commentary from a mysterious voice heard over the PA system. In a dry tone similar to the doorman's on Rhoda, the unseen critic torments Noelle Krimm, the show's star and creator, with snide remarks such as "I suppose we're to think that Tom is a different person just 'cause he has a hat on." The songs are sometimes hilarious (the elfin "Happy Dance" stands out), and the company is filled with gifted comic actors and not-bad singers. Thu 8:00 p.m. Hey City Theater, upstairs. --Dylan Hicks


Coya Comes Back

The unwieldy metaphysical conceit of this play is a discussion between a reanimated Coya Knutson, Minnesota's first U.S. congresswoman, and an invisible Betty McCollum, our present distaff rep. (By repeating everything McCollum says, Coya, we're forced to gather, has experienced some hearing loss.) While nibbling on donuts and peeling potatoes for lefse, Coya, in a saintly portrayal by Kathy Ray, recites the major bills she passed while in office and explains her farm platform. But it's the hinted-at Lifetime Network undertones that really intrigue: Coya's husband Andy was an abusive alcoholic whose famous letter asking Coya to return from Washington--"Coya Come Home"--fueled rumors of an affair and undermined her campaign for a third term. Wed 7:00 p.m.; Thu. 7:00 p.m. MCTC Whitney Studio. --Steve Marsh



The type of exposure the four agile dancers present here is about emotions. We're talking the uncomfortable and awkward interpersonal sessions of youth, which are sometimes sweet but are mostly tormented, drawn out, and melodramatic. There's little dialogue on offer here; the director reports being influenced by the sculptural movement tableaux of Pilobolus. The strong, acrobatic, serpentine feeling-each-other-out segments are engaging and artistically admirable for quite some time--but an hour's worth of post-adolescent discomfort might be more than some would want to revisit. Fri 2:30 p.m.; Sat 10:00 p.m. Minneapolis Theatre Garage. --Christina Schmitt


Five Women on a Hill in Spain

In this nonlinear drama by Claire Chafee, five women (one seen both as an isolated teenager and a stylish adult) stargaze, navel-gaze, and make love in a series of vignettes loosely connected by the 1963 astronautic expedition of Valentina Tereshkova, the first female space traveler. At least on first exposure, I found Chafee's script a bit leaden, but enjoyed trying to puzzle out its recondite interweaving of characters and themes. The six-woman cast, superbly directed by Suzy Messerole, nicely vivifies things, especially in the scenes between two time-separated couples, the interactions of which range from pensively romantic to urgently horny. Thu 10:00 p.m.; Fri 5:30 p.m.; Sat 7:00 p.m. Loring Playhouse. --Dylan Hicks


Gwen Hairy Gwen Gloss

It's a good, fringe-y sort of idea, to pull an Amy Heckerling with Glengarry Glen Ross, resetting Mamet's play about the bitchy world of salesmen and their bad language in a hair salon filled with women. Kind of makes sense, right? And sometimes it even works. Amy Columbe's Uptown district manager eschews Alec Baldwin's memorable stamp on that character, choosing instead to infuse it with the schlocky soul of Cruella de Ville. And it's fun listening to all the ladies curse with gusto, though sometimes the instinct for over-the-top grandstanding isn't as funny as it aims to be. And no, you're wrong, actually: Mamet isn't always like that. Thu 8:30 p.m.; Fri 8:30 p.m.; Sat 7:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m. Jungle Red Salon. --Steve Marsh


The Good Parts: A Celebration of Literary Sex

This lighthearted trounce is more a comedy than a sex show, a silly way to catch up on some literary history. The cast of five, who immediately strip down to boxers, slips, and Dickensian nightshirts, cheerfully give readings of bawdy passages from the Arabian Nights, the Bible and other texts. The jokes breathe a little life into dated and unshocking material: Yep, the word cunt was used much by authors past; there are all sorts of words for a man's pipe; and Anaïs Nin was a dirty bird. Big deal. More impressive is the story of a monk and his young maiden pupil, the monk explaining that his "devil" needs to be put back into her "hell"--very often. She obliges and wears the poor demon out. Wonder what The Bad Parts are like. Thu 8:30 p.m.; Sat 2:30 p.m. Minneapolis Theatre Garage. --Christina Schmitt

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