Tripping the Light Fantastic

At the Minnesota Fringe Festival

 

Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Office
MOCKINGBIRD THEATRE

Despite her obsession with extramarital romps, writer and longtime Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown always seemed more Martha Stewart than Machiavelli, often with unintentionally comic consequences. In this campy adaptation of Brown's early-'60s man-catching manual, Kirby Bennett captures the seduction guru's ditzy tone with near-phonographic precision. She slathers on the dither and froth as she flits about the play's barebones set instructing hapless protégé Jane (Abigail Hoover) on matters ranging from proper dress and the use of props to snaring a co-worker for a luncheon date or nooner. As Brown says, "It's fun to like men!" Thu 4:30 p.m. Jungle Theater. --Rod Smith

 

Moby Dick
CHRISTOPHER MOORE

As one might expect from a one-hour, one-man staging of Moby Dick, there are times when it feels like actor Christopher Moore is trying to pour an ocean into a wading pool. The wrenching scene in which Ahab refuses to help another ship passes hurriedly without leaving much emotion in its wake. The characters could also be more tonally discrete: Starbuck and Ishmael sometimes bleed into one. Still, this is a fine piece of dramatic storytelling, and a performance that's notably restrained in the face of such grand material. Moore makes a soulful Ishmael, finding a low-key affability that evokes a richer version of Robin Williams's quiet mode. Wed 4:30 p.m.; Fri 4:30 p.m. Jungle Theater. --Dylan Hicks

 

Oil on Canvas
15 HEAD--A THEATRE LAB

Can't say the work--or life--of early 20th-century modernist painter Amedeo Modigliani ever really interested me. Still, 10 seconds after the lights came up after the end of 15 Head's gorgeously grim, shockingly physical bioplay, I found myself turning to my longtime playgoing partner, and, still fighting back the tears, hissing: "That was a whole fuck of a lot better than Vienna Lusthaus." Fringe-goers looking for an almost preternaturally focused production and impeccable ensemble acting need go no further. Wed 5:30 p.m.; Thu 5:30 p.m.; Fri 7:00 p.m. Intermedia Arts. --Rod Smith

 

A One-Woman Show Starring the Scrimshaw Brothers
THE SCRIMSHAW BROTHERS

In the piece that gives this sketch-comedy show its name, the Scrimshaw Bothers play two hard-up male actors--one a sniveling nerd, the other a cocky "metrosexual"--who harbor vain hopes of starring in a feminist performance piece. It's funny stuff, though not as much so as the sketch involving two on-the-make bachelors--one a sniveling nerd, the other a cocky "metrosexual"--who wind up putting medicine balls to hilariously violent and absurdly erotic use. The other skits range from moderately amusing to severely lame. Wed 7:00 p.m.; Fri 1:00 p.m.; Sun 2:30 p.m. In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater. --Dylan Hicks

 

The Point
VISTA PRODUCTIONS

Especially for the typically bare-bones Fringe, this ambitious, large-cast adaptation of the 1971 TV special by brilliant tunesmith Harry Nilsson is a triumph of costuming and design (credit Elliot Hays and Beth Nistler). Especially striking are the walking trees and the talking boulder, though I'm torn about that rock's Fat Albert-style accent. Vista Productions is using just a few of the show's original tunes ("Me and My Arrow" was the hit), but has added a number of other Nilsson tunes, which are generally well sung but impaired by an anemic band and cutesy interpretations. I suspect, however, that these alleged musical failings will be forgiven by most eight-year-olds, especially those into jive-talking rocks. Wed 7:00 p.m.; Thu 5:30 p.m. MCTC Mainstage. --Dylan Hicks

 

A Regular Night at the Strip Club
NICOLE BRENDING

Nicole Brending's intense monologue is a riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in, well, very little clothing. With her highly visible breasts taking center stage, writer/performer Brending is stripper Vivian, who begins by telling the audience job-related anecdotes and later focuses on the mysterious death of a friend and fellow stripper. As Vivian becomes increasingly inebriated and gains audience sympathy, the plot twists and one's feelings toward her follow suit. Alternately shocking, droll (she names her nipple with a mole on it Marilyn Monroe), and poignant, Brending's show is well written and proficiently acted. And the ending offers a fine surprise--rather unlike a regular night at a strip club, whose sequence of events is, alas, always salaciously the same. Fri 10:00 p.m.; Sun 4:00 p.m. Minneapolis Theatre Garage. --Erin Adler

 

Sabotage: In Fine Form
BURNING CITIES NEW WORKS CO.

Much like sauerkraut and anal sex, skit comedy is something you either like or loathe. Those in the first group will undoubtedly revel in the pungent antics of Sabotage. Using neither set and props nor external soundtrack, this Albuquerque duo mugs, preens, moans, and whinnies its way through stories. There's the overindulgent father whose young daughter falls in love with a monster, the pair of exceedingly salty spinsters, and the aristocrat whose talking horse is out to kill him. And for some reason they do it all in their pajamas. Thu 10:00 p.m.; Sat 1:00 p.m.; Sun 8:30 p.m. Hey City Theater downstairs. --Rod Smith

 

Shtick, And Its Relation to the Unconscious
PARTIZAN PLAYERS

James Vculek's Shtick, And Its Relation to the Unconscious is a great premise that might someday become a good play. Set in 1928, Shtick imagines a washed-up Borscht Belt stand-up (a droll Ari Hoptman) getting career counseling from a kooky caricature of Sigmund Freud (a hammy Richard Ooms). Perhaps in tribute to the Austrian doctor, the show is rather like a dream: Subplots come and go with no clear purpose, logic is brazenly defied, and little will be recalled in the morning. Still, there are some inspired moments, especially Hoptman's version of "My Yiddish Momme" (backed by an excellent klezmer orchestra), during which an intrigued Freud busily takes notes on the patient's Oedipal tendencies. Wed 5:30 p.m.; Fri 7:00 p.m.; Sun 8:30 p.m. In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater. --Dylan Hicks

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