Tripping the Light Fantastic

At the Minnesota Fringe Festival



Spoken Word: Did You Want Fries With That?


It's hard not to quit your day job when you hate it as much as Tom Cassidy, Erin Harney, Suzanne Nielson, and Tina Schoop do. Did You Want Fries With That? presents five distinct slants on working at unchallenging, annoying, or morally questionable jobs. While the monologues are delivered with varying levels of confidence and eye contact, the familiarity of the experiences and the performers' sincerity is redeeming. Tom Cassidy's "Haiku," in which he rants about being a copy machine salesperson, is rhythmically intense. The standout is host Amy Salloway's "Stalled," a hilarious oration about female employees' inability to move their bowels while other women are present. While this show was a one-off, this spoken word series, hosted by Salloway and others, continues throughout the Fringe at the Loring Park Dunn Bros. (no ticket necessary; $3 recommended donation) --Erin Adler


Staggering Toward America: A Post 9-11 Journey

Watching L.A. playwright Rik Reppe tell his post-9/11 story onstage--a tale of quitting a corporate job, letting his red hair grow shaggy, and hitting the road in search of meaning--compels you to look inward and ask yourself some troubling questions. Like, "Did Jerry die all over again, man?" Actually, that's just the kind of snide cynicism that Reppe's heart-on-his-sleeve account of our national tragedy means to address. The show succeeds on the playwright's talent for capturing the small details of his cross-country quest. Reppe himself, we learn, has overcome a case of snide cynicism, and we can all relate to that. Fri 6:00 p.m.; Sat 4:00 p.m.; Sun 12:00 p.m. Bryant-Lake Bowl. --Steve Marsh


That's MISTER Benchley to You, Mrs. Parker

The difference between wit and wisecracking, Dorothy Parker observed, is that wit has truth in it; wisecracking is just calisthenics with words. There's plenty of the latter in Edwin Strout's sharp, sassy biographical sketch of Parker (Carolyn Pool) and fellow raconteur/souse Robert Benchley (Strout). But Strout's script also finds surprising poignancy in the pair's lifelong platonic love affair, over the course of which the celebrated wisecrackers work themselves into a literary lather without ever admitting the depth of their affection. Strout and Pool pull the couple's tense, teasing intimacy off beautifully: To adopt Ms. Parker's most famous barb in the service of opprobrium: The actors run the gamut of emotion from A to B, and well beyond. Wed 8:30 p.m.; Thu 5:30 p.m.; Sun 7:00 p.m. Loring Playhouse. --Peter Ritter


Unleash the Hounds!

The program for this Fringe Fest return of Dean Seal--who's currently getting his master's from New Brighton's United Theological Seminary--promises a "very staged reading." This is irony. Seal, stationed behind a lectern, makes little effort to dramatize the three essays he reads from, though he is assisted by music and slides. This approach wouldn't be so problematic if the material were fresher. Instead, Seal leads with a familiar censure of the white man's crimes against American Indians and moves on to the bold claim that television is inane and driven by greed (something must be done!). Next is Seal's testament of faith, which--praise be--closes the program on its most eloquent and engaging chord. Thu 7:00 p.m.; Sat 8:30 p.m. Loring Playhouse. --Dylan Hicks


The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip

Grade-schoolers will undoubtedly enjoy the fact that nearly half the cast of George Saunders's enchanting lesson in sharing consists of their peers, even though the kids spend much of their time plucking many-eyed marine invertebrates from goats. They'll also dig the fact that all but one of the six adults in the production are self-involved, bellowing idiots. Meanwhile, grown-ups finally get an opportunity to see the one adult exception, Rich Kronfeld of Doctor Sphincter and Let's Bowl fame, play a role perfectly straight--or as straight as he can in knickers and a propeller beanie. Fri 7:00 p.m.; Sat 1:00 p.m.; Sun 2:30 p.m. MCTC Whitney Mainstage. --Rod Smith



The promising concept here is for a dozen or so zanily dressed, unrehearsed actors to respond to directions received through the headphones of preprogrammed mp3 players. As far as I can gather, they're being told to do things like make farting noises, act like a bird, and recite a bit of Shakespeare. It's a different cast and show every night, so who knows what magic might unfold. On the night I attended, it was hard to imagine even the most inspired improviser making much of the instructions, the most frequent of which was apparently: "Take a minute to plug your other Fringe show." Especially during those commercial breaks, I too began hearing a voice in my head. And it said: "This sucks." Wed through Sat 11:20 p.m.; Sun 9:50 p.m. Minneapolis Theatre Garage. --Dylan Hicks

As the Fringe continues to branch further out from its original West Bank hub, the potential excitement of show-to-show dashes increases. Consider this challenge: Go to Friday's 7:00 p.m. show of the 90-minute Three on a Seesaw at University Baptist Church. Leave 10 minutes early, so you can make it to the 8:30 performance of Teechers at Pillsbury House Theatre. Look for a drag-racing opportunity on 35W South. Seek out someone who will summarize the conclusion of Seesaw prior to the 10:00 p.m. start of City Girl! at Hey City Theater. We're actually frightened by such an itinerary, but thrill-seeking theatergoers might feel otherwise.
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