Fringe Festival Reviews


In Defense of Sin (My Friends' Best Stories)
Ministry of Cultural Warfare

Playing off weighty stories from his friends and himself, Matthew Foster has crafted an irreverent anthology that skewers and slashes topics normally handled with excessive gravity. While pleasuring herself with a vibrating sexual tool, one woman suffers a brain aneurysm, which of course is a real mood killer. An army of Thai strippers pummels a drunken Peace Corps worker to within an inch of his life. Skinheads, rebel Kurds, and even the author himself get hilariously lampooned. Great comic acting and wry, snarky writing make this a provocative gem. Wed 5:30 p.m., Thu 5:30 p.m., Fri 10 p.m., Sat. 10 p.m. Intermedia Arts. --Jon Hunt


Fifty Foot Penguin

All these years later and Macbeth is still pissed. Of course, he's a ghost now, with a torn kilt and ratty Converse All Stars. Yet his T-shirt decrees: "Macbeth Lives." He enlists the help of his old cohorts the witches (now middle-aged women who read The National Enquirer while waiting for evil diversion) to knock off the last in the lineage of his nemesis Macduff. What follows is a rare thing: a masterful Shakespearean spin-off--smart, fast moving, and littered with knee-slapping references to the original. The cast gives spirited, frisky performances with Terry Lynn Carlson stealing the show as the impish dead Macbeth. Thu 8:30 p.m., Sat 5:30 p.m., Sun 8:30 p.m. Hennepin Stages, upstairs. --Christy DeSmith


Philosophy: The Music of Ben Folds
Brown Bee Productions

As indie rock's answer to a Broadway tunesmith, it was only a matter of time before Ben Folds inspired a stage show. But rather than weave his songs into a plotline, Brown Bee Productions essentially present a cover band on an empty stage. It's a loving tribute, but what it lacks is the fun of the original's live shows, opting instead for a slew of his poignant and sometimes heavy-handed ballads about heartbreak, guilt, and regret. To paraphrase Mr. Folds, they got what they wanted: just a crowd to watch them recreate the pain. Wed 4:00 p.m., Thu and Sun 7:00 p.m. Loring Playhouse. --Lindsey Thomas


Punk Rock Awesome
Ferrari McSpeedy

Punk Rock Pretty Darn Good may have been a better title. Still, because improv duo Joe Ferrari and Michael McSpeedy pour themselves heart, soul, and record-store-clerk smirk into the final chapter of their music-geek "thrillogy," they'd still warrant an A-minus from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide. As Melvin and Earl, two mercenaries hired to kill bad bands, Ferrari and McSpeedy each play a dozen different characters, take on a whole slew of foreign accents, and crack themselves up while battling members of Blink 182. ("One down, 181 to go," says Earl after offing the group's drummer.) A few of the punny punchlines are as groan-worthy as the Don Henley chestnuts they critique, but the battle scenes are so vivid that no one in the audience will ever be tempted to yell "Free Bird!" again. Fri 7:00 p.m., Sat 5:30 p.m. Brave New Workshop. --Melissa Maerz


Splotches of Spain
Fuego Flamenco

I saw the best minds of my generation hopelessly hung up on the Beats, but how often does one see such fine footwork in homage to the beloved hepcats? Colette Illarde is a regal stomping dynamo who can weather at least three costume changes without tripping over her dress. Together, she and guitarist Scott Mateo Davies are Fuego Flamenco. Add film images from the '50s--Elvis to atomic mushroom clouds--plus an upright bass, drums, reeds, a couple of performers spouting off poetry, and we've got a bona fide happening. Thu 10:00 p.m., Sat 8:30 p.m. Red Eye. --Christina Schmitt


April Sellers Dance Collective and Pam Plagge Productions

When a subtitle promises "the most seductively dangerous show in the Fringe," expectations are raised. Sometimes these artists deliver (there goes streaker in a ski mask!), but they fail to sustain the hyperbole. Still, Sellers's "Dramatically Speaking" is oozing with diva detachment, and Plagge's "Nice" and "Loot" reflect an intriguingly odd viewpoint while celebrating ski sweaters and cash, respectively. Less successful are Sellers's dour "Requiem" and Plagge's meandering "How To Get the Most Girl in the Smallest Space." Kelly Radermacher's vignettes, featuring a handful of forks, provide a few welcome, Robert Wilson-esque moments. Wed 4:00 p.m., Fri 10:00 p.m., Sat 2:30 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m. Minneapolis Theatre Garage. --Caroline Palmer


Teatro del Pueblo

An Anglo woman walks into a Mexican bar. She's a Rosie the Riveter on the lam, having left her WWII veteran husband back in Chicago. She and the bartender, a charming Portuguese gay man, start throwing back shots of tequila and are soon joined by the bar's proprietress (also Frida Kahlo's jilted comrade) and an abused wife. It's 1951, yet the four can sum up their woes like they're fresh from a modern women's- or gay-studies class. More plausible are the sweet moments when the characters are allowed fantasies--where soldiers can dance, painting competitions are won, and bittersweet songs are vented, trumpet and folk guitar included. Thu 8:30 p.m., Fri 7:00 p.m., Sun 8:30 p.m. Howard Conn Fine Arts Center. --Christina Schmitt


This Love Train Is Unstoppable and I Am the Conductor
Inept Productions

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