Fringe Festival Reviews

 

8/7 Central
No Refunds Theater

The skies open and the heavens sing to hardcore '80s television fans. This show is jam-packed with reminiscences of all your favorites: Growing Pains, 21 Jump Street, Michael Jackson's Thriller, even Inspector Gadget. These two half-hour original sitcoms are part The Cosby Show, part Family Ties, with good kids learning hard lessons about drugs, sex, and driving. The laugh track sighs and coos in between commercial breaks with Michael J. Fox and clips from A-Ha's "Take On Me" music video. There's even something for those with less gentle memories of the decade: Mr. T guns down Alf and the know-it-all sister gets slimed. Wed 5:30 p.m., Fri 5:30 p.m., Sat 2:30 p.m., Sun 5:30 p.m. Red Eye. --Christy DeSmith

 

And He Might Die...
The Third Rabbit Dance Ensemble

John Munger may be staring down 60 but he's determined to outdance the Reaper. And, in fact, he was still standing by the end of his show, a program combining lyricism, the occasional witty text, and, yes, a plate of Alpo devoured onstage. While the choreography itself offers little risk or experimentation, it does showcase Munger's sound sense of human foibles, particularly in his solo "The Upstairs Room," the poignant "Tori's Porch," and a comic duet called "Exactly What You Mean," set to droll dialogue from Mike Nichols and Elaine May. Wed 7:00 p.m., Fri 1:00 p.m., Sat 7:00 p.m. MCTC Whitney Mainstage. --Caroline Palmer

 

Assassins
Sky's The Limit Productions

Hands down the oddest musical ever, this Sondheim sideshow professes to explore the darker side of the American dream by reimagining the angst that led our history's presidential assassins (and would-be assassins) to their deeds. STL's production suffers from its own doing. In its Fringe-length cutting, the show is choked down to a revue of forgettable songs, flat characters, and clunky history lessons. For 10 minutes the show does its job: John Hinckley (Lorin W. Yenor) and Squeaky Fromme (Penny Dale) sing of their lost loves (Charles Manson and Jodi Foster, that is) in a duet that is as beautiful and melancholy as it is gross and chilling. Thu 10:00 p.m., Sat 10:00 p.m. Minneapolis Theatre Garage. --Matt Di Cintio

 

Boldly Going Nowhere
Illusion Theater

Five character sketches in 50 minutes. Some are classic Tod Petersen, like Stever, a TV addict self-imprisoned in his parents' basement. With his piercing nasal voice and tightfisted delivery, Stever is eerily reminiscent of the autobiographical narrator from Petersen's hit show A Christmas Carole Petersen. He ventures furthest from his repertoire with Sean, a pothead musician who thrill-rides to the Grand Canyon after his father's funeral. Sean is less comical than the other losers you meet--he doesn't say dude or awesome as often--but he's the most genuine. The others are sexual thrill-seekers, all good for some laughs (not recommended for your neo-conservative grandfather). Thu 5:30, Fri 4:00, Sun 4:00 Illusion Theater. --Christy DeSmith

 

Buckets and Tap Shoes
Andy and Rick Ausland

The brothers Ausland--local boys who've made good with their percussive troupe Ten Foot Five--look as wholesome as Hanson but tap-dance like their feet are on fire. Their act, essentially a set of loose jams, is all about transferring the innovation and spontaneity of street performance (complete with paint-bucket drums) to the stage, and the guys succeed on all counts. Joined by fleet-footed Nick Bowman, antic showman Ricci Milan, cool customer Kaleena Miller, and a tight band, the Auslands prove, once and for all, that tap is as funky as they want it to be. Thu 7:00 p.m., Sat 7:00 p.m. Brave New Workshop. --Caroline Palmer

 

City Pagez: The Show
DALI

If you're going to name your fringe play City Pagez: The Show, we're kind of obligated to review it, right? It turns out that other than the title, the connection between this show and the real City Pages is tenuous. Audience members praying for a smart satire of a paper begging to be satirized will remain unfulfilled: the publication turns out to be mere cannon fodder for typical rat-a-tat-tat improv games with the four-person troupe. At one point, the cast requests numbers from the crowd and then performs 15-second skits based on the corresponding page numbers. How many funny skits can you really squeeze out of an A-List? Sat 8:30 p.m. Acadia Café. --Steve Marsh

 

Comedy Against Racism
Protest Productions

Post-9/11 paranoia is the theme of this two-woman sketch comedy starring Sue Dorumsgaard and Farheen Hakeem. Focusing mainly on anti-Muslim xenophobia in the media and the airline industry, these skits and video segments range from autobiography to parody. In one video monologue, Hakeem tells the story of having a woman scream racist remarks in her face during an antiwar protest--a moment captured and run on the cover of the Star Tribune, which misidentified Hakeem as Afghani. In another sketch, Dorumsgaard plays Martha Stewart broadcasting from prison and unable to identify the race of her cellmate. While some skits are greater in theory than they are in execution, at its best the show is a thoughtful rail against racist assumptions made in an increasingly tense political climate. Wed, Sat 7:00 p.m., Sun 1:00 p.m. Red Eye . --Jessica Armbruster

 

Death Penalty Puppetry
The Chameleon Theatre Circle

For this anti-death-penalty activist, the pairing of puppetry and controversial tool of criminal punishment was too weird to ignore. Kudos to Chameleon for getting the facts right, but their delivery confounds. To be sure, there are many memorable moments here, including G.J. Clayburn's inspired turn as Good Cop/Bad Cop and a gut-busting number about Governor Pawlenty. But when the real stories of Minnesota's executed (the state abolished the death penalty in 1911) are set to "Cell Block Tango" from Chicago, it's not funny. In trying to present both sides, the troupe ultimately mixes its message, which only serves to further muddy the debate. Thu 10:00 p.m., Sat 1:00 p.m., Sun 5:30 p.m. Loring Playhouse. --Caroline Palmer

 

Doña Quixote
Kristina de Sacramento & Anda Flamenco

In Doña Quixote, Flamenco dancer Kristina de Sacramento plays an inhibited Minnesota meteorologist who keeps her red shoes in the closet and gets blown away (by a blizzard) to sunny Spain. There she encounters windmills, a lounge lizard Dulcenéo, and a couple of steamy Flamenco dancers who become her sisters-under-the-skin. The plot is pretty much a hook on which to hang some spirited dancing: Vicki Garcia melds sinuous arm gestures with fiery staccato heelwork, while de Sacramento, ably accompanied by flamenco guitarists and soulful singer Maria Elena, stomps her way through a mid-life crisis with the comic flare of Lily Tomlin on jalapeños. Wed, 5:30 p.m., Fri 2:30 p.m., Sat 7:00 p.m. Minneapolis Theatre Garage. --Linda Shapiro

 

Dressing Room
Scarlett Stage Productions

Performed in Via's Vintage Wear, this collection of shopping mall vignettes offers the kind of situations that turn most people a shade of the venue's Pepto pink walls. A whipped man holds his girlfriend's purse. A mother and daughter argue over whether a prom dress was made with whoring in mind. Salespeople are kissing ass one minute, then laughing when the same ass doesn't fit into a pair of jeans. Attitude is magnified tenfold in what might be the bitchiest mall in America. The dialogue is frighteningly familiar but much funnier when you're not the one stripping behind the see-through curtain. Visit www.fringefestival.org for showtimes. Via's Vintage Wear. --Lindsey Thomas

 

Falling Out of the Family Tree
Cathy Gasiorowicz

"My life is an extreme sport", says Cathy Gasiorowicz in her witty monologue Falling Out of the Family Tree. Taking us through a litany of mishaps--from teeter-totter whiplash to an accidental encounter with hash-laced cookies--she establishes her revered place in "a long [family] line of incident-prone people." Along the way, she

cunningly links physical and psychic scarring--a distorted bulimic body image leads to some nasty wounds--and eventually decides that her penchant for disaster is actually a gene for resiliency. A funny, savvy, and ultimately moving performance. Wed 7:00 p.m., Sat 2:30 p.m., Sun 4:00 p.m. Interact Center for Visual and Performing Arts. --Linda Shapiro

 

Famous Amos
Illusion Theater

Some overwrought writing mars Sha Cage's Famous Amos, an otherwise sharp and insightful exploration of homophobia in the deep South. Famous is a transvestite in Natchez, Mississippi, a town not exactly known for its understanding ways, where he's both reviled and revered as something of a legend. The performances, from three actors deftly playing multiple roles, are striking and emotional. Interesting formal and philosophical ideas abound, from the circularity of the plot to discussions about time and memory, but some of the florid pontification could stand a bit of pruning. Thu 10 p.m.; Fri 2:30 p.m.; Sat 7:00 p.m. Illusion Theater. --Jon Hunt

 

Feeling Faust
CalibanCo Theatre

Theater doesn't need more than two chairs, a table, and a devil, as CalibanCo proves in their take on the soul-selling legend. With stark, gripping theatricality, writer-director Christi Cottrell conceives an interrogation of a narcissistic physician (played with terrific, brooding force by Jeremy Cottrell) conducted by Lucifer and a trusty sidekick. This Faust finds himself at the center of a pharmaceutical controversy, which leads Cottrell to shovel criticism of that industry without leveling fresh arguments. What the message lacks in originality, however, it makes up for with passion, and the performances (Alisa Pritchett and Erik Wallin are the fiendish interrogators) are compelling throughout. Thu 10:00 p.m., Fri 10:00 p.m., Sun 1:00 p.m. CalibanCo Theatre. --Matt Di Cintio

 

From the Diary of Virginia Woolf
Nautilus Music Theater

Jill Anna Ponasik gives a virtuoso performance in this adaptation of Dominick Argento's Pulitzer-winning song cycle. Aided only by a piano and the text from Woolf's actual diary entries, Ponasik journeys through the mind of the English writer, borrowing the grandness of the operatic form to express Woolf's plight. Both painfully bewildered and highly amused by the "human animal," Woolf cries out in high notes belted from center stage. With the haunting sound of water that bookends the play, director Ben Krywosz supports his actress flawlessly, creating a rich, minimalist world for a mesmerizing theatrical event. Wed 4:00 p.m., Fri 5:30 p.m., Sat 1:00 p.m. Hennepin Stages, upstairs. --Matt Di Cintio

 

The Great Masturbators
Only Child Productions

The wankers in question--Salvador Dalí, Luis Buñuel, and Federico García Lorca--come together in a drawing room, providing the audience with a look at the effects these surrealists had on each other. The opening, as befits a surrealist homage, is tough to chew through: An angry García Lorca drags in his two friends with a rope while saying something frothy (wha?). The action eventually engages, thanks primarily to Buckethead, a jokester who occasionally stumbles in between scenes to give us the timeline and context. Now we're primed for Buñuel's witty invective toward Dalí's girlfriend and his failure to credit Dalí in his early films--not to mention the double-bad that neither the director nor the painter were around to save García Lorca from a fascist firing squad. Wed 5:30 p.m.; Fri 4:00 p.m. Jungle Theater. --Christina Schmitt

 

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

 

MacBlank
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

 

Tasteless
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

 

Tequila
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

Dave Mondy's monologue about growing up as a secret sinner in Bloomington aspires to be revelatory. And a raw, angsty meditation on sexually hypocritical ministers, vaguely tawdry strip clubs, and the emotional awkwardness of losing one's virginity might be ballsy if this weren't the Fringe, where the secret lives of theater geeks are well-known. Although Mondy seems to overestimate the twitter-factor that this Minnesota Zephyr-like tour of his sexuality will have, his delivery is assuredly wry, plus he's handsome and poised. That alone should ensure an unstoppable train of Fringe groupies. Thu 4:00 p.m., Sat 4:00 p.m. Jungle Theater. --Steve Marsh

 

Whoppers
Kevin Kling

According to Kevin Kling, you can survive for hours in a moose carcass. And the students of Gustavus Adolphus are cutting-edge surrealists who follow a talking ram-turned-beauty queen. Which is to say, Kevin Kling is a total liar. His one-man storytelling show Whoppers succeeds in the unlikely task of making Minnesota sound exotic to lifelong Minnesotans. Along the way, Kling hits on his favorite subjects: distracted parenting, bloodthirsty brothers on the loose, and our boundless capacity (and need) for self-delusion. Would Kevin Kling's cult audience pay $50.00 for these tickets? Believe it. Wed 8:30 p.m., Thu 7:00 p.m. Woman's Club of Minneapolis. --Stephanie Curtis

 

FRINGE THEATERS

Okay, so here's where we give you some basics about attending the Fringe Festival. Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors (104 and up--no, just kidding...62 and older), $5 for kids under 12 (years, not inches), and $10 for MPR members. Advance tickets are sold through Uptown Tix at 612.604.4466. Or you can buy tickets at the door, starting 30 minutes before curtain. You can also get tickets at fringefestival.org, where you'll find lots more Fringe info than we have room to print.

Unlike last year, you don't have to buy one of those Fringe buttons to get into shows. That was lame. But if you do buy a Fringe button (available at any venue), you'll get $2 off every ticket except children's tickets. Plus you'll be further supporting the Minnesota Fringe Festival, which is a nonprofit organization.

This year marks the debut of Fringe Central, which takes over Hennepin Stages (formerly Hey City) throughout the 10-day fest. There you can see previews of Fringe shows, grab a beer, buy tickets at the Uptown Tix kiosk, see live bands, and hobnob with your fellow Fringers. Fringe Central is open from 5:00 p.m. till midnight Wednesday through Saturday, and 5:00 p.m. till 10:00 p.m. on Sunday.

This year there are 24 Fringe venues or galleries, the addresses of which follow. Turn off your cell phone. Don't laugh at the fart jokes--you'll only encourage them. Unless it's a really good fart joke. On an unrelated note, let's all agree to stop using the word pimp as a verb. Have a good time.

Acadia Café, 1931 Nicollet Ave. S.

Brave New Workshop, 2605 Hennepin Ave. S.

Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St.

*Cafe Barbette, 1600 W. Lake St.

*Calhoun Square, 3001 Hennepin Ave. S.

CalibanCo Theatre, 610 28th St. W

Fringe Central, Hennepin Stages, downstairs, 824 Hennepin Ave. S.

Hennepin Stages, upstairs, 824 Hennepin Ave. S.

Howard Conn Fine Arts Center, Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Ave.

The Ice House, 2540 Nicollet Ave.

Illusion Theater, 528 Hennepin Ave. S., 8th Floor

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet & Mask Theatre, 1500 E. Lake St.

Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, 212 3rd Ave. N., #140

Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S.

Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Ave. S.

Loring Playhouse, 1633 Hennepin Ave.

MCTC Whitney Mainstage and Studio, 1424 Yale Place

Minneapolis Theatre Garage, 711 Franklin Ave. W.

Old Arizona, 2821 Nicollet Ave.

Pillsbury House Theatre, 3501 Chicago Ave. S.

Red Eye, 15 W. 14th St.

*Thorpe Building, 1618 Central Ave. N.E.

Via's Vintage Wear, 2405 Hennepin Ave.

Xelias Aerial Arts Performance Studio, 1101 Jackson St. N.E..

Woman's Club of Minneapolis, 410 Oak Grove St.

(* - venues marked with an asterisk feature Visible Fringe exhibitions rather than live performances )

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