A Guide to the 2008 Fringe Festival

Underpants, Shakespeare, and Giant Squirrels

3 Sticks

Here's the way to send off the Theatre de la Jeune Lune space in style. The five performers in 3 Sticks present a musical fable about driving so hard that the original mission is lost. Always in motion, four of the performers play out the tale of an exiled general who is—or maybe isn't—trying to get back home. The "Gypsy" never interacts, but instead provides songs to illustrate the tale. Along the way are some terrific set pieces, such as a jungle fight and a mountain climb, that remind me of the late host theater at its very best. Wed 10:00 p.m., Fri 4:00 p.m., Sat 7:00 p.m. Theatre de la Jeune Lune. —Ed Huyck

Love and a Lion

NihaoHello Theatre Company

The ladies of Lili's Burlesque
Nick Vlcek
The ladies of Lili's Burlesque

Mathilde Mouw, the recent high-school graduate who wrote and directed this musical, cites as her inspiration a series of school shows that demonstrated, in her words, "expert amateurism," and I would be hard-pressed to come up with a better description of Love and the Lion. Mouw has composed an idiosyncratic libretto, seemingly borrowed from German art songs, to tell a story of love in the circus, and has recruited fellow Southwest High School students and recent graduates to act it out. I defy anyone not to be charmed by the results, in which a brown poncho and greasepaint are about all you need to make a circus lion, and in which juvenile heartbreak is written with unfeigned intimacy. Mouw may not be the most polished writer or director, but she understands that the tragedy of having a friend compete for a boyfriend is the risk of losing both. Wed 5:30 p.m., Sun 4:00 p.m. Theatre de la Jeune Lune. —Max Sparber

Mortem Capiendum

Four Humors Theater

Set in an old-timey medicine show, Mortem Capiendum manages to be strange and base and fun, all while putting forth an elusive undercurrent of intellectual confidence. The main charlatan is Professor Saint Miracle (Matt Spring), who launches himself at the audience with maniacal vigor, pulling audience plant Lloyd (Jason Ballweber) from the stands to demonstrate a blatantly phony cure. Things take a metaphysical turn with the onstage drowning and resurrection of dimwitted foil Eustis (Brant Miller), followed by plenty more carnage and a sideways meditation on the nature of the human soul. Rarely less than funny, you expect the show's momentum to stall when the medicine show goes off the rails. Instead, it pulls out more moods and tones with impressive, restless invention. Wed 8:30 p.m., Thu 7:00 p.m., Sat 10:00 p.m. U of M Rarig Center Thrust. —Quinton Skinner

My War: From Bismarck to Britain and Back

KLATCH PRODUCTIONS

Three longtime local storytellers bring to the stage three generations of women and their experiences with World War II: the grandmother, painstakingly detailing the domestic wartime experience in her diary; the widowed mother who related her observations as a Red Cross worker in her letters home; and the daughter who compiled their stories. The craft that has gone into creating the piece is evident; working with an incredible amount of firsthand material, the story had to be narrowed and focused with masterful precision. There's an intense sense of place and time and many laugh-out-loud moments in the midst of tragedy. Wed 8:30 p.m., Fri 10:00 p.m., Sun 1:00 p.m. Theatre de la Jeune Lune. —Ward Rubrecht

The Nosdrahcir Sisters

Sara and Kimberly Richardson

Sisters Kimberly and Sara Richardson construct what, at first, seems to be a series of unrelated vignettes based around superlatively daffy comic sensibilities: In one instance, they make a giddy epic out of pouring tea for each other. But sometimes a darker mood shows through, such as an unexpectedly pained and awkward phone call to the girls' mother. By the play's end, when the sisters duet on a thrift store synthesizer, singing about how small acts of kindness make them weepy, an unforced poignancy wells up, even though the song is as silly as anything in the show. Fri 10:00 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m. U of M Rarig Center Xperimental. —Max Sparber

One Night Only with Mike Mahoney

Perpetual Motion Theatre Company

Ah, now this is the Fringe—a play that features a has-been rocker tied to a chair by two of his biggest fans, illuminated in spots by a pair of flashlights. The folks at Perpetual Motion (the team behind the 2006 hit The Depth of the Ocean) craft an intriguing tale, one in which Mike Mahoney is forced to face the sad reality of his post-rock-star life and is given a quite literal jolt to snap him out of it. Part rock musical, part The King of Comedy, One Night Only with Mike Mahoney travels into dark places in a delightfully low-budget and low-key way. And the show's music (crafted by the cast) is a hoot to boot. Fri 8:30 p.m., Sat 2:30 p.m. U of M Rarig Center Arena. —Ed Huyck

The Pumpkin Pie Show

Horse Trade

Clay McLeod Chapman and Hanna Cheek, occupying an empty stage, randomly draw lots and take turns telling stories—which ensures that each show is different. Judging from the show I saw, it seems hard to go wrong. Chapman and Cheek match each other character for character, voice for voice, imparting narratives so compelling and frequently funny that it's a disappointment when they stop. The matinee I attended involved Cheek's story of a trapeze artist with teeth so strong that she'd "chewed through suitors like a box of chocolates." Chapman imparted a chilling narrative about a psycho war hero's sniper fantasies, then a sweet story about a female lifeguard at a childhood water park. The high energy in the room was nonstop. Fri 7:00 p.m., Sat 5:30 p.m. U of M Rarig Center Thrust. —Quinton Skinner

Reefer Madness: The Musical

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