A Guide to the 2008 Fringe Festival

Underpants, Shakespeare, and Giant Squirrels

Young Artists Council

A three-piece band and a cast of varying vocal abilities tackle this musical based on the 1936 cannabis-fright classic. The main story is of Jimmy and Mary, clean-cut high-school sweethearts—until Jimmy falls prey to the killer weed. Before long he's hanging out in a den of iniquity, fiending for joints and turning into a libidinous monster. The tunes aren't great, but this thing cruises along with goofball enthusiasm, and Jesus himself makes a brief cameo to (unsuccessfully) lobby for religion over recreational drugs. Wed 8:00 p.m., Thu 6:00 p.m., Sat 10:00 p.m. Bryant-Lake Bowl. —Quinton Skinner

Robin Hood the Musical!

Top Hat Theatre

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

You can take Robin Hood the Musical! a couple of ways. As a summer theater project for youth and adults, it's a great experience. For a random audience member who's not related to anyone in the cast? Not so much. The music (crafted by creators Pamela and Todd Russell) is pleasant enough, as are many of the performances. There are elements enough in here to make for a fun diversion, especially amid all the emotional darkness that populates the festival. Instead, the show drags along, dutifully filling out the hour running time instead of packing it with any pleasures. Wed 7:00 p.m., Sat 1:00 p.m., Sun 5:30 p.m. U of M Rarig Center Proscenium. —Ed Huyck

Shakespeare's Land of the Dead

Walking Shadow Theatre Company

It's opening night in 1599 at Shakespeare's newly reconstructed Globe Theatre, and backstage the biggest problem in the early going is the reappearance of Will Kemp (Craig Anderson), who has previously cheesed off the English language's greatest playwright (played here by John Heimbuch, who also penned the script) by hamming it up as Falstaff. There's a bit of intrigue involving Francis Bacon (Joseph Papke), but then we get to the real heart of the drama: the appearance of growling, flesh-eating zombies. If anything, the results are even better than they sound. Heimbuch's script is unerringly witty and unapologetically referential, and the performances are unabashedly crisp and fun. The undead are rarely so enjoyable. Wed 7:00 p.m., Sun 7:00 p.m. U of M Rarig Center Thrust. —Quinton Skinner

small aïda

Penelope Freeh

What does Johnny Cash have to do with Aida, the epic 19th-century opera by Giuseppe Verdi? More than you may think, at least in this scaled-down retelling by Freeh. Instead of a cast of hundreds, it's just the choreographer and Stephanie Fellner in the key roles. Verdi's drama mingles with Cash's lonesome soul, a few props add to the mix (alas, no elephants), and suddenly the love story spans centuries. Both performers thrive in this miniature milieu, injecting humor (and coffee beans) into a petite production with big ambitions. Thu 5:30 p.m., Fri 7:00 p.m., Sat 8:30 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m. Theatre de la Jeune Lune. —Caroline Palmer

The Fringe Facts

This is year 15 for the Minnesota Fringe, meaning as an institution it's almost old enough to get a driver's license. Putting aside the fact that institutions are intangible entities that can't possibly take the wheel of a motor vehicle, this is a good time to mention that the Fringe is very accessible to those traveling by foot, bicycle, or Metro Transit: The shows are grouped in the Minneapolis neighborhoods of Uptown, the West Bank, and Northeast. There are a whopping 156 shows this year, and the festival is set up both for those who prefer to dip their dainty toe and those who opt to plunge into the deep end and stay there. Everyone 12 years and older must buy a $3 Fringe admission button before purchasing any tickets (shades of Ticketmaster, but oh well). From there you can tailor your options. Single adult tickets run $12, kids under 12 get in for $5. Seniors, students, and MPR members pay $10. For $50 you can get a five-show punch card, which you can share with friends to enjoy the discount. A 10-show punch card goes for $90. And if you can't get enough, $150 will buy the Ultra Pass, which allows you into as many shows as you can manage. The box office for each show opens a half hour before curtain, seating begins 10 minutes before show time, and all seating is general admission. To make reservations call 651.209.6799, or hit the web at uptowntix.com. For updates, blogs, and general Fringe indulgence, check in through the week at fringefestival.org.

This year's closing night party is at First Avenue on Sunday night starting at 9:00 p.m. You can also check in at Fringe Central at Bedlam Theatre, starting at 4:00 p.m. weekdays and noon weekends—a great stop for beer, wine, soft drinks, food, and a community vibe.

  • Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St.
  • Interact Center, 212 3rd Ave. N. #140
  • Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S.
  • Lab Theater, 700 N. 1st St.
  • Minneapolis Theatre Garage, 711 Franklin Ave. W.
  • Mixed Blood Theatre, 1501 Fourth St. S.
  • The Playwrights' Center, 2301 E. Franklin Ave.
  • Ritz Theater, 345 13th Ave. NE
  • Southern Theater, 1420 Washington Ave. S.
  • Theatre de la Jeune Lune, 105 N. 1st St.
  • U of M Rarig Center, 330 S. 21st Ave.

Bring Your Own Venues:

  • Kieran's Irish Pub, 330 2nd Ave. S.
  • McMahon's Pub, 3001 E. Lake St.
  • Red Eye Theater, 15 W. 14th St.
  • The Soap Factory, 518 2nd St. SE
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