Fringe day 2: My ukelele of righteous mirth

​My schedule found me back at the Rarig Center for the second day of the Minnesota Fringe Festival. Specifically, for four shows in the Thrust, which meant a lot of waiting in the ticket line, followed by the admission line. The shows all had good houses, so there was a lot of standing, but good conversations were had and the evening was pleasant.

So, onto the shows

This is my smart-ass alarm.

Joshua Scrimshaw and Levi Weinhagen, the men behind Comedy Suitcase, take us on a trip through familiar fairy tales with the able help of Shanan Custer, Eric Webster, and Andrew Moy. The key conceit is that these tales are being told via the stylings of 20th-century comics. So Hansel and Gretel gets the Laurel and Hardy treatment, while Sleeping Beauty turns into an epic silent-film comedy.

It's interesting to see which comedy styles have endured the tests of time. Laurel and Hardy certainly, I Love Lucy not as much. The script, which ties these stories together via a family dealing (or not) with the death of their comedy-loving grandpa, moves the story along, and even adds a bit of humanity to all of the mirth.

Form of 'a comedy Fringe show.'

The other Scrimshaw teams up with two of the best performers in the Twin Cities for his latest Fringe effort. The idea of a world where people can transform into other objects is a great one. The story itself is a bit thin, but the remarkable skills of the trio, and Joseph Scrimshaw's very funny script, move it along so quickly you really don't care. Scrimshaw (playing Tool, just a character, not the pretentious post-rock band) is joined by Mo Perry (Baggage) and Randy Reyes (Cupcake). Together, they share the story of their home world, where Tool transforms from a loser photocopy shop worker into the ruler of the world, depositing all of his enemies on "Jerk Island," including Baggage. Cupcake enters the story, on his own hero's journey, and the lives of the three characters eventually intersect.

The real draw here is watching the three fully transformed by their imaginations, be it something relatively straightforward like a cat, bird, or T-rex, or something a bit tougher, like an handheld electric mixer. Scrimshaw's script is loaded, as always, with plenty of clever asides and pointed commentary on the action, including my favorite line so far of the festival: "You are like two greedy customers at an all-you-can-lie buffet."

Robot Lincoln: The Revengeance (The Musical)
A touching love song between mad scientist and robot.

It's a cardboard-tech steampunk musical from these travelers from Mankato, but that description makes the show sound more interesting than it really is. It feels mainly like a Brave-New-Workshop-style comedy sketch stretched out and out to fill 50 minutes, though there are some moments of inspired insanity to lighten the load. The story imagines a 19th-century full of robots, resurrected presidents (including many from the future -- so there's time travel too, I guess), and a mad John Wilkes Booth dreaming of inventing the internet a century early. It's more of an "...and this happened" kind of story than any sort of integrated plot, which wears out its welcome long before the show grinds to a halt. There are inspired moments -- the battle-tank encased robo-FDR, for example -- but it never goes far enough to be as mad as the scientists here want to be.

+1 dagger of snarkiness.

I'll admit that I was getting pretty loopy by this point in the evening, but this Theatre Arlo piece certainly hit a personal sweet spot, combining one of my favorite bits of the Bard with a spot-on parody of video games, especially quest-happy MMORPGs like World of Warcraft. We follow a neophyte player (Tim Uren) who somehow manages to embark on a rare quest to become the King of Scotland. His real-world wife (Dawn Krosnowski) partners with him (after looting his dead corpse, naturally) to get in on the fun. From sidequests full of killer squirrels to a curse that gives Lady Macbeth constantly bloody hands (she thinks it is so cool), this is a piece for anyone who has spent hours of their lives grinding away to get to the cool boss at the end of the quest.

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