Wednesday, August 8, 2012 at 9 a.m.
Rip at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage.
Photo courtesy Minnesota Fringe Festival
Fringe Day 5: Dust on the prairie
Fringe Days 2-4: 'We save the kindling for the Lutherans'
Fringe Day 1: The dark side of the font
Fringe Day 0: Let the games begin
Fringe Festival 2012: 165 shows packed into 15 days
Just as the Minnesota Fringe Festival means different things to the people who attend -- someone coming in for an evening or a weekend afternoon probably sees the festival in a far different light than someone who schedules a show in all 56 slots -- it means different things for the artists producing the shows as well.
Some are established voices who use the festival as a regular stop (lottery willing) on their yearly schedule. Others have an idea that doesn't fit in with their regular work, like a solo album by a long-suffering rock 'n' roll sideman. And there are young artists or nascent groups looking to craft something fresh, to the point where the pages may still be wet once it opens.
Then there are those who just want to do something different.
I can't look into the minds of the folks of Dovetail Theatre Company and their Rip
at the Minneapolis Theater Garage, but this modern retelling of the "Rip Van Winkle" story, with folksy and rocking musical interludes, and a guest appearance by Henry Hudson (of River and Bay fame) seems to be more about exploration than a cohesive theatrical whole. In fact, creators Kara Davidson and David Darrow pretty much admit that in their program notes.
And I love it for that. Rip fits into that "where else could we do something like this?" side of the Fringe Festival. Basically, our Rip is a young father and husband in 1950s America, bored out of his skull by his job and filled with a desire to explore the world. Just like in Irving's story, he takes a nap, and then wakes up decades later to discover that the world has completely changed. In this case, the change comes from a pair of affable stoners, who bullshit with the puzzled, now old, man before going on their way.
That's the plot, but it only takes up one part of the story. The songs are interspersed in the action and sometimes comment on what we've seen, or go off in stray directions as they mix traditional folk, bluesy tunes, and hard-charging rock. They can be about Hudson's final voyage (he's a kind of dream emissary for Rip's long nap) or a dog singing about the philosophy of Jean Jaques Rosseau.
Yes, I really did write that last sentence, and within it lie many of the charms of Rip. Sure, the drama and the music don't really intersect. But the loose piece feels like a rock concept album in process, just waiting for the final nuggets of inspiration, and the right Roger Dean album jacket.