Fringe Festival 2010 hits and misses
The Damn Audition
Writer-director Joseph Scrimshaw is as close to a brand name as any in the Fringe universe, and The Damn Audition will only add to his nefarious legend. A trio of actors show up in a Hollywood director's office to audition for the role of the Lord of Darkness in a projected sitcom called What's Up, Satan?—and that pretty much tells you what you need to know. Scrimshaw's script dispenses with the yuks at a blistering pace ("the fucking Nazis have ruined evil for everyone," for example), and he's working with a first-rate cast with absolutely killer comic timing. A major highlight. Wed 10 p.m., Sat 2:30 p.m., Sun 4 p.m. Rarig Center Thrust.
Joshua Brown and Kelly Elliott
Brown and Elliott perform the theatrical equivalent of eating the icing and throwing away the cupcake in a rapid-fire staging of scenes of murder, mayhem, and mutilation from the Shakespearean canon. And they don't scrimp on the gimmicks, showing a video game version of fights from Macbeth, dragging another scrap into a simulation of The Matrix, and riding a Henry IV-Star Wars-samurai movie mishmash as far as it will take them. The results are a good deal of goofy fun, and the duo toss in enough charm and humor to fill up the hour without matters becoming (with apologies) deadly. Thu 5:30 p.m., Sat 8:30 p.m., Sun 5:30 p.m. Ritz Theater Proscenium.
Ferrari McSpeedy Theatrical Productions
The concept of an ensemble comedy based on the world of high-school speech doesn't leap out as a can't-miss proposition, but in this case energy and humor win out.The scenario is the pressure cooker of a high-level competition (presumably all the more stress-inducing due to its complete irrelevance). Mike Fotis and Joe Bozic pull off a pared-down "Who's on First?" routine complete with preposterous and indeterminate European accents, and a lengthy persuasive argument in favor of teen alcoholism is so wrong that it's right. What a riotous window into a sad little world. Thu 5:30 p.m., Fri 10 p.m., Sat 7 p.m. Rarig Center Thrust.
Breaking Down in America
Devine's easygoing storytelling, abetted by photos and video, makes for an appealing tale of the American road. At loose ends, he bought a 1991 Cadillac Seville in L.A. for $500, then hit the interstate and let fate do its unpredictable thing. Along the way there were numerous mechanical troubles (who would have guessed?), run-ins with the law, and the characters one can only encounter when traveling with no particular purpose. Devine lays out the notion that our cars are "our biographers," probably knowing us better than many of our friends. It's this mix of knowing humor and streak of sentimentality that make his show such an appealing hour. Fri 7 p.m., Sat 8:30 p.m. Intermedia Arts.
Joking Apart Theater
It's a bit odd to observe that a straight-up character study with comedic elements is an outlier at the Fringe, but there we are. Edwin Strout and Jean Wolff are an estranged married couple meeting for lunch; the occasion is the marriage of their daughter. The waters are choppy, what with Strout's character having left England (and his family) for stardom as a writer-director in L.A., and Rachel Finch chips in as a waitress with an endless reserve of righteous rudeness. This is a tasteful, well-acted piece (written by Sarah Phelps) that leads us to a satisfyingly adult conclusion. Vampire puppets and frothing non sequiturs not included. Fri 8:30 p.m., Sat 10 p.m. Rarig Center Thrust.
Wisdom: Part I
Hogg's neat trick is to make his free associations come across as planned, and to deliver his scripted material with an aw-shit spontaneity. In the course of his allotted hour (you get the sense you could walk out, go home, eat, sleep, shower, come back, and he'd still he going) he touches on Highlander, the 2012 prophesy, Paul McCartney's "death," and a staggeringly funny riff on Heaven as a series of unsatisfying parties. Hogg is the sort of skeptic and cynic who can't quite conceal his love of life in all its grating stupidity, cascading associations, and flashes of hilarity. Thu 8:30 p.m., Sat 1 p.m. Rarig Center Thrust.
Theory of Mind
Mixed Blood Theatre
It seems like another unnecessarily stressed-out teenaged date night for Bill (Skyler Nowinski) when he picks up the lovely Hilo (Taj Ruler) for what he clearly thinks is a dream date at the Hollywood Bowl. Several things subsequently go awry, however, including a road kill episode and misplaced tickets. Bill seems to handle his travails with a particularly strange degree of tension, until we learn that he is on the Asperger's spectrum. Bill's eccentricities might be viewed as a disorder in less knowledgeable times, as Bill is quick to point out, and this "message" comedy delivers on its own merits as a solid work for the stage. Sat 1 p.m., Sun 4 p.m. Minneapolis Theatre Garage.
Creatures of Fancy
There are moments that require reflection and balanced, sober thought, and Batmama is entirely free of even one. Instead we have our titular bat (Teresa Mock), who arrives fully unhinged and, though a series of song and dance numbers interspersed with daft reminiscence, proceeds to leap off the cliff of reason and taste. Pianist Jimmy (James Lekatz) performs bound and gagged, apparently appalled at being part of the spectacle, and mommy/mummy Mumuseleh (Heather Bunch) lends a boozy and unsavory aspect to the evening. Featherweight, silly as shit, and quite fun. Thu 5:30 p.m., Sun 4 p.m. Intermedia Arts.
I Remember You
Jess Dunne and Connor Molloy offer this window into a keg party in which a few stories weave amid one another, but one is the primary focus: that of Donny (Jeff Spoo), who has been in a car accident and lost all of his memories dating back to the fourth grade. The charismatic Erica (Victoria Nightingale) hovers about him, while a parade of partiers enact any number of mini-dramas. We never get enough of a sense of Donny's predicament, though Spoo and Nightingale find a sweet rapport, and this cast of nine delivers some laughs and a series of able character sketches. Thu 10 p.m., Sat 7 p.m., Sun 2:30 p.m. Minneapolis Theatre Garage.
The Tiki War
Ervin's script tackles Chicago in the back room of a sleazy nightclub in 1961, complete with heroin, guns, booze, and Cuban intrigue. It's a case of good ideas and scattershot execution. Ray (Ervin) is a thorough bastard manipulating his milquetoast partner Stan (Jeremy Sutheim) in a vague competition with club owner Ruby (Sarah Switanowski). We've got the prerequisite dead body and simulated shooting up, but the plot twists fail to slither with enough torque, and when the characters drink vintage rum straight up, one's throat fails to burn in sympathy. Toss in a what-the-hell ending, and the deal remains unsealed. Thu 7:00 p.m., Sat 10 p.m. Jungle Theater.
Kathy Jensen is Pretty
Kathy Jensen wears a number of hats: Los Angeles actress, amateur pianist, Minnesota transplant. She generally opts not to wear a hat, or anything else for that matter, when she pursues another activity: nude modeling for art classes. In this predominantly one-woman show (kicked off by an ensemble dance number), Jensen plumbs the mystery of why the artists who render her find her so magnetic and beautiful. The problem is, she doesn't really dig into this mystery with any penetrating insight or distinctive humor. Jensen is indeed pretty, and has a germ of a compelling idea, but she doesn't help her cause with thin writing in this tepid and snail-paced work. Thu 7 p.m., Sat 2:30 p.m. Ritz Theater Proscenium.
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