I played video games as a kid. My era was the golden age of the arcades and spending hours in front of the giant pixels on the Artari 2600. By the time high school rolled along, the 2600 was dead, I didn't own a computer, and the NES was still a couple of years away. So video gaming dropped off my radar for a couple of decades until the Playstation 2 era.
Which is a long way of saying that Oregon Trail is an undiscovered country for me. I've heard of the game, and know a little about it (it was educational and the party died a lot along the way), but had never spent a second in its popular, Minnesota-developed (I had to look that fact up) game.
Anyway, serendipity led me to Mixed Blood for Oregon Trail: A Musical, the latest in a proud tradition of youthful cultural artifacts turned into entertaining Fringe shows. I'm guessing by the reaction of the crowd that there were plenty of jokes that went right over my head, but the piece is entertaining with lots of engaging performances and tunes to carry the day.
At the start, a group of pioneers (including the "player" character, ASDLJFK) leave Independence on the 2,000 mile journey to Oregon. They are a varied lot with varied dreams. Trouble strikes just a couple of miles outside of town, and haunts them for the rest of the journey, from broken wagon wheels and limbs to a party reject, Joe, who torments them along the way. There are fights, outbreaks of various diseases, and plenty of songs along the way.
The show, created by Kyle DeGoey and Travis Carpenter, has a good snappy pace and the company of actors is ready for anything that is tossed at them, even if it is shooting a cute stuffed squirrel.
Tim Uren is no stranger to the Minnesota Fringe Festival, or to horror stories. The first Fringe show of his I saw was The Rats in the Walls, a freaky one-man version of H.P. Lovecraft's story of the same name.
Here, we get a tale of chance encounters and supernatural horror amid the hustle and bustle of modern-day London. At the top, we meet Dyson and Salisbury, two former lovers who have a chance encounter five years after their breakup. The straight-laced Salisbury doesn't want to get entangled again with the more free-loving Dyson, but finds himself drawn into the man's story.
Over dinner and then a few days later at Dyson's flat, a tale unfolds. It's about a man, Dr. Black, and his wife, who just may be the incarnation of evil. It's the kind of story where you don't want to give away too many details, but it ends with a double cross and the lingering thought that it could be true, or all just a product of Dyson's crazed imagination.
The solid company is led by Tristan Miller as Dyson and Matthew Saxe as Salisbury. The pair bring out the loss and divide that exists between two men who once cared deeply for each other. Boo Segersin and creator Uren play several characters, including the possibly demonic wife and the broken-down Doctor. It's a haunting show in the way a good ghost story stays with you long past the initial hearing.