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Fringe Festival 2015: Well, I care

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The final weekend of the 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival is upon us. You have just a few more days to check out one (or more) of the 174 shows scattered around Minneapolis. 

Along with the scheduled performances, each theater will host an encore performance of the top-selling show at 8:30 p.m. Sunday. The winners will be announced Saturday night at Fringe Central, which is just another good reason to head to the Red Stag Supperclub and hang out with exhausted theater folks.

Speaking of exhaustion, here are a couple more shows of note I caught this week. As always, there are a host more that, either due to scheduling or just sheer exhaustion, I couldn't make that sounded intriguing. That's just another reality of the Fringe.

PARIAH, or the Outcast

August Stindberg is never easy, even when it comes in a bite-sized portion like Teatro de Bexiga's modern retelling. Two nameless (well, Mr. X and Mr. Y) bureaucrats share an office, working on meaningless paperwork while collecting more money than they will ever earn in a lifetime.

Both harbor secrets that are unmasked during the play's 40-minute battle of wits. Both have committed crimes in the past. Both have different levels of guilt about it. Both want to use the information to get a leg up on their opponent. Stindberg created a hothouse sort of situation, and the two actors build on that beautifully. The "winner" shifts constantly from beginning to end, and it shows in their respective performances.

<i>PARIAH, or the Outcast</i>

PARIAH, or the Outcast

The duo, Adam Houghton and George Dornbach, play their emotions close to the vest. This draws us in more than any amount of shouting and yelling ever could. Neither character is one anyone would likely want to spend much time with, but the performances make for riveting theater from beginning to end.

Too Punk to Care

Apparently, the young cast of Too Punk to Care has access to secret tapes of my high school-era band's (Rank Amateurs represent!) "rehearsals," where we mainly just played loud guitar chords and pounded on anything available in my parents' basement. Or maybe that kind of noise-making is universal for anyone who identifies as a punk.

The youthful creators (produced under the aegis of Theatre Novi Most) offer up a piece that feels as much a collection of sketches as a unified piece of theater. There's a bit of a plot line, as a bunch of punk rockers decide to take the next step and form a band. They rehearse for months, have some inner conflict, and finally give their first (and last) performance.

Plenty of humor is mined out of punk's often mindless rebellion, such as an early scene where at attempt is made to light a "no fires" sign. The punk's lighter won't ignite, no matter how hard he tries. In the end, his rebellion is a bit off point, but we still can appreciate the effort.

Considering that many in the cast were probably very young when Green Day came along and dragged this genre into the American mainstream, they show why this style still matters. It can be in the way punk can make fun of itself (like when the ensemble tries to force themselves into their oh-so-tight jeans), or is often reflective (such as when they try to figure out what "punk" means, with no more success than anyone else from the past 40 years), or it just offers up brilliant moments of honest, angry music, as in the show's finale.

The 2015 Minnesota Fringe Festival continues through Sunday.