One Is Not the Loneliest Number

Zach Anderson in Animals

November's crept up on us, and for the good people at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, that means it's time for that third annual orgy of solipsism, the Festival of One-Person Shows. This year 10 foolhardy folk (down from 17 last year) will take the stage and wax monomaniacal about whatever they so choose.

As always, the festival will showcase an unusually high incidence of multiple personality disorder, as actors portray numerous characters with no concern for their age, nationality, or state of matter. Performer Edgar Davis tops the list, playing roughly 17 distinct characters (one more than Sybil!). Laura Respess and Brent Roske, remarkably, will play one character each through their shows. Please, people: You call that acting? At the very least, these shows promise to intrigue in one way or another. Nearly all are comical; even those actors who promise to delve into tragedy and spiritual self-renewal are quick to claim that we'll laugh.

Of course, the problem with these festivals is that the shows start to blur together after a while. So as a service to our readers, we have presented this Clip 'n' Save guide to the festival. Go prepared--and be brave. (All shows play at the Bryant-Lake Bowl; 825-8949.)

Infinite Jest

The show: Zach Anderson in Animals

Cliff's Notes: The Comedy Sportz "actlete" goes solo with this series of monologues about a group of characters all joined by their pathological fascination with the inane. An Eagan mayor finds his "vision thing" when he begins a crusade to stop the closing of his favorite hamburger shop. An octogenarian suspects his neighbor of stealing his toilet paper. As the actor explains it, "All of them are a few yards short of the goal line."

Dramatis Personae: Six nutcases, including, rather incredibly, The Universe.

No, Mom, you wouldn't like it: Anderson will remove a piece of his costume with each character.

Astronomy 101: Anderson says, "Every time I play The Universe, I expand."

Astrology 101: The Universe makes an appearance, says Anderson, to assure the audience that "A show is going to take place. Nothing is going to go awry. The Universe is still in control. Without the Universe in control, there would be anarchy. And we wouldn't want that."

Theosophy 101: The Universe, in turn, says, "I hope you enjoy the ride, you little spinning monkeys."

Being there: Animals plays Wed. Nov. 4 and 11 at 7 p.m.; Tues. Nov. 24 at 9:30 p.m.

Turning Japanese

The show: Edgar Davis in Island of Mirrors

Cliff's Notes: Davis tells of the year he spent teaching English at an all-female school in Japan. The effect is rather like that of sitting down with a friend and asking him how his year abroad was. In this case: Strange. It took awhile for the sailor-suited girls to get used to the broad-shouldered African-American man who didn't speak a lick of Japanese. This is the third time the utterly endearing Davis has performed this show at BLB.

Dramatis Personae: Seventeen characters, including a gaggle of giggling Japanese girls.

Going for the Gap endorsement: Davis will wear "a pale pink dress shirt, floral tie, green slacks, and shiny black shoes."

Going for the travel agent endorsement: Davis says, "I want the show to make people long for places that they've never been before. I want to kindle in them a curiosity about Japan and an urge to travel."

Back in the Land of 10,000 Lakes: As the show ends, Davis looks at the moon and wonders, "Is there really such a place where little brown-skinned girls romp at Nazi picnics and Christmas songs play all year round? Where magic rain wins soccer games and tall athletic girls in red can predict the weather?"

Being There: Island of Mirrors plays Sat. Nov. 7 and 14 at 7 p.m.; Mon. Nov. 16 at 9:30; and Sun. Nov. 22 at 3 p.m..

What He Really, Really Wants

The show: Dane Stauffer in Spice Boy!

Cliff's Notes: With the help of a six-piece band, the Festival's headliner reprises last year's show about a boy who wants to sing in a girl group. The Dane Stauffer Experience shows us, as he says, a life "filtered through the pop experience," a "celebration of three-chord fabulousness" with an extra-bonus country-Western nightmare, and a short film, "Spy Girl."

Dramatis Personae: Three characters, including Erykah Badu.

Call La Leche League: Stauffer claims that his mother's filling received an Arkansas radio signal allowing pop music to seep into her breast milk.

Has the Pentagon been informed?: Stauffer promises some unusual props, including a fingernail-polish grenade and an exploding shoe.

Wannabe?: "It doesn't have a thing to do with the Spice Girls," Stauffer says. "I was just trying to latch on to their popularity to sell my show."  

Your favorite line: As Badu ("Well, kind of Dane Badu"), Stauffer will sing, "I did not want to be a girl/No confusion to confess/But still somehow my inner diva/Longed to be expressed."

Being there: Thurs. Nov. 19 at 7 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. Nov. 20, 21, 27, and 28 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m; Wed. Nov. 25 at 7 p.m.

Digging in the Dirt

The show: Laura Respess in Out of the Dust

Cliff's Notes: Mary Worth Theater Company casts shiny girl-next-door Respess as Billie Jo, the 14-year-old narrator of Karen Hesse's Newbery Award-winning book. Young Billie Jo lives deep in the depression-era dust bowl, and while she endures all kinds of crap, she still can manage a little zest, writing her diary in free-verse poetry.

Dramatis Personae: Billie Jo. That's it.

Is UPS back on strike?: Director Joel Sass promises the props will include a mason jar filled with gen-u-ine dirt from Oklahoma--if it arrives on time.

I feel the earth move under my feet: Sass explains, "In the course of the text, these characters turn into the land they're living on." That is, both character and land are dry and unforgiving.

Don't look back--something might be gaining on you: After Billie Jo's mother dies, she tells us, "Such a sorrow doesn't come suddenly. There are a thousand steps to take before you get there. But now sorrow climbs up our front steps big as Texas, and we didn't see it coming, even though it had been making its way straight for us all along."

Being there: Sat. Nov. 7 and 14 at 9:30 p.m.; Tues. 24 at 7 p.m.

You Want Fries with That?

The show: Colleen Kruse in Food Chain

Cliff's Notes: The local comic's dish-and-tell on the restaurant biz. Kruse has been a comic and a storyteller for 10 years, but has spent 13 years as a service professional. The only restaurant gig she'll identify by name is the night shift at Mickey's diner. She hopes co-workers at other jobs won't come.

Dramatis Personae: Kruse mostly plays her storytelling self, though she plans to include some bread ladies ("We'll just have the soup. And another basket of bread, please?") and character studies of other real-life restaurant regulars. (Perhaps she'll play you.)

You can't afford a costume-drama on tips: Kruse counts as her props: "Monologue. Voice. Posture. And a chair."

Potential employers, read this: Despite the occasional frustration, real-life Kruse assures us, "I love waitressing. It's transient. The cast changes every time. It's got the promise that something new will happen each day."

Potential customers, read this: Kruse's moral of the story, "The meek might not inherit the earth, but they have access to your food."

Being there: Thurs. 5 and 12; Fri. 6 and 13 at 9:30 p.m.

Next Time Try NyQuil

The show: Amanda Clower in Fridge Strings: Nocturne with Fruit and Grandmother

Cliff's Notes: Sell the Cow Theater brings Chicago denizen Clower and her much-praised show to the BLB. A late-night refriger-raid sparks a multigenerational meditation on the balance between family and self.

Dramatis Personae: A woman, her mother, and her grandmother.

9-1/2 Weeks revisited?: Props and costumes will include a nightgown, Hershey's Syrup, milk, and baby carrots.

Would you like to see my ovum?: Clower says, "A number of people have left the show saying they never will look at an egg the same way again."

America loves a Wonderbra: Mother sighs, "My breasts are falling. I'll go to Europe. Old people are revered over there."

Being there: Mon. Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.; Tues. 17 at 7 and 9:30 p.m.

When Smart French Symbolist Poets Make Foolish Choices

The Show: Charle Rollings in A Season in Hell

Cliff's Notes: A young Arthur Rimbaud fell in love with an older man. The man was abusive; Rimbaud was tormented. Like all young lovers in pain, he wrote some poems, and some letters--except his were actually good. Thus, this one-person show by BLB vet Charle Rollings.

Dramatis Personae: Three characters, including Rimbaud's mother and his lover. (Those are two different people. This is France, not ancient Greece.)

After 10,000 performances, who needs a set?: Rollings says, the production elements will "really be timeless. And sparse. Timeless but sparse."

Did Rimbaud suffer codependency?: "These things are so easily pushed aside," Rollings says. "People say, 'He's bad for you; you should leave him.' And the response is, 'Yeah, but I love him.'"

Arthur Rimbaud for Calvin Klein: Rollings's favorite passage: "It's found again."/ "What?"/"Eternity."  

Being there: Fri. Nov. 6 and 13 at 7 p.m; Thurs. Nov. 19 at 9:30 p.m; and Mon. Nov. 23 at 7 p.m.

On the Road Again

The show: Brent Roske in Like a River

Cliff's Notes: After being left by his wife, a man trades everything he owns for a motorcycle and rides off to California to find her. The singer-songwriter, predictably, drops a few ditties about love, love lost, and the lore of the road.

Dramatis Personae: One folk singer (and a dream).

Timeless, but sparse, redux: The mise-en-scène includes jeans, boots, T-shirt, and a guitar.

What comes before laughter and rain...: Roske says he hopes the audience comes away with a sense that "Life goes in revolutions, and ultimately it is our perception and understanding of events which create joy and pain."

Did Rod McKuen write this show?: "No matter what, life would move forward--like travelers through a storm, like a ship at a river."

Being there: Mon. Nov. 9 and Tues. Nov. 10 at 7 p.m.

Rolling Stones

The show: John Troyer in SissY

Cliff's Notes: Intellectual guerrilla performance artist Troyer explores his inner Camus in this sci-fi take on existentialism. A snafu at the time-travel bureau CHRON sends Sisyphus to the modern office where he makes rubber-band balls and counts binder clips. CHRON is not pleased.

Dramatis Personae: Nine, including a disillusioned assassin called The Inhabitant, a bullhorned-helmet-wearing MEMO-READER, and renegade performance artist/deviant Maestro Zany.

Better than a yam up the butt: Maestro Zany staples a piece of paper emblazoned with the word "WHY?" to his chest.

No exit: Troyer says, "Sisyphus in the office with all the futile and hopeless labor is the classic modernization of what it would be like to be stuck in hell."

B-Movie dialogue: When CHRON realizes Sisyphus has been sent forward in time, the bureaucratic magistrate from CENTRAL CONTROL announces, "We have a major interdimensional situation on our hands."

Being there: Thurs. Nov. 5 and 12 at 7 p.m.; Mon. Nov. 23 at 9:30 p.m.

I'm Mad as Hell, and I'm Not Going to Take It Anymore

The show: Gus Lynch in Pounding Nails into the Floor with My Forehead

Cliff's Notes: Recent Twin Cities newcomer Lynch reprises his Fringe entry, the newest play by monologist and Talk Radio creator Eric Bogosian. In a series of seven monologues about ridiculous men and the ridiculous things they do, Bogosian informs his audience just what the hell's wrong with them. Sit back the fuck down!

Dramatis Personae: Seven, including an African-American urban homeless man, a plastic suburban businessman, and a member of a self-help group for recovering males trying to work out his shame about having a penis.

Perhaps you could share with Mr. Roske?: Lynch wearing jeans and a white T-shirt. Props include a glass of water and a beer bottle--both of which should be rather easy to find in a bar-cum-bowling-alley.

Waking up again from the usual nightmare that is the American dream: Lynch says, "Bogosian seems pretty upset with white middle-class America and makes every attempt to lampoon them."

Fundamentally, it comes back to the penis: Lynch says, "Bogosian gives such a gift to the actor, the opportunity to do a script as high-energy and as quick-change as [Pounding Nails]. It's like this huge purging of everything that's in your head. You don't have to be soft for an hour; you can be hard."

Fortunately, ours is a phallo-friendly universe: In the introductory monologue, Lynch exclaims, "I am a cosmic comet hurtling through space spewing my essence wherever I go."

Being there: Tues. Nov. 10 and Mon. Nov. 30 at 9:30 p.m.

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