Max Wojtanowicz and Cat Brindisi.
Photo by Lauren B. Photography
Last year, longtime friends Max Wojtanowicz and Sheena Janson got together with composer Michael Gruber to put together a little musical for the Minnesota Fringe Festival about the relationship between a gay man and a straight woman.
Fruit Fly: The Musical was one of the major successes of the 2012 edition of the Fringe. A revised version of the show will be presented this week as part of Illusion Theater's Fresh Ink series under the direction of Peter Rothstein.
"I saw it at the Fringe last year and thought it was funny and charming. It was taking this stereotype of the 'fag hag' and turning it on its head," Rothstein says. "At the Fringe it was a 55-minute deal. I had two thoughts: could it be expanded to be a full evening, and would it have a life outside of its two originators?"
The Fresh Ink production puts both of those questions to the test, as it features an expanded, two-act version of the show and includes actor Cat Brindisi in place of co-creator Janson, who wasn't available to perform in this week's revival.
"It's funny, Cat and I just got together and watched the archive of last year's show," Wojtanowicz says. "It's funny how similar it feels to the original, but so so different with someone who is playing Sheena as a character."
The show examines the lives that the characters Max and Sheena have lived to this point and "where we could be in the future. Now that we have lived that conflict [onstage] I don't think it will ever happen," Wojtanowicz says.
Aiding Brindisi in her role is that "Sheena and I are extremely close friends. I've known her for three years. I know her sense of humor and know her and Max's relationship. There are so many lines specifically written in the banter that Max and Sheena always have. It has been fun getting to play your friend," she says.
It's important not to copy the original performance. "The point of this workshop is to create something that will be used in the future," Brindisi says.
The musical delves deeply into the tight relationship between Max and Sheena. "The idea is that this kind of relationship exists everywhere, but it is very often in popular culture tossed aside, marginalized or minimized," Wojtanowicz says. "Romantic relationship or not, those bonds are very strong.
Part of the Fresh Ink experience is to see how the show is working in its current form. "Hopefully the message is clearer," Wojtanowicz says.
The change in the political landscape is not lost on the group. Last year at the Fringe, the battle over the marriage amendment was hot and heavy. In a couple of weeks, same-sex couples in Minnesota will have the right to marry.
All of this helps to redefine the relationships people have with each other, Rothstein notes.
Wojtanowicz agrees. "The world is wider than that. The world is better if it doesn't just divide itself into pairs. That community makes us stronger," he says.
Fruit Fly: The Musical
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday
Cowles Center for Dance and the Performing Arts, 8th Floor
528 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
For tickets and more information, call 612.339.4944 or visit online.