Yellow Tree's Fair Game is largely foul play

Vanessa Gamble, Tara Borman, and Bonni Allen.

Vanessa Gamble, Tara Borman, and Bonni Allen.

It's been 20 years since The Real World ushered in the American reality television explosion. Watching the first act of Fair Game at Yellow Tree Theatre, it doesn't appear that playwright Jeremiah Gamble has watched any of the untold hours produced since then.

In a vacuum, I applaud that kind of choice, except when you are creating a play designed to spoof reality-show contests. Fair Game doesn't do much with its concept, and the characters are largely cut outs representing different parts of the political and social spectrums. It does gain some energy deeper into the show when the characters' reality trumps the "reality" of their situation.

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[jump] Set over 12 days at the Minnesota State Fair, the play finds a mismatched quintet vying for a $50,000 prize. All they have to do is live together for nearly two weeks in a tiny ice-fishing shack, have their lives watched carefully on live webcams, and collect the most fair tickets to win.

We get a typical group of Minnesotans (and play characters): the stoic, conservative farmer; the liberal, middle-aged woman "exploring" Eastern religions; the do-gooding recent college grad you just want to slap. As we go along, there is plenty of personal friction between the folks, while they slowly reveal secrets about themselves that are pretty clearly telegraphed from the opening moments. 

The predictable plotting and less-than-sterling characters make the first act a real slog. It improves in the second act as we get deeper into the characters and the actors get a chance to stretch themselves beyond the basic sketches of their characters. 

Interestingly enough, two of these moments take place on the roof of the shack (technically, not "outside" the building). In the first, young turk Zander (Nathan Cousins) talks with hyperactive pop-wannabe Rea (Tara Borman) about their hopes, while encouraging her to let her own poetic voice come out. In the second, Zander is paired with a distraught farmer Eldon (Peter Simmons). While the two don't see eye to eye on anything, they are able to connect through their different heartbreaks.

These moments aside, the play has neither the depth to bring the five characters fully alive or the satiric (or even just comedic) bite to make all of the antics truly entertaining.


Fair Game
Through May 4
Yellow Tree Theatre

320 Fifth Ave. SE., Osseo

For tickets and more information, call 763.493.8733 or visit online.