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Minnesota Fringe Festival

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Show reviews by Joshua Humphrey

June of Arc
Brilliant by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
I was transfixed throughout this entire show. I'd talked with Sandbox Theatre before about how they were going to approach it, and I still managed to be surprised at the concepts, the acting and the stylistic expression. This was an incredible piece of theatre and performances, striking, piercing and sharp, were infinitely compelling. We may begin the perfect world of the Cleavers, but we thoroughly end in the midst of 1950s cultural detritus the actors chisel away relentlessly. The centerpiece here though is Heather Stone, who's every movement and expression is calculated to utmost perfection. I dug it and I think you will too. Some of the other reviewers say they didn't "get it." Don't try to get it, but live in it, and you'll enjoy it to the hilt. On of my favorites so far of the Fringe.

The Comedy Hypnosis Show
Great Time by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
The Comedy Hypnosis Show was just what I needed after performing in my own show. I'd never been hypnotized before, but I went into wanting to have the experience and it was one of the most unique times I've had at the Fringe so far. Go, have a blast and if you have the guts, let yourself relax and believe that you too can be hypnotized.

Monster
Engaging by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
This was my first show of the fringe, and after 15 or so shows, it\\\'s still in the top five. Kehoe doesn\\\'t waste a moment with this acting tour de force. He was undoubtably aided with the keen eye of director Natalie Novacek: each character (15) is made memorable by little twists and subtleties, and it\\\'s never dull to watch Kehoe effortlessly shift between them. There are a multitude of solo performers out in fringe proper of varying tones and subject matter. If you want darkly funny with a engaging performer, this is the show to see.

Bard Fiction
Across the Board Great by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
Writing, direction, acting, music, tech and design in this production were all top-notch. The adaptation, though I felt would lose something going from a 2 hour plus movie to a 1-hour fringe show, was easily followable and spot-on in execution. This was aided greatly be the direction, which allowed Bard Fiction to flow easily and quickly from scene to scene without so much as a bump. The producers of Tedious Brief certainly had a blast putting this together, and watching it all come together is a joy and a rolling time. There may be some who will say that Pulp Fiction is required watching for the enjoyment of Bard Fiction--and they're right, you will get more from seeing the moving going into this play--but from those few souls that haven't seen the movie but saw Bard Fiction, it was still a good time, and the love of the material is evident and infectious. One of the shows with the strongest buzz of this year's fringe, it's well-earned buzz.

Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter
Thrumming by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
Clocking in at about 40 minutes, there is not a moment wasted. Acting, direction and set are superb and even the silences carry heavy meaning, always with the threat of a match lighting the powder keg. Ariel Pinkerton and Erik Hoover give stellar performances, their most minute movements throbbing with meaning. I loved watching both performers, even when they were still, perhaps even because they were still. There was a thrum below their interaction and inaction with each other that vibrated a cord in my chest from beginning to end. Endlessly engaging. If you're put off by Pinter, don't be. Just sit absorb this thought-provoking theatre from one of the masters of the form. It's fully realized and doesn't make a single misstep.

The Actor's Nightmare
Bravo! by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
I really enjoyed watching Jeffery Goodson portray George, and I think that is reason enough to see this production. He embodies the role with a manic verve that I particularly enjoyed. Director Carney Gray keeps Jeffery and the rest of the splendid cast clipping along without so much as a bump. A well-produced, slick production of the Durang staple.

Squawk
The Perfect Amount of Penguin by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
I have not seen a bad Walking Shadow production. I've probably just jinxed them, but SQUAWK! continues their streak in fine form. I think it would have been easy for this production to have the penguin puppet onstage the entire time. And, granted, this is assuredly "the penguin show" of this years fringe. However, the penguin wisely comes and goes and there are periods with just humans onstage. You get "penguin breaks" and when he comes back on, your immediate reaction is akin to "Yay! The penguin's back!" Loved the show.

Strong
Wanting More by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
I didn't want this show to end; it felt as if I was taking a long draught of cool water from a stream and I didn't want to stop. From beginning to end I wanted more: the tight writing, the driven, nuanced performances--everything, with one proviso, was perfect. There are some lengthy transitions that take me right out of the experience and place me back square in my seat. I didn't appreciate that; these worlds were so clearly defined that I hated being taken out of the moment. That said, on the writing and performances alone, this is worth 5 kitties. There is so much packed into these two pieces, I was never bored, always riveted and hungering for more.

AfterLife
Seamless by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
This stellar show is funny, heart-breaking, frenetic and worth the price of admission. Candy Simmons fully embodies each of the three women from different American eras: as we progress from early 1900s Appalachia to modern day New York, the karmic residue of each era snowballs into the next, until the final character is a high-strung mess, and we have certain clues to help us determine the why of the matter. An aspect of the production I found provoking afterwards was that this karmic dissonance--if we are considering that these characters are connected through karma and reincarnation--is that it began with Ruth's--the Appalachian midwife--inability to have children. Her distress at not being a mother is poignant and a little sad, but also becomes unreasonable when we see and the lengths to which it takes her. That baggage seems to carry forward into Marion's life; while Marion has children, she confesses that she needs more to occupy her time. Yet when she tries to branch out she's rebuffed, which I was led to believe triggered further repression. By the time we get to Karma, she's a mess of a woman who hasn't got what she wanted out of the two previous lifetimes and is desperately trying to hold it all together. When she comes to a realization instigated by either apparitions or visitors from a different spiritual plane, something flips inside her. This is a fascinating journey that's given me a lot to think on. Thanks for the gift of the show!

The William Williams Effect
Minnesotan! by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
This was the kind of show I'd like to see more of in next year's festival: distinctly Minnesotan, based in historical fact and an original work. Like some other reviewers have stated, it could be longer to further explore the characters and flesh out some relationships, but not much longer: 20-30 minutes would be ideal. Kudos to all the performers, particularly Kevin Singer. There wasn't a weak link in this entire production, and the perfect casts carries it off without missing a beat.

The Morning After the Summer of Love
What a Way To Finish by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
This was the final show I saw for the fringe and it was totally deserving of it's encore slot. Poignant, moving and lyrical, I couldn't have chosen a better show to sooth my fringe ills. Lovely folks, hope to see them again in someplace, somewhen.

casebolt and smith: Speaking Out!
Wonderful by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
I loved watching Casebolt and Smith. If they're ever in town again, I will be in the audience. Their relationship, their movement and dialogue is endlessly engaging. They make me sublimely jealous about what they can accomplish with their bodies while moving through space. Beautiful. Would see again without hesitation.

The Harty Boys in The Case of the Limping Platypus
The Best Platypus Play in Fringe! by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
I hear there's also a cow suit somewhere in the fringe, but you can't go wrong with a Platypus outfit! An enthusiastic production that never leaves the audience wanting as we're rushed from Minnehaha Falls to the Minneapolis Institute of Art at dizzying pace that brings us, inevitably, right back to where we started. The energy is focused and there's nary a misstep in the entire show. What a ride.

Jurassic Dork
Hold Onto Your Butts! by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
As a fan of Jurassic Park and the rifftrax send-up, Skelley adds his own personal touch to parodying and honoring the 1993 movie that played a large part in my adolescence. One of my favorites of the fringe.

Winnemucca (three days in the belly)
Amazing by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
I went on recommendation from Matthew Everett's review. He gave it 5 stars, and expressed his jealously of having not written it himself. The script, the acting, the direction and cast are so perfect as to make me see their show again on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to see it again. Winnemucca is about the purest form of theatre I've seen through the Fringe Festival and it came out of nowhere and grabbed me by the cajones and wouldn't let go. See this show before it's gone. There's only one left on Wednesday at 7. Need to hear that again? Wednesday at 7. Go. SEE THIS SHOW.

The Vegas Project (#1)
Great Vibe by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 5 kitties
I really enjoyed this show: Maythinee was an incredibly engaging performer. She slips into her four characters with such familiarity it truly feels as if she's sharing their skin. You can feel them as physical presences onstage, and each of them have a unique view of Las Vegas that make this production very compelling. The Q and A session at the middle and end of the show allow Maythinee to address particular questions audience members may have about Vegas. As a Las Vegas local, she answers everything with full answers and her love for the city really shines through. Dispelling misconceptions of the city would appear to be Maythinee's objective--and who doesn't have their own, specific idea of what Las Vegas is? She gives her perception of the city as a local, and that has changed how I'll look at the city now and in the future.

Silent Poetry 2
Strong Show by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 4 kitties
I found "The Chase," "My Fair Corpse" and the segment where the mime continuously escalates his violent miming the most enjoyable pieces. This was a very endearing surprise in the midst of my fringe going, and I would see work by Kirsten Stephens and Dean Hatton again. Very enjoyable, and gave me a deeper, more appreciative opinion of mime and physical work.

Livelihood
Go for it, Samurais! by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 4 kitties
First, I think there should be a round of applause for Urban Samurai and how fast they got this show up off the ground. They had 10 rehearsals before their debut on Thursday night, and I was impressed with the the production all around. Nate and Matt had incredibly compelling performances. I do think the production could have been a little tighter, but that's something that more rehearsals would have fixed. I can only see this show getting better as its fringe run continues. Kudos to the people at Urban Sam for pulling this off so quickly with strong production values and style.

Foolproof
Acidic (in a good way!) by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 4 kitties
This is a good, all-around production. Lisa Bol, Mark Benzel and Anthony Rydberg are all engaging personalities playing somewhat broken characters, and the ins-and-outs of the dialogue as characters lie, cover-up and rationalize is the strongest aspect of the show. I don't need likable characters to identify with them. However, I'd like to see a slight reworking of this show sometime in the future with that last proviso in mind, because I think it could be made even stronger and more acerbic (to the audiences enjoyment). If anything, I wanted these characters to be MORE evasive and off-putting: the relationship territory they're working through has a multitude of land mines that could blow at any second, and to see them dodge and wriggle out of every question and answer has made me excited to see what The Aspect Lab offers in the future. One of the reviewers mentioned seeing the "twist" coming from a mile away. You will too, if you watch Mark Benzel close enough during one or two segments, and just like the script says, it's written all over his face.

This Show Will Change Your Life!
I feel the change! by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 4 kitties
Great show, I had a lot of fun. Mann and Jorgenson are quick-witted and pick up on whatever the audience puts out. I didn't know what to expect going into it, but I was pleasantly surprised and engaged the entire time. And I got a free pencil!

Best Little Crackhouse in Philly (...or Crackwhore: The Musical!)
Surprise! by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 4 kitties
I didn't know what to expect going into this, but I had a splendid time none-the-less. I went randomly by following the hunch of another fringer and it paid off in spades. There's little about the show that I didn't like and wouldn't mind seeing an expanded version. The only weak portion as far as I could see was one or two voices were weaker, but altogether the show was a great time.

The Curse of Yig
Slowburn by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 4 kitties
I saw 'Jurassic Dork' before 'The Curse of Yig', and it was like taking a jump off a cliff. They were two very different shows, and it was difficult to go from one to another. As other reviewers have said, those first 5-10 minutes are the hardest as you adjust to the very different performance sensibilities presented, but from then on you're absorbed and the play builds with tense moment after tense moment.

The Return of LICK!
Licktastic! by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 4 kitties
From the reference of evil ex-fringe executive director Leah Cooper to the remains of their former LICK!mate dribbling onto the floor, the show never stops with the over-the-top sexiness. I'm already pre-gasming for next year's "The Return of the Return of LICK!"

The Problem of the Body: Why is our society ashamed of bodily urges?
Meet the Prof by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 4 kitties
On it's own merits, this is a fascinating lecture. The presentation of the material and slides kept me engaged for the entirety of the hour, and I can't say I was bored at any point--who can, when they check their repressions at the door? There are a few shows like this in the fringe that stand out because they're not theatre or performance (The Comedy Hypnosis Show comes to mind). Go with the flow and if you get the chance, pop in and take in a little culture. Or is it anti-culture?

Where Egos Dare: The Musical!
More Ego! by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 4 kitties
There's some great musical talent onstage here which makes this show easily worthwhile. The show is oddly a musical revue/personality clash, hence the title. I wanted a little more of the personality/ego clashing. It was incredibly entertaining and I think it could have been injected a little more into the script.

Oops!
Deserves a Movie Version by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 4 kitties
Jasmine Rush and Colin Waitt are joys to watch in their frantic rush from the drunken conception to the birth of their offspring. This is tough ground in a normal relationship, but when one of you is gay, the situation takes a turn for the unique. An enjoyable show all around, the audience really got into the zingers Jasmine and Colin throw at each other. Their energy and enthusiasm draws the entire audience in and refuses to let go. This was a great show and it ended my night on a high note.

Masha 3000
Appealing to the Inner Awkward Kid by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 3 kitties
That's what I felt like about this show. There was something about Masha and the progression of her life that really appealed to the awkward kid inside me. The show clocks in at about 25 minutes, which was a bit disappointing. I could have watched a lot more; I particularly liked the stylized motions used when Masha was interacting with technology. So much more could have been fleshed out about this world Masha lives in, but we are allowed only tantalizing glimpses.

Thin Mint
Energetic but Erratic by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 3 kitties
There's a lot of energy flying around in this production, so much so that the performers have difficulty containing and focusing that energy to drive the plot home. However, it was engaging, a little risque and a lot of fun if you're looking to see young performers testing their chops. It's very infectious--even when the show hits its rough patches--and entertaining because of the chaotic energy zigzagging across the stage.

The Mutant Squad!
Lots of Energy... by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 3 kitties
but like Thin Mint, it's unfocused and all over the place. That said, there's a lot here to like: the kids have tons of spunk and their pursuit of the kool-aid mutant involved a lot of frenzied action.

Fearsome Critter
Huh? by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 2 kitties
I'm going to pull the "I didn't understand this" card. I felt like I'd missed something essential that could have tied this show together for me. It felt like watching two guys get drunk onstage and espouse on their women troubles, with which I felt little-to-no sympathy. Two kitties are for Kevin and Derek's performances, which were the most engaging part of the show, along with the banjo player. I love banjo music and that was a treat to listen to in the scene changes.

Maria: A Contemporary Tragedy
Great Idea but Lacking in Execution by Joshua Humphrey
Rating: 2 kitties
This was an interesting concept, which carried me into the theatre. Medea with a modern day immigration/politic corruption bent? Sign me up. Unfortunately, it doesn't carry through into the actual production. Maria, our stand-in for Medea, is portrayed as a raging drunk, making her ultimate decision to kill her children seem more like a drunken whim then a reasoned, vengeful plan. Maria also uses expensive goods to sway Jason's new love interest, which is supposed to portray the latter as materialistic and petty (and Maria as a savvy judge of character) but instead it plays more as a sexist comment on women--which sits askance to the entire play. A lot of love went into this production, and I think the playwright/director Christina Lein deserves some applause for trying to make it work. However, it never quite coalesces into a unified vision. Part of the reason seems to be that the cast is a little too large at 18 people, and many of the roles don't do much of anything besides stand onstage. I still love the concept; if it was expanded and more focused it could be the powerful commentary it claims to be.