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Minnesota Fringe Festival

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Show reviews by Reid Gagle

2 Sugars, Room for Cream
Sweet by Reid Gagle
Rating: 5 kitties
I was curious to see how well these two excellent local actresses would work together; their styles seemed so different. The answer was, they worked together brilliantly. Great chemistry. I particularly liked the piece with them as sisters after an uncle's funeral, but the whole show was marvellous. Make a reservation to see this one -- it is selling out every show, and deservedly so.

What Doesn't Kill You.... by Reid Gagle
Rating: 5 kitties
Excellent acting and solid writing anchor these two short dramatic stories. Both of these dialog-driven playlets are comprised of scenes with a pair of characters, mostly just sitting and talking. Although the format sounds static, there is a lot of story movement in the longer piece, 'Strong'. The short piece, 'Little Green Man', is less ambitious, but the idea of a Gitmo for a Roswell alien is cute.

Something Witchy
Charlie's Angel by Reid Gagle
Rating: 5 kitties
An excellent little play about a youngish woman's horrific past catching up to her staid present. This is one of those Fringe shows that you wish could have been twice as long, or maybe a whole novel. There were so many way that the playwright could have gone with these characters and this situation had he had more time. The play's final moment was particularly stong.

Every Pastie* Tells A Story
Nancy Wrecks the Grading Curve by Reid Gagle
Rating: 5 kitties
After seeing this show, I had to dock the other fine shows that I have seen by a star. As usual, Nancy sucks you in so you feel like you've been having an intimate one-on-one conversation with an old friend. This time, the story focuses mainly on her college acting experiences, though the "titular" pasties do make their promised appearance.

Jurassic Dork
Raptorous by Reid Gagle
Rating: 5 kitties
What a fun show! Right off the bat, I knew that I was in luck with this show when the performer was convincingly and gorily devoured by a T-Rex. Total props for this scene: a curtain. It is always amazing to see how much a skilled performer can evoke with very little. This guy has got what it takes to make it. See him now.

Winged Victory by Reid Gagle
Rating: 5 kitties
"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" meets "The March of the Penguins" in this piece. The US Army faces yet another integration issue when Lt. Falkland, a penguin, gets accepted into an elite "Officer and a Gentleman" training course. A ton of fun ensues. I hereby nominate the penguin puppet for 'The Most Expressive Actor in the 2009 Fringe'. Don't miss this show.

A Lyrical Yarn by Reid Gagle
Rating: 5 kitties
As if writing a good theater piece isn't hard enough in the first place, Allegra Lingo here ups the ante by writing this piece to conform to the mood and rhythms of Aaron Copland music. Her story knits together a riff on the Icarus story from Greek mythology with an average morning in Allegra's own life. A unique and worthy show.

The William Williams Effect
True Crime Minnesota Style by Reid Gagle
Rating: 4 kitties
This is an interesting slice of Minnesota history about the last legal execution in Minnesota. It is vigorously enacted by strong, veteran performers led by Wade Vaughn and Edwin Strout. The only real problem is that the story itself is extremely straightforward â€" no twists, no revelations, etc. The playwright tries in vain to loosen up the narrative by going back and forth in time, but in this case, truth is not stranger than fiction.

Bard Fiction
QT Redux by Reid Gagle
Rating: 4 kitties
What is it with Tarantino movies and live theater? A while back, we had the all-female "Reservoir Bitches". Now a Shakespearean "Pulp Fiction". What's next -- a Roman "Killius Billius"? This play is a ton of fun for fans of the movie; it sounded like someone behind me had busted a gut. But if you do not know "Pulp Fiction" pretty well, the story's convoluted timeline will be rather confusing in the play's abbreviate format. (The older couple next to us looked like they wished that they were anywhere else in the world.) Final note: I thought that doing the Butch (boxer) subplot as Hamlet was quite inspired.

Transcending Loneliness by Reid Gagle
Rating: 4 kitties
Three women, across the last 100 years, seek different paths to counter the isolation of their lives. The first story, about a killer angel in Appalachia a century ago, is the best. The second features a very tightly wound 1950s housewife, born perhaps a decade early. Last is a contemporary NYC executive struggling with her inner bitch. All three are well drawn, although the accent of the second kept reminding me annoyingly of Sarah Palin.

Cherry Cherry Lemon
Two Out of Three Ain't Bad by Reid Gagle
Rating: 3 kitties
The title of this piece mirrors my reaction -- initially promising, ultimately disappointing, but still not bad by any means. The two actresses tell their separate stories of life and men and gradually the stories weave together. Unfortunately, some major pieces of the story didn't fit as well into the mosaic as others. Still, worth seeing if you have an open timeslot.

Death Camp Diaries
The Naked Truth by Reid Gagle
Rating: 3 kitties
Howard tackles the holocaust, in reaction to a very recent tour of Nazi death camps. He skillfully interweaves the basic facts and his reactions to them, but the piece seemed a little raw. Perhaps it would have gained had his tour occurred months ago instead of days ago. When he tried to come up with a modern analogy, the best he could come up with was eating meat. Hello? Remember Rwanda? Sarajevo? Darfur? The killing fields of Cambodia?

Concord, Virginia: A Southern Town in Stories
Southern Gothic by Reid Gagle
Rating: 3 kitties
This performer has published a book of short stories set in a small town in Virginia. This show consists of him relating two of these stories. The stories are solid, though the twist in the first one was predictable and the happy ending came rather easily. The writing is good, if perhaps a bit baroque to Midwestern ears. The performance was well done, creating several characters vividly. Worth a try.

The Curse of Yig
A Den of Vipers by Reid Gagle
Rating: 3 kitties
Tim Uren again relates a vintage H. P. Lovecraft story, this time assisted by Amy Schweickhardt. Both performers have track records performing old time horror stories, so pairing them here was inspired casting. They create an appropriately creepy atmosphere, aided by a simple by effective set. Unfortunately, it is far too easy to see where the story is going, which undercuts the impact. Nevertheless, a fun show.

The Underachiever's Manifesto
The Tao of Duhhhh by Reid Gagle
Rating: 3 kitties
Local comic legend Alex Cole and some other guy explain the 10 rules for attaining happiness by embracing mediocrity. They illustrate the rules with specific examples from recent history and their own lives. They put their words into action by heavily using notes during the show, but it's still fun (and actually rather good advice). As Alex says, "You know what? Good enough is fucking good enough."

The Gayer Show
The Les and Dan Show by Reid Gagle
Rating: 3 kitties
Having seen and enjoyed both of these performers in past Fringe shows, I was curious as to how well their very different styles would mesh. The answer is, reasonably well. They take turns relating the key moments growing up, i.e., coming out, etc. The back and forth format was a bit stiff however, and when they tried to break free of it, things seemed even more awkward. Still, the stories themselves were interesting and the two performers are engaging personalities. Worth considering. (P.S. Dan is also doing an excellent show 'Phi Alpha Gamma', which I saw a couple of years ago. I highly recommend that show.)

Bedroom Stories
Wrong Proportions by Reid Gagle
Rating: 2 kitties
This piece is about 80% movement theater, leavened by 20% spoken theater. Had those proportions been reversed, I might well have loved the show. The movement stuff was well done, making particularly good use of darkness and light. The spoken pieces, mostly about the course of an ill-fated romance, was appealing in a desperate clowny way. For me, it felt like all meringue and no pie; your milage may vary.

Holding Patterns
For Fans of Dance by Reid Gagle
Rating: 2 kitties
At last year's Fringe, a pal dragged me to a dance show by the couple who perform this show. And, astoundingly, I liked it, I really liked it. (Maybe I'm not so narrow in my tastes after all!) Unfortunately, this year's show confirmed that I should stay in on my side of the theatrical tracks after all. Of course, there was nothing wrong with the show; it just wasn't my cup of tea.