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Minnesota Fringe Festival

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Show reviews by Florence Brammer

Monster
A highlight of my 2009 Fringe by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
A riveting performance by Kehoe and a thought-provoking, complex script that avoids cliche and easy answers. One of the best shows of my 2009 Fringe.

June of Arc
Goosebumpy Brilliant and Moving by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
My gosh, what a show Sandbox has created. So gut-wrenchingly moving under its veneer of parody. While many in the audience appeared to enjoy the parody for its own sake, I felt that the power of the humor was primarily as a hook -- to get us to take the bait, and then: POW! This is an incredibly poignant, yet unsentimental, reflection on unfulfilled dreams, suppressed passion and misdirected goals. It will haunt me for a long time. Heather Stone is jaw-droppingly brilliant. She expresses more with a stiff flick of her wrists against her neatly pressed apron than most actresses can convey with five pages of text. As someone whose mother offered herself to our family as our "special dessert," this really resonated. I wish I could see it again. You should probably make a reservation for this one; the Xperimental venue is small and a lot of people didn't get in on Monday night.

Bedroom Stories
Best Show so far in my 2009 Fringe by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
This is such a great show, so beautifully conceived, constructed and performed. I don't want to include any spoilers, but the final segment ("the creamy dessert") literally moved me to tears. Just the kind of thing that we can't see anywhere but the Fringe, and very special.

Buyer's Remorse
No buyer's remorse with this $12 by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
A wonderful show that seemed to be appreciated by everyone in the crowded house at the Sunday perfornmance I caught. Great script, great direction, great acting.

The Morning After the Summer of Love
The underestimated power of poetry by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
We live in such a high-tech, multi-media world, it's easy to overlook the enduring power of poetry. These artists' material is fabulous and their straightforward delivery is evocative and unforgettable.

Strong
Beautiful script & flawless acting by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
Wow, what a great pair of plays. These two short works have more content than most works triple their length. Flawless acting doesn't hurt either. Even though this was a 10 p.m. show after a long day of Fringing, I was sorry to see these two thought-provoking and satisfyingly ambiguous pieces end.

The Three Bonnies
Every possible emotion in 50 minutes by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
A fabulous show with riveting choreography, gorgeous dancing and great tech work. (Plus, the added bonus of all that Bonnie Raitt music.) The pieces ranged from laugh-out-loud funny to poignant to lump-in-your-throat moving. Very, very special. A special shout out to Kelly Rademacher and Cade Holmseth for their unforgettable duet.

You /Provoke /Me
beauty, brains & wit by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
It seems like the Fringe dance offerings just get stronger and stronger every year. This is a gorgeous show: the choreography is witty, moving and substantive; the dancers are gorgeous and engaging; the costumes are beautiful and serve the choreography perfectly; and the lighting and sound are great. A really high-quality, classy, satisfying program of five diverse pieces.

An Intimate Evening With Fotis Part III
Fotis = Brilliant by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
Great writing and great delivery of these wonderful, self-deprecating, carefully constructed stories. So much insight and poignancy amidst all the laughter. Fotis is such a special talent . . what a gift to the Twin Cities.

casebolt and smith: Speaking Out!
Just wonderful,. in every aspect by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
God, these two are so creative and talented, it's astounding. They move beautifully, to be sure. But this is so much more than a dance show. It's fun, poignant and smart. I've been thinking about it every since I saw it. This really is a must-see, and I sure hope they return next year.

Two Short Operas: Mr. Berman's Bath-Size Bar and There's a Mastodon In My Backyard
A gem of an encore by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
I'm so glad this made the encore list, or I would have missed it. I really enjoyed these clever librettos (especially Mr. Berman), with engaging music that was beautifully sung.

Squawk
Penguins-R-Us by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
A really fresh and novel script, with a storyline as layered or as straightforward as you care to make it. Well-acted and staged; just a great show all-around.

Crescendo
Connecting the dots between art & life by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
This was an incredibly moving work. Lingo manages to walk that tightrope between the intellect and the heart without sacrificing either or missing a beat. A beautiful reflection on reconciling the thrill of a good chase with the pleasure of staying put. It's obvious that this work was painstakingly conceived and written. (On a technical note: I suspect that the microphone was deemed necessary because of the musical soundtrack, but I found it distracting and thought it sapped some of the intimacy from the piece.)

Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter
A show with everything working for it by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
Great script, great performances, great diretion, great staging -- nothing is amiss here. A really satisfying hour of theatre.

Slow Jobs: Servicing America for $12 an Hour
great material and winning delivery by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
What a great theme for a storytelling show; everyone can identify with the Demeaning Job From Hell. A polished show that successfully combines both high production values snd that accessible, intimate tone that makes spoken word shows so much fun.

Jurassic Dork
when an obsession goes horribly right by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
Fringe show descriptions are often ambiguous about the shows' content ("Like Fantasia, except with words" . . . "A play about love. And kicking puppies.") And that's fine, it's artful and intentional. But this show's description is exactly what you get: a one-man, one-hour, scene-by-scene rendition of Jurassic Park. (In the interest of full disclosure: "Jurassic Park" is one of my favorite movies. I could almost recite it verbatim.) This show is hysterical for its obsessive and "dorky" attention to detail, its absurd literalness, its snarky asides and its great sight gags. Really, really, really fun. (Just an aside: based on some chatter I overheard after the show, it seems that being familiar with the movie might be important to enjoying this show.)

Sideways Stories from Wayside School
Adorable by Florence Brammer
Rating: 5 kitties
What a great idea for a Fringe show. The performances were just right, and the script packed in a lot of themes and plots. The adults in the audience seemed to enjoy it as much as the kids. who were visibly ecstatic about it.

Silent Poetry 2
A welcomed mime offering by Florence Brammer
Rating: 4 kitties
It's not that easy to find a mime show in the Twin Cities, and I was happy to see Hatton in the Fringe line-up again this year. I was a little disappointed to find that some of the material from last year was repeated, but it was great to see Stephens join the show.

Pipa
Magical and unique by Florence Brammer
Rating: 4 kitties
Ober has a wonderful, endearing presence and moves beautifully n this original, evocative and expressive work.

2 Sugars, Room for Cream
a polished, entertaining hour by Florence Brammer
Rating: 4 kitties
This is a very skillfully presented piece; these sweet and gently written vignettes are well-served by the performances and the direction, especially the quirky and charming performance by Wexler.

Bard Fiction
An ambitious project by Florence Brammer
Rating: 4 kitties
This is an ambitious project with elements requiring a lot of attention: elaborate costumes, considerable stage combat, live music, etc. On a practical level, I had trouble hearing quite a bit of the dialogue -- and I was on the front row. I don't know if the problem was vocal projection or audio technology, but a lot of people said the same thing after the performance I saw. I have seen Pulp Fiction and remember the classic scenes (cheeseburgers in France, overpriced milkshakes, Bible verse-spouting, etc.), so I think I was able to follow the parallels pretty well. Still, I think to be really ga-ga over this (and many in the packed 10 p.m. performance on a weeknight clearly were), it helps to be a big Pulp Fiction fan. That said, though, it was still a very admirable and ambitious project and I was glad that I went.

Untitled Duet with Houseplant
A unique physical presence by Florence Brammer
Rating: 4 kitties
Bremer's physicality and charm make up for what at times felt like overly long sequences. Great audience interaction and originality.

Dream Time Down Under
Sweet and heartfelt by Florence Brammer
Rating: 4 kitties
Kuhns presents material that is obviously very close to his heart in an earnest and affectionate delivery.

The William Williams Effect
a polished and painstaking production by Florence Brammer
Rating: 4 kitties
This show looks gorgeous on the beautiful Southern stage and the cast is first-rate. I found the story emotionally unaffecting, but it is fascinating from both an historical and a psychological perspecive. Most definitely worth a Fringe slot.

Like a Virgin
Here's hoping Hogg returns every August by Florence Brammer
Rating: 4 kitties
Jimmy Hogg has such a charm and special appeal on stage; he is just so much damn fun to watch. He set the bar very high with his last two shows here. While this material fell short of those two (which seemed to be more artfully constructed), Hogg's show is still a great way to spend an hour with an amazing talent.

Phi Alpha Gamma
An artist to watch in the future by Florence Brammer
Rating: 4 kitties
Dan Bernitt's play is ambitious in its scope and complexity, and his performance is earnest and effectively understated. The too-large stage at Mixed Blood sapped the piece of some intimacy that would have enhanced the production, but that can't be helped. Something that might be tweaked by the artist, though, are some of the transitions among some of the characters -- all of whom are played with real commitment by Mr. Bernitt. Some of those transitions lack clarity and cause some distraction for the viewer as one struggles to figure out who is speaking before focusing on the text again. (Perhaps some subtle use of or reference to a prop or accessory might help with this?) A really admirable piece though, and well worth a slot in your Fringe schedule.

Moby Dick Tonight
Engrossing by Florence Brammer
Rating: 4 kitties
Moby Dick is my favorite book so I was happy to see this Fringe title in the schedule. Niemi did not disappoint, using Melville's timeless themes to illustrate his -- and, by extension, our -- own life experiences.

Holding Patterns
Another great offering from this pair by Florence Brammer
Rating: 4 kitties
Rodero and Schuchart are so appealing, so attractive and just move beautifully. Their choreography is engaging and unusually accessible (without any "dumbing-down") even for people who don't see a lot of dance, as several reviewers' entries illustrate. I personally didn't think this program was nearly as strong overall as their 2007 and 2008 programs, but it's still a great choice for a Fringe slot in the beautiful Southern Theatre. A shout out to recent Twin Cities arrival Kimberly Lesik for her beautiful work in the program as well.

Burning Man and the Reverend Nuge
A polished script & engaging delivery by Florence Brammer
Rating: 4 kitties
"Rev. Nuge" weaves a tale of his autobigraphical journey from born-again preschooler to exiled evangelical preacher to infomercial-inspired speaker to spoken word artist. While the exceptionally strong focus of the first half of the show (his church experiences) waned a bit as the text turned to his Burning Man tales, Nugent's writing and delivery were still fast-paced throughout and full of poignant disclosures and insights. Recommended, especially for anyone for whom faith issues are on your radar.

Tragedy of You
Shakespeare, joyfully decoded by Florence Brammer
Rating: 4 kitties
This show was so much fun to watch as sheer entertainment, and I even learned a lot from it, too (as I also did from Scrimshaw's Macbeth in the 2007 Fringe). One reviewer wonders if the person chosen from the audience is a plant -- I really don't think s/he is. I just think Scrimshaw is that quick-witted and observant.

Hogg and the Humors
Lots of stage charisma, but . . . by Florence Brammer
Rating: 3 kitties
An improvisational, unstructured format can be one of the most endearing things about a Fringey show. But more structure and substance were needed here, despite the very considerable charm and stage charisma of these five talented guys. The too-long improvisation bit was DOA; it seemed to me that even the cast realized this, but couldn't find a way out. A THREE-song set from another Fringe artist's show was an overlong time-filler; ONE song, I could understand. But three? If I wanted to see that show, I would have bought a ticket for that. Some bits were stronger than others, but as I walked out after the show, I found myself wishing that I'd spent the hour in another show.

Tales ... Of the Expected!
a great cast makes this worth watching by Florence Brammer
Rating: 3 kitties
It's so much fun to see these great talents onstage together, despite the uneven quality of the writing. The ferry pirate segment ("a story with a nautical theme") is worth the price of admission.

This Show Will Change Your Life!
When the actors' charisma is not enough by Florence Brammer
Rating: 2 kitties
Mann and Jorgenson's physical delivery of this material is very good; Jorgenson, in particular, nails the condescending and insincere physical mannerisms of the Infomercial Guy. These are obviously pros, with a lot of skill and charisma. They are well-respected and for good reason. I love comedy and see a lot of it, but this material fell flat for me after about 10 minutes. It might make an entertaining sketch as part of a comedy revue, but at 50 minutes, it became repetitive, predictable and tedious. (Three kitties for the perfomances, but 1 kitty for the material.)