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Show reviews by Sharon Kahn

Show Goons
Sweet Villainy by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 5 kitties
Even in a year when you can't throw a rock without hitting a musical, this one stands out. If you want to see outstanding singing, acrobatics, and yes, ACTING, ignore the inane title and show description and see this one. The plot is a silly comic-book thing, but who cares? It's a musical. The writing is witty, the tunes are infectious, and the (slow motion cardboard) special effects are to die for. Somehow the cast makes you care about these ridiculous characters. The love duet is a highlight of the show - not only beautifully done but genuinely moving. My husband insisted this was a 5-kitty production but I didn't believe him. He happily sat through it a second time to prove his point. He was right.

Bite Me Twilight
Best of Fringe? by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 5 kitties
If you think you have to have read or seen the Twilight series to appreciate this show, you're wrong. I know no more about the phenomenon than anyone else who hasn't been living in a cave for the last couple of years, but I never stopped laughing and applauding from beginning to end. This guy is just an incredible performer. He dances, sings, leaps around the stage while whipping his shirt on and off, and rubber-joints his way in and out of character so fast that he can play both sides of a couple making out without ever missing a syllable of his rapid-fire patter. The show is much like the equally hilarious Harry Potter sendup from last year, but Tom's not coasting on his success. He throws himself into his performance 100%, his surprisingly ripped abs glistening with sweat by the end. One of the best shows we've seen this year.

Bloddeuwedd
Two more chances - see this show!! by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 5 kitties
This show is incredible and deserves a larger audience! First of all, there's the writing. It's a profoundly imagined retelling of a fairly simple Welsh legend. The author has really given some thought to this woman's situation. What would it be like to have no past, just a vague memory of life as a bed of flowers? To have all the feelings and self-awareness of any human being, but to gradually realize that you had been created as nothing but a sex toy intended to have no free will? What if the only way out of an unbearable servitude were murder and betrayal? Erin Daly completely inhabits this beautiful creature, tracing an arc from bewildered innocent through desperation to joy to courageous action and one final transformation. Her performance is absolutely gripping. If you are a fan of solo performance with beautiful words accentuated by movement and emotional expressiveness, don't miss this show. One warning: this is an adult show (in the best sense of the word). There is graphic description of sexual activity and violence, and Erin's agonizing transformation from human to bird form might be hard to watch for young or sensitive audience members. It's an intense performance, but not ultimately depressing. Bloddeuwedd's courage and ingenuity and her quiet acceptance of her final fate make the story uplifting, if a little disturbing.

The Damn Audition
Not a lot to add by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 5 kitties
But I might as well get my vote in to counterbalance the jerks who like to give zero-kitty reviews to popular shows just to be jerks. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Kudos to Joe for giving the juiciest role to Maggie Chestovich instead of keeping it for himself. She really nailed it too, just barely letting her vulnerability show under the jaded touch chick exterior.

The Princeton Seventh
What more is there to say? by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 5 kitties
A very tightly written one-act play, impeccably performed.

Fruitcake-Ten Commandments from the Psych Ward
And to think I almost missed this!! by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 5 kitties
Absolutely brilliant, possibly the best performance I saw this year. With his rubber face, restless energy and manic grin, this guy is a riveting story-teller. And what stories! The words pour out at breakneck speed, and soon the empty stage seems to be overflowing with funny / sad / horrifying / tragicomic characters from Rob's years as a psychiatric nurse. It may sound mean to be laughing at mentally ill people, but Rob's heart is as big as his sense of humor and he tells these stories with an equal serving of compassion and wit. When I have my psychotic break, I just hope I'm on his floor!

Uncle Shelby's Traveling Treasure Trunk
A Delightful Surprise by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 5 kitties
In case you had as much trouble as I did understanding the online description of this show, allow me to translate. It's improv-derived sketch comedy performed by a company of 4 incredibly talented performers. Think Dudley Riggs. Dudley Riggs on a very very good night. There is no actual improv in the show - all the skits have been developed into fully finished little plays that expertly walk the line between comedy and poignancy. Well, okay, a few of them are just goofy fun, like Larry Lemonseed, whose slogan ("When life gives you lemons, just shut up and eat them") just can't seem to compete with the charismatic Johnny Appleseed. But "All I Have Pictured" was absolutely brilliant. The narrator presents an (invisible) slide show of a family vacation, which he has jazzed up by using Photoshop to insert celebrities into each picture. It starts out funny ("Here's the minivan packed for the trip outside our house. If you look closely you'll see the face of Millard Filmore in the window here - he's watching the house and watering the plants for us") and becomes increasingly poignant as the trip progresses and the marriage deteriorates. I also loved "Fireflies," a bittersweet father-son conversation where the father gives actual answers to his little boy's repetitive "Why?" questions. And the one that starts out with the housewife returning from a shopping trip and prattling to her husband about spaghetti sauce is priceless. In short, this is a must-see show for anybody that likes intelligent sketch comedy.

Underneath the Lintel
Superb performance by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 5 kitties
It takes a virtuoso actor to carry off something like this, and Pat O'Brien pulls it off. He's all alone on the stage for an hour of non-stop rapid-fire monologue interspersed with bits of business with a box of props. As if that weren't enough, the character of the librarian is expressed as much in body language as it is in words, keeping him in constant motion as he paces about the stage, always circling back to his beloved box of "evidences." It's a fascinating, oddball little play with a deeply philosophical core. To paraphrase Churchill, it's an enigma wrapped inside a mystery. The mystery of who returned that profoundly overdue book in the middle of the night keeps our attention for quite a while, but eventually we work our way down to the enigma at the center of it all.

Entwined
Good but not great by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 4 kitties
Good show, but not her best work. It's a solidly written piece, not really a work in progress. But it would have been better if she had finished it in time to perform from memory rather than reading aloud. Including a 2nd person in the performance was an interesting experiment. I don't think it ruined the show, but I don't think it added much either. I wasn't crazy about her sidekick's deadpan delivery, and I found the musical interludes distracting (except for "The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota," which kind of had to be there as the theme song). All in all, a very enjoyable show, but not quite up to my expectations.

See You Next Tuesday
Well done by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 4 kitties
A well-written, well-acted play about people that are a little bit hard to care about. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it quite a bit, probably because it was more of a dark comedy than a drama. It's easier to laugh at people that you don't like very much than to care deeply about their personal tragedies.

Flops! A New Musical Revue
A silver lining for every dark cloud by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 4 kitties
A selection of the best songs from the worst musicals, extremely well performed by an energetic cast. The songs were better than I expected, and the performances were excellent. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Do Not Kill Me, Killer Robots!
Final show was great by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 4 kitties
We saw the final performance of this show on Saturday afternoon and thought the performance was just fine. Judging from some of the previous reviews, Ben must have relaxed and smoothed out his performance style as the week went on. The random short pieces were pretty good (especially Space Camp, with its large cast of cardboard kids and counselors). But the best part was the recap of the killer robot campaign (which our hero follows on YouTube and Facebook while scurrying from one abandoned coffee shop basement to another one step ahead of the robots.) I just wish that more of the audience had been a little more into the spirit of the thing and willing to join in the random chants of "PU-NY HUMAN."

Spin
Annie Londonderry is my new hero! by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 4 kitties
A real treat. Unusual mixture of spoken word, song, slide show and percussion bicycle. The content is great too - a mixture of fascinating historical tidbits, speculation, personal experience and musical experimentation. Annie Londonderry is my new hero! I can't believe I never heard of her before! The show loses its focus a bit during the last 15 minutes, detouring into an over-long song decrying mass consumerism *yawn* and never quite finding its way back to its bicycle core. But it's still a very solid 4 kitties.

living traces - burning breath
Innovative and exciting by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 4 kitties
This is not the story of Aladdin. It's kind of a group poetry slam combined with interpretive dance exploring emotional themes suggested by the Scheherazade and the Aladdin story. The dancing is not particularly polished, but it is intense and athletic, providing very effective punctuation for the stacatto poetry. I liked the first set the best, exploring the story of Aladdin from his mother's perspective. The emotional insight in this interpretation was startlingly deep coming from a group of teens. I guess I would have expected them to identify a little more with the teenaged Aladdin than with his much put-upon mother. Impressive work. A very different, very enjoyable show, all the more amazing for having been developed from scratch in a 5-week workshop!

ROBO-homa! A Territory Tale with a Technological Twist
Public Service Announcement by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 4 kitties
Rewired Theater Company, are you reading this? If so, PLEASE TURN DOWN THE VOLUME ON THE MUSICAL ACCOMPANIMENT - IT IS DROWNING OUT THE SINGERS. I saw the show on Saturday, and sitting in the center of the 3rd row I could just barely make out the words to some of the songs over that loudly plinking piano. Other than that, the show was delightful. Probably best if you have heard the soundtrack to "Oklahoma" so many times that you pretty much have it memorized, but I think it would stand on its own for people with only a passing familiarity with the original. There's a pretty decent little science fiction plot, lots of energy, and a standout performance by the guy that plays "Jud" as a study in manly confusion.

Table 12: A Play at a Wedding
A real winner by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 4 kitties
I don't attend a lot of formal weddings, so I didn't expect to enjoy this show as much as I did. I'm here to testify that this is a delightful play even for people who had never even heard of the "misfit table" concept. The writing is sharp and the acting is generally excellent and hilarious. The in-the-round space was a bit of a problem with a play that takes place around a table. They do the best they can with it, getting the characters up and moving around whenever possible. But even so, from where I was sitting I spent most of the play staring at Maeve's back. I didn't have any difficulty hearing all the dialog, however, including hers. I agree with the reviewer who commented that the "gourd couple" was a weakness. They were out of step with both the style and the action of the rest of the play. They were funny, but in a very over-the-top, cheap joke kind of way. The wife managed a pretty credible MinnesOHtan accent, but the husband's accent was wrong and I think he was the weakest actor. It was a little odd that they dominated the table for the first quarter of the play, then simply disappeared. I'm glad they left, however - once they were out of the way the shifting conflicts and allegiances of the remaining guests kept the energy crackling and the laughs coming. Surprisingly, I was starting to care about these people by the end. And kudos to the offstage Grandma Carol, the one person at this wedding that was apparently having a non-stop good time!

Joe's Café
Delivers exactly what is promised by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 4 kitties
There's no need to describe this show because the description on the show page is detailed and accurate. All you need to know is that the show delivers exactly what the description promises. The songs are simple, clear and poignant with lovely melodies and the musicians are very talented. Each song has a single lead singer (they take turns) with the others sometimes performing backup harmonies. All the singers have strong, sweet voices, making it easy to understand the lyrics (important with story songs!). My only nitpick is that some of the songs would have been more effective if the ending hadn't been telegraphed by the song introduction, or in one case by the title. Have the confidence to let the songs tell their own stories, folks! If you have to explain the context, do it afterwards so you don't steal the story's thunder. The Theater Garage is a great venue for this act. The open bleacher seating around a bare floor lends a feeling of intimacy that works well with the material, and the sound fills the space perfectly. Highly recommended.

The Anton Kissbougel Technique
Strangely refreshing by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 3 kitties
I had modest hopes for this one, but since it's right in the neighborhood it seemed worth a try. It was a parody of a beginning yoga class, with the audience of 16 joining in as students. The Kissbougel Technique turns out to be a system of breathing, meditation and simple poses that opens up the chakras and connects them to the digestive process. Warmups include visualization of baked goods ("If you don't eat wheat, feel free to visualize something else, like a spelt loaf"), massaging of auras and shaking off the crumbs. Eventually we learn the 4 basic exercises necessary to keep the body in tune for the ancient art of throat singing (sort of) with the "nether hole." It's all good-humored, entertaining and strangely refreshing. I'm glad I attended.

Missing: the fantastical and true story of my father's disappearance and what I found when I looked for him
Worth seeing, but kind of a downer by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 3 kitties
Starts out strong with some inventive physical theater and creative use of simple props to convey emotion. Kudos to Jessica Ferris for having the guts (and the flexibility) to wriggle her very substantial body through that tiny hole with all of us watching her long struggle. It was a curiously effective portrayal of her inner child's desperation and compulsion to keep searching for her missing father. And wonderful job turning that metal box into a full-fledged character in the play. Things get a little hard to follow after that. Jessica rotates through the roles of a few too many relatives to keep track of as she interviews them one after another in her quest to figure out who her father really was (is) and if he is still alive. Eventually she straightens out some of the confusion by making a pictorial family tree for us and naming them all, but I still had some difficulty figuring out when she was speaking as her mother and when as Grandma Sally, and some of the stories just seemed irrelevant (what was that business with Grandma Nina and the bed linens?). As Jessica's search continues it becomes more obvious just how permanently wounded she and her whole family have been by two generations of compulsive liars in their midst. Ultimately it's all just a very sad story with no resolution. I hope this poor young woman eventually comes to terms with just what she can and can't control about her family and moves on.

Sex, Soap, Torture, Weather
Well worth seeing by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 3 kitties
When I first started attending the Fringe, the multi-play format was everywhere (and one of the things that hooked me on Fringing). Now it's a vanishing breed. This one is a bit of a mixed bag, but well worth attending, especially if you're getting a wee bit tired of musicals. Unfortunately, the first of the 4 playlets is the weakest. I think it's supposed to be a mocking literalization of the tacit negotiations, attacks and defenses that go into starting a relationship. Unfortunately, the rules of their little duel are impossible to figure out (which may or may not be part of the joke) and the repartee is not very clever. The result is tedium. The next one ("Soap") was intriguing but went on too long. Is this argument really becoming a common source of conflict in modern marriages? I wouldn't be surprised. Number 3, ("Torture") was also a little long, but the two women were so much fun to watch that it was quite amusing. Probably hilarious to the other actors in the audience, as it's about the casting process. Number 4 was a winner - absurdist and touching at the same time. In 15 minutes we see a couple's lifetime together, from the moment they meet until death do them part. Yes, much like the first 8 minutes of the movie "Up," only sillier.

Ballad of the Pale Fisherman
Sweet, simple and short by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 3 kitties
A simple but moving staging of the Selkie legend at its most basic. A shape shifting seal woman is trapped in human form when her sealskin is lost to her. She learns to love her human husband, but still yearns for the sea and her old seal companions. When she finds her skin again she is forced to choose between her human family and her home. The story is lyrically presented as a combination of words, music and dance, with dancers transforming themselves from seals to townspeople and back again. I enjoyed the show, but was not as blown away as most of the other reviewers. It was very short, and yet I thought it lagged in the middle. Really, it was only about 20 minutes worth of material enlongated to get past the half hour mark. Rather than try to stretch the story even further, I would have liked to see the first story tightened up a bit and a second act with a different Selkie story (there are many). It was a cruel tease to name the main character "Peter Kagan" and then not follow it up with Gordon Bok's haunting musical theme. "Peter Kagan and the Wind" would have been a great second act. Still a charmer, especially recommended for family viewing, but it could have been more.

My Mother Told Me
Parts not equal to the whole by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 3 kitties
I admit, I was expecting something different - interaction between the dancer(s) and the story teller (as in Sara's performances in past Fringes). This was more like two unrelated performances time-slicing the space. If there was a relationship between the dances and the story, I didn't see it. I also had some problems with the story. Phillip is a superb story teller with an encyclopedic knowledge of myth and archetype, but he may be expecting a little too much of his audience. The story he spins of a simple boy raised in seclusion and then setting off to become a warrior is intriguing, but cryptic and fragmentary. Halfway through the performance the boy identifies himself as Percival, which should have been an aha moment for the better educated, but sadly went over my head. Okay, now I've looked it up and it does sound familiar. Percival was one of King Arthur's knights, one of the most persistent seekers of the Holy Grail. So where were King Arthur and Galahad and the Grail in this story? Well, not there. Why? Because Phillip was using Chretien de Troyes "Perceval" as his source material, and that particular account IS UNFINISHED, breaking off abruptly after the encounter with the Fisher King. Phillip, I love you, but that's just a little too obscure for most of us.

Bedroom Eyes
Panda Man Steels the Show by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 3 kitties
There was less singing and more patter than I expected, and the dancing panda plays a larger role than you might think. We both enjoyed it. I could have done with a little more music and less vamping, but Panda Man was great, and ultimately kind of stole the show. Miss Ginger does a great job performing her songs, but I was distracted by trying to figure out exactly what our shared reality was supposed to be. Were we supposed to be pretending that Miss Ginger really is a woman, but not the woman she claims to be? If so, why did she make not one but TWO references to her left testicle? Was that supposed to indicate that Panda Man only thinks he knows the real person beneath the facade, but has another surprise in store? Or am I just over thinking this? None of this would matter if it were just a torchy musical performance, but since there actually is a heartwarming little story line which seems to circle around the distinction between artifice and reality it kind of does. Bottom line - show is a lot of fun if you don't think about it too hard. My rating is actually 3-1/2, but sadly the Fringe site no longer allows the more precise ratings.

Green as Grass
Crust a little cardboardy by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 3 kitties
This was an ambitious production, with a huge cast and a substantial stage set. But perhaps it was a little too ambitious. With all those characters to shuffle on and off stage, most of them were pretty 2-dimensional. The crazy old guy and his daughter were particularly unconvincing. We never get any idea what's actually going on with Doc (Alzheimer's? Schizophrenia? Family tragedy?) but the daughter's behavior when she finally finds him after supposedly searching for 6 years was stagey and just plain peculiar. And then the story line is just dropped with no explanation or resolution. Oddly enough, although this show was supposedly a tribute to the author's beloved grandmother, Gramma doesn't come off too well. Sure, she acts all motherly to the passersby in her diner, but we never see one moment of tenderness, compassion, or even basic respect in her interactions with her own family. The most poignant moment in the play is Mandy's stone cold rejection of her daughter Evy, which doesn't reflect too well on Gramma. The acting is variable, but mostly pretty good. Of particular note: Tony Price as young officer Stu and Emily Anderson as Evy, both of whom managed to make their small roles emotionally affecting.

Superlatives of Excellence: A Jamboree of Breviloquent Masterworks by Josef Evans
You'll love it or hate it by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 3 kitties
It was obvious from the get-go that the large audience was pumped for this show; they cheered and applauded the stage manager's canned intro for heaven's sake! The first two people on stage were getting rounds of applause before they even did anything. Clearly there is an enthusiastic audience for this kind of thing, and they know what they like. But don't assume from all the 5-kitty reviews that this is a must-see show for everybody. If you like characters in layers of goofy clothes and huge fake mustaches delivering non-sequitors in over-the-top silly voices, this is the show for you. There is lots of expert physical clowning: strutting, leaping, rolling, prat-falls, sudden bursts of comedic violence, and lots of business with the props strewn all over the cluttered stage. The timing and delivery of the nonsensical dialogue is very professional. Clearly these folks know what they are doing. I was bored out of my mind. For me, too much chaos, too little content. YMMV, obviously.

Oedipus Rocks!
I wanted to like this show, but... by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 2 kitties
I feel a little mean writing this, but this show just isn't very good. The first thing you notice is how amateurish the cast is - but a glance at the program explains that the company is a mixture of experienced performers and beginners - sort of a theater workshop project. Okay, I'm now prepared to cut some slack to the singers who can't project and respect the fact that they all remembered their lines. It might have worked with better writing. But the story makes no sense, the humor is juvenile, and the lyrics strain desperately to rhyme and scan with lines like "I am old with age." On the plus side, it's obvious that a lot of work went into blocking the play to work well in the theater-in-the-round space, and everybody delivered their lines smoothly. The musical numbers had good tunes (as they should, since most were "borrowed" from well-known songs) and the kids in the chorus harmonized well, even if they were a little hard to hear. Incidentally, this play is NOT a musical version of Oedipus Rex, as one might assume. It's a silly farce about Greek gods (who for some reason are obsessed with Shakespeare) meddling in the affairs of mortals. It is completely kid-safe. In fact, this could be quite a good show for kids, especially ones with an interest in the theater who will enjoy the role of the junior-high-aged chorus.

An Adult Evening of Shel Silverstein
Ick by Sharon Kahn
Rating: 2 kitties
My initial reaction to the title of the show was to skip right past it with the comment, "I've always thought Shel Silverstein was deeply creepy." But then it turned into the must-see sellout show of the Fringe and I decided I had to see it too. I was right the first time. It was intermittently witty and well enough acted, but more ugly than funny. I mean, a whole sketch consisting of a man and woman shouting slang terms for breasts and penis at each other? Beavis and Butthead would have loved it. The last sketch (who would YOU throw overboard?) was actually pretty funny, but by that time I just wanted to get out of the theater and scrape the layer of dark sludge off my psyche.

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