Minnesota Fringe Festival 2011

My Fringe

Show reviews by Liz Oppenheimer

Samantha "Rastles" the Woman Question
What was I worried about?! by Liz Oppenheimer
Rating: 5 kitties
I tend to be wary of one-person shows, but Jane Curry's stage presence, character portrayal, and tight writing presents a historical early-feminist figure with humor and depth. The show not only held my interest but also left me wanting more!

Red Resurrected
Beyond words; a Must See by Liz Oppenheimer
Rating: 5 kitties
I'm at a loss for words for this piece, so I'll first borrow from a few others who have written before me: hauntingly beautiful; deeply felt; riveting; impeccable; engaging. More thoughts and words of my own: brilliant; outside-the-box "script"; power through the paucity of movement, sound, and dialogue. It drew me in like the woods drew in Red herself. And a strong female protagonist who is alive, vibrant, and liberated when the non-existent curtain closes. I already have bought another ticket for a future show. Thank goodness that Red Resurrected is in one of the larger venues! Rearrange your schedule to see this.

Anansi, Br'er Rabbit and Other Wily Creatures
Hidden gem of the Fringe by Liz Oppenheimer
Rating: 5 kitties
I am a fan of the Black Storytellers Alliance, despite (or because?) I am White, and I deliberately carved out time in my Fringe schedule to see this. As are other tellers in the BSA, Nothando and Vuzi are inspired storytellers and I am wowed over and over again by their energy, their sense of presence to everyone in the audience, and their generosity of spirit. Their ability to call out the playful, wondrous child in each of us--and to incorporate the children in their stories--is a gift that deserves to be witnessed first-hand and spread widely.

Disney Dethroned: Snowcahontas and the Tangled FrogBeast
Glad I picked this as my encore! by Liz Oppenheimer
Rating: 5 kitties
I had heard very good things about this show and was glad I went to the Encore performance, since I hadn't seen Tom before. Loved the parodies of popular Disney songs, the impersonations, and Tom's ability to distinguish one character from the other physically, despite the pace and the workout he put himself through. My hope for "next time": when addressing issues of racism/sexism, is that he combine talents and share the stage with persons of color/women. There's plenty of opportunity (unfortunately) for social-commentary-through-theater to go around.

Ex-Gays
Something was a little off by Liz Oppenheimer
Rating: 4 kitties
The show was campy, for sure, and the welcome by the camp's "staff" was fun. The humor and pacing seemed to fall flat at times, and the ending didn't work for me at all. But the energy of both the cast and audience helped it along... As did the cake scene.

Uncle Tom's Condo
Strong chemistry among cast by Liz Oppenheimer
Rating: 4 kitties
I came away from this show wanting two things: (1) A stronger "narrative arc" among the vignettes; and (2) More vignettes! The monologues about personal experiences were the highlight for me. Witty, thoughtful, and easy to laugh with everyone.

Deadline: A Choose Your Own Adventure Story
Good for improv fans by Liz Oppenheimer
Rating: 4 kitties
I was grateful for the production notes, given that I was born too soon to know about the Choose Your Own Adventure books in school. I also was helped by having some familiarity with the sort of improv that Deadline relies on, and I thought James and Jake had very good chemistry and presence, both to each other and to the audience. In the moment of the play, as it was unfolding, I found myself engaged and smiling, despite the formulaic approach to telling the overall story while weaving in improv. But a few minutes after the lights came up, what stayed with me was the formula, not the characters themselves or the fullness of fun that I had during the show itself. Still, I might choose to return, just to see a different scenario or three play out.

A Fool's Errand
Entertaining... and could be moreso by Liz Oppenheimer
Rating: 4 kitties
An evening of three storytellers share experiences of religion, oppression, and life in general. Each person's "voice" enriches the narrative. The fact that one segment was fairly spontaneous and based on a fortune cookie that each storyteller opened makes for an opportunity to hear different stories at each performance. I particularly felt that the "presence" that Howard and Felix had this first night was outstanding, while Loren seemed to struggle at times to make that same connection with the audience--a challenge to do consistently when there's no rigid script involved. Definitely worth seeing.

Primadonnas
Fun, good acting, & quirky by Liz Oppenheimer
Rating: 4 kitties
Enjoyed this show a lot. Strong acting and actors in roles that made me think, in a good way.

Change Your Underwear, Change Your Life
Mixed feelings, but that's just me by Liz Oppenheimer
Rating: 3 kitties
I'm not one who cares much for stand-up comedy which is why I give this 3 kitties. At the same time, the fact that I sat through the show and let out a few laughs is a good sign. So is the fact that the staff and volunteers added an extra row of chairs to accommodate the sell-out crowd. That may be a better indicator of earned kitties than my own rating.

The Crock Pot II: A Second Helping
Not what I was hoping for by Liz Oppenheimer
Rating: 1 kitty
Cardboard characters that were more like unpleasant caricatures who had few redeeming traits. I walked out halfway through. (FYI: I didn't see last year's Crock Pot.)

I Think... I Remember...
No reviews should've been a clue by Liz Oppenheimer
Rating: 0 kitties
A caution to parents: kids and other audience members are told--as if it were a neutral thing to do--how to play Cowboys & Indians, shown how to tie a noose, and taught how to tie people up and hit people with a knuckle so it hurts but doesn't bruise. In those few minutes, there's an overall lack of racial sensitivity, which in turn misses the opportunity for the actor/author to talk about how society has changed since the 1950s about race. The 15 minutes of the show that I saw before walking out have left me wondering, "Was this piece workshopped with other experienced stage artists, storytellers, directors, etc.?"


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