Minnesota Fringe Festival 2011

My Fringe

Show reviews by Fringivitis Vulgaris

Camelot is Crumbling: An Arthurian Nightmare
Morality d'Arthur by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 5 kitties
War is hell & p.a.b.l. takes us on a tour of the war-torn lands of Arthurian legend. There are no heroes, only the wounded of body and spirit. This one-man show is a gripping study of morality and motivations, framed in chivalry and exposing hypocrisy. This show is epic, tragic, and totally worth an hour of your life.

Melting in Madras
Mesmerizing riffs on life by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 5 kitties
One man with a guitar transforms into a dozen characters and a juicy slice of southernmost India. With splendid storytelling skills and a love of the places he's been, H.R. Britton takes the audience far from home and into the words and music of his journey. Open your ears, "rest your mouth!" and see this show.

Underneath the Lintel
We're here because we're here... by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 5 kitties
A small-town librarian travels the world tackling the mysteries of myth and belief. He is wise in the ways of looking things up, foolish when in pursuit of a fact, and hungry for Mystery and Truth. This is a mystery of the finest kind: the detective is obsessed beyond reason and the quest transcends time and space. Pat O'Brien never stops! His delivery is grand, his fumbles barely perceivable, and his Librarian utterly believable.

Red Resurrected
Magical must-see by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 5 kitties
These are not actors. These are re-creators. They don't act as wolves, they create themselves as wolves. The forest, the campfire, the leaky sink: the company makes those things appear. From the first words to the last, nothing is wasted. In sorrow and joy, in work and in wonder, this show is filled with beauty.

Ex-Gays
Yay! Camp! by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
This is audience-participation theater! We're all going to camp to learn to be... well, you know the drill or you wouldn't be here. There's plenty of enthusiasm from camp staff, and there's some enthusiastic after-hours hokey-pokey too. Sure to offend devout right-wing christians and "ex-gays". Likely to entertain anyone who's endured someone trying to pray away their gay!

Baba
Baba chases his dreams by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
...even when they clearly ignore reality. Denmo Ibrahim creates Baba from a suitcase of props. Everyone who has ever been aggravated by queueing for bureaucratic reasons will sympathize. Baba is a charmer as long as it suits him. He's on his way to visit his old country, and he just needs to complete one more form... This show has laughs but it's much bigger than a comedy.

Nightmare in Bakersfield
Not yet famous in Bakersfield by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
Les is so charismatic and polished that many of us would show up for any story at all. In this case, his sweetie's high school reunion is the draw. For anyone who's been the "plus one" in a place they don't understand, this show is funny. Throw in all sorts of awkward moments (gay! hairstyles! ethnicity! celebrity!) and there's a wealth of winces and laughter.

Buckets and Tap Shoes
Rompin' stompin' fun by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
The brothers Ausland make joyful noise! They bring a lot of loud rock music to up the ante - earplugs might be a good idea. Family-friendly show!

Losing My Religion: Confessions of a New Age Refugee
Karma, Dogma by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
Seth Lepore plays a variety of characters chasing enlightenment, in books and in the woods and in the tangled lint of their navels. Especially funny in the therapy circle and the Masculinity weekend. Having spent a few years in similar pursuit, some of the characterizations were very familiar, so I may have laughed harder than some folks around me.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Dr. Jekyll
Smart! by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
There's enough of the Stevenson story here to make a solid jumping-off point. The dialogue is witty and appropriate for the characters. Excellent moments abound. This show has the best Whore character of the 2011 Fringe: she's a solid business professional. There's an utterly glorious delivery of Bechdel's Rule adapted for a pre-movie era. Oh, and Ben San Del gets whacked repeatedly with a magazine for being a patronizing prat. The show dropped one kitty for sometimes unintelligible dialogue (from the front row!) and for forgetting to play "in the round" in this venue. Still totally worth an hour of your Fringe life.

How Do You See It?
Don't blink by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
Don't look away or you'll miss something beautiful and strange. Dancing to political stand-up comedy is very "Fringe-y" too.

Taiko Blast!
Don-ka-ra-ka-ra-DON! by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
Any show from Mu Taiko is worth the price of admission. It's clear that they enjoy playing, both for love of the music and for the joy of one another's company.

Tapsized: A Journey of the Bastard Child
Sassy rhythms & sharkskin suits by Jeanne Novak
Rating: 4 kitties
Wow, these folks can tap! They dance for the sheer joy of it, and the talented musicians are just the music to up the ante. There's sly humor in sharkskin suits, a bar worth bellying up to, and a surprising lesson in where new tap shoes come from... Make time to see this show.

A Fool's Errand
True Life Tales by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
How do you search for something that can't be revealed with 5 senses? These storytellers talk about how they did that. It's not preachy and it's not corny, just some light shed on the path behind each wanderer.

Detached: The Return of the Pastor Brothers
Waiting for Godot's hat by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
Stranded for a year on an island with fast food delivery: yay! Stranded with a sibling: egad! The Great American Smut Novel: best written on TP rolls. The brothers were believably annoying, the Interloper lopes appropriately, and the Observer is a dapper deus ex machina. The fight scene on a tiny platform was hilarious.

Balls Out!
Purple-veined TALENT! by Jeanne Novak
Rating: 4 kitties
You'd be nuts to miss this show! Six ordinary towel-clad lads lift their golden voices to share the tribulations on the road to adult Manhood. If you like a capella doo-wop tones, there may be swooning. Also, doesn't everyone like boobies?

Four Clowns
Toxic families with red noses by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
Family damage plus physical humor plus poor boundaries? Yes please! When bad things happen to clowns, that's funny stuff. The musician has chops and a sly sense of humor. Mind you, child abuse, molestation, and shaming aren't everyone's cuppa comedy.

My Dinner with Andrew
True Crime tales by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
The news story of Andrew Cunanan was fascinating when it broke, partly because it was a local event that turned into a nationwide hunt for a murderer. The narrator tells of his encounters with the man who became a killer. Other characters are played by an actor rotating his outerwear, and by mannequins. Gripping story flecked with campy bon mots. A slew of verbal stumbles keep this from being a 5-kitty show.

History Camp
Strong singing in flimsy plot by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
The world's creepiest camp counselor takes 8 costumed campers into the woods for 2 weeks so they can live as their historic personae, sort of. The cast can sing and the songs are snappy, which makes all the difference for this show. Very The costumed cameo appearance at the end is delightful.

Super Spectacular!: To Opera with Love
Campy operatic fun-fest by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 4 kitties
These guys are talented singers of opera AND they know pop music! The costumes are silly, their knowledge of operatic tropes is extensive, and their willingness to play with the audience make this a jolly show. Bravo!

Once Upon a CSI
Spooftastic silliness by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
I set the "amusement" bar pretty low on television spoofs. This show was better than I expected! The cast has affection for their source material and they know it's not high art. There's punny dialogue, blatant innuendo, & pop-culture references from fairy-tale mainstays. Oh, and the music for this show is quite well done!

Once Upon a Time in the Suburbs
Yee to tha Haw! by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
Ferrari McSpeedy brings the silliness one more time. The town of Womensburg (not to be confused with the burg of ManHatin) is facing invasion, incorporation, and in-fighting. Before it's over, the bullets and feathers will fly. Female shenanigans may or may not occur, so keep an eagle eye on that stage.

Brain Fighters
Even a Tool needs hugs by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
This kid-focused show has plenty of laughs for the adults. Good thing, since the lines for this show are extra long. Joseph Scrimshaw channels slackerdom, Mo Perry is a Nice Lady, and Randy Reyes is one heroic pastry. Together they fill an hour quite pleasantly.

Comedy = Tragedy + Someone Else
Garden weasels & Batman shorts by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
Nice to see someone hassling Fotis about his sit-and-read shtick. Extra-nice to see that it's Rennie jugglers, a special subset of the geek coterie. Plenty of sniping and laughs, nothing blue enough to make it Vilification Tennis material.

Robot Lincoln: The Revengeance (The Musical)
Steampunk'd: history rewritten by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
An assassination, the birth of the internet, Sharks vs. Jets, self-referential quips, dead presidents, and a love that could not be undone by mechanical differences: THIS is what happens when you sleep through American History class. Campy, silly, and well sung.

The Sometimes Grace of Saint Simon of the Water
Messy, flowing, sometimes beautiful by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
Spiritual, emotional, and self-absorbed: a young man craves love, loathes his body, baptizes his life. Beautifully performed.

Uptown: The Musical
Local'n'vocal by Jeanne Novak
Rating: 3 kitties
Based on real events along Lyndale Av in Uptown, this fun little show is filled with details that ring true. The actors probably didn't have to buy their costumes, and the Dirty Hipster coffee shop looks like it was furnished via Craigslist - authentic! The live band and the stage-musical cliches are tastier than an overpriced Clif bar, so plop your skinny-jeaned butt into a seat and laugh at the 'hood our immature hearts never outgrow.

Indignorance
Hardwired for dancing by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
The dancers have some amazing energy and glorious synergy! Their timing is tight and their communication is elaborate. Deducted one kitty for the rambling spoken-word narration between dances.

FLESH
Flamingos! Ponies! Bathtubs? by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
Tamara Ober's opening piece is quirky, funny, and startlingly sequined. Somewhere in the middle of the show there are sea creatures, many more birds, lots of wallowing on the floor (cleanest stage at Fringe tonight, I'd wager!), and a horse of a very different color. Now I want a pony...

Callahan and Lingo presents: The Last Ditch
Tell it! by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
A couple of Rockstars do what they do best: tell made-up stories about how people really are.

Tales from the Twisted Cities
One gem, one nice try by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
The first piece was a solid, well-crafted, well-acted story. The area near Main & St. Anthony starts out as the location for a lovers' stroll and ends in mystery and tragedy. The second story is a variation on the Pygmalion myth, but the main character never gets fleshed out enough to be believable. Both tales are in contemporary language. It was good to see something that comes from a "melanin-rich" environment too.

Improvidence!
Take it easy, d00d by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
Fun show, and in the right space it might be a great show. Vocal projection was a challenge in the cavern of the Lab, and actors talking/singing anywhere but front and center get muffled. That's a shame because there are some clever lyrics and good voices. Very funny appearances by deceased cult leaders, very annoying (but realistic) shtick about dirty stoners being picky about "fatties." Now, who wants t-shirts?

Lot O' Shakespeare
No holds Bard! by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
Tim Mooney delivers a smorgasbord of Shakespeare tidbits. Many of them are familiar from English classes and popular plays. For a small gratuity he'll also take requests, albeit with varied results. This is comfy Fringe viewing.

Meat My Package
Burlesque Confessional by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
Very racy and very Fringe-y, this show makes a respectful grab for your pink squishy bits. There's enthusiasm for pop music, lots of discussion of body fluids, and plenty of personal revelations. The performers will get right in your personal space: by entering you are consenting to hear intimate details of sexual encounters. The preachy politics got a bit strident, keeping this from being a 4-kitty show. Absolutely true: this show is sex-positive and sometimes kinky. I'd like to see the show again in a few years to see what's been added and polished.

Doña Rosita's Jalapeño Kitchen
Que sabrosa! by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
Rosita pulls no punches! She'll tell you what's up, what the rumor is, and who's who in her barrio. She'll even stick her head through the fourth wall and make sure you're there with her. This is a polished one-woman show that may leave you craving tortillas y frijoles.

Ballet Amore
Pretty by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
Highly skilled dancers moving in lovely ways: isn't that exactly what one wants from a dance show? There is even a lovely musical bonus when 2 of the company play cello and violin together. Throwing jazz music and social-dance moves into a ballet performance is a fun idea. The program ends with very young dancers showing their developing skills without overwhelming the audience with saccharine displays.

Illusion
Kinda slick, kinda slow by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
The large room held a small crowd, so there was no escaping the mandatory-participation bits. The show includes some swing dance, some classic illusions and some newer tricks, a long story about a dead relative, and some cute juggling. The assistants were slick and definitely enhanced the show. Nice for older kids, probably boring for anyone under age 10. Unlike most shows, Jared wears a wireless mic, which gives this more of a feeling of "pro" rather than "Fringe".

The Folly of Crowds: a heterosexual buttsex play
Angst and Anal by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
Teen drama featuring characters who have never visited the Scarleteen sex-ed website. Their doubts about buttsex are more reputational than technical. The vicious antagonist is archetypally icky to start with but quite implausible at the climax. Since Fringe 2011 is over: yes, there is buttsex eventually, but first there's a lot of gabbing and gossip. Too much Snow Patrol, IMO.

The Trunk
A collection of creeps and losers by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
A player, his coworker date, his geektastic roomie, and his steady hookup meet in a posh apartment. The titular trunk is a fine MacGuffin, fraught with risk and reward. The villain of the piece is a vile adolescent who serves as a mirror to show them how feeble they are. Hard to keep disbelief suspended, particularly when the characters permit others to continue behaving badly. Some good chuckles and some amusing local details.

The Beasts
Paranoia & puppets by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
Ben Egerman's show reminds us that we are cave-dwelling hominids hiding from Scary Predators. Of course, there's a bit of hungry beast in most of us too. Silly props, funny voices, puppetry, and a story about fear of the unknown Other.

Aunt Dicey Channels Moms Mabley
Less "blue" than expected by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
Chatty, interactive show was a nice interlude on Saturday. The original Moms Mabley had a varied repertoire in her long career, so it was interesting to see what got selected for this performance. Show ran long on Saturday when the performer didn't fade out the persona. Might be a great 90-minute show outside of Fringe.

Cedar Rapids Famous
It's offbeat! Offbeat! by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 3 kitties
Campy but sweet story about two nice guys in love and in the Midwest. Unemployment, fame, and living in the flatlands don't do them in, but a hot twin brother (a straight one!) might just do it. The actors get very close to the audience, causing one attendee (a straight one!) to walk out. Charming and well acted. I wanted them to live happily ever after.

Damn You Auto Caress!
Cuter than the website by Jeanne Novak
Rating: 2 kitties
A large cast of young actors shares snippets from a popular website while confessing their iPhone addiction at a revival meeting. They're clearly having fun up there. No surprises but some clever moments.

Dancing with Death
Jarring transitions by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 2 kitties
I really like Eastern dance and wanted to love this show. I find zombies amusing and wanted to like the show. What I hoped for was not quite what I saw. The show starts with a slide show memorial. There's an extremely cheesy vampire dude, a vampy tart, and ... Rob Zombie music. The slide show comes around again during the show. The music transitions are painfully jerky: sometimes dance music, sometimes harder noise. The sword balancing is nifty and a couple of the dances are quite pretty. COuld have lived without so much floor-wallowing since it's hard to see from more than 3 rows away. The zombie dance at the end is fun too.

The Proper Way to Beat a Dead Horse
Aggressive irritants by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 1 kitty
There's not a likeable character in this show. It's difficult to suspend disbelief in the face of such annoying behavior from the female lead and implausible responses from the male lead. The supporting players do what they can with the script they've got. One kitty for the believability of the nihilist stoner.

No Change of Address
Stabbing at stand-up comedy by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 1 kitty
Yes, he's depressive, hospitalized, medicated, and disconnected. No, that's not good enough for stand-up comedy. One kitty for some clever wordplay.

Astrolibrary
Lost efforts in space by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 1 kitty
A show with a small cast needs a strong plot and/or a good dose of charisma. While the 3 young dancers have talent, they don't seem to have a show. There's some reading aloud, some looping guitar, heavy panting noises, and some dance and tumbling, but no clear story. Repeated props failure didn't help, but that could happen to anyone. One kitty for some nice moments of dance and tumbling.

Scenes on a Park Bench
Go see a real park bench instead by Fringivitis Vulgaris
Rating: 0 kitties
The first chunk of the show, we sat while someone read today's Strib at us and ranted. I can get that on the bus for free! Other scenes were stilted and unimaginative. While the visit from a popular TV sci-fi character was almost cute, it would have been much cuter in a different show.


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