Minnesota Fringe Festival 2011

My Fringe

Show reviews by Aseem Kaul

7 (x1) Samurai
Brilliant! by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 5 kitties
A delightful show! David Gaines gives a masterful performance, bringing a diverse cast of characters vividly (and hilariously) to life. 7(x1) Samurai is both an object lesson in mime and movement, and a sparkling reimagining of a cinematic classic.

William Shakespeare's Rape of Lucrece
Mesmerising by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 5 kitties
A superb performance that brings Shakespeare's epic poem powerfully to life. Cara Kluver is haunting as Lucrece, and Justin Alexander gives a stormy performance as Tarquin / Storyteller, though some of his line readings seemed a little rushed for my taste. More than anything else, Rape of Lucrece breathes fresh life into a somewhat neglected work, showcasing the lyrical force of Shakespeare's poetry, the vividness of his imagery, and the depth of his sympathy for his characters. As someone who read Lucrece years ago in college and promptly relegated it the category of Shakespeare's lesser works (if there is such a thing), I'm grateful to the company for reminding me of what I had forgotten.

Red Resurrected
Riveting by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 5 kitties
Red Resurrected is a riveting show that combines impeccable performances by an ensemble cast with a lyrical reworking of the Red Riding Hood story. Technically adroit and emotionally engaging, this is one show you absolutely should not miss!

How Do You See It?
See it! by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 5 kitties
In many ways, How Do You See It has everything one could want from a dance performance. The first half (Christopher Watson dance) is a kaleidoscope of swirling, graceful abstractions, at once sublime and sensual. And just as you start to bliss out on all this elegance and beauty along comes the raucous hi-jinx of Jeffrey Peterson's Stand Up. Stand Up is sharp, irreverent, superbly executed, blatantly political (I loved the red vs. blue pieces!) and wildly funny. Which is to say, it's contemporary dance at its best. I know we're only four days in, but How Do You See It? gets my vote for the best dance performance of Fringe 2011.

Taiko Blast!
Energy is eternal delight by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 5 kitties
Irresistible. There's something so primal about the sound of drums beating in unison that you can't help having a good time. The performances in this show aren't the most sophisticated Taiko performances I've seen (including previous performances by Mu Daiko), but the performers on stage make up for it with their clowning and their enthusiasm. It's a delight to see a performance where the people on stage look like they're having the time of their lives, and that excitement is infectious. Taiko Blast is the feel good show of the festival.

Ode to Anomie by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 5 kitties
Abyss is a sublime exploration of human loneliness. Five dancers on stage, yet each is alone in his or her own self, alienated by the spotlight, connected only by the occasional touch or the coincidence of a shared movement. The dancers are wonderfully expressive - every gesture, every movement seems taut with inner struggle - and the choreography is both deliberate and intense. This show is forty minutes of sheer beauty. One word of warning, though: this is not a 'fun' show. It's a performance that requires (and rewards) patience and concentration, and is likely to leave you feeling drained.

Red Hamlet
Though this be madness by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 5 kitties
Red Hamlet is a brilliant, brilliant show that gets deep inside Hamlet and then proceeds to turn inside out. The script is bold, clever, lyrical, visionary and subversive, and the acting is uniformly superb. This is a wild roller coaster of a ride that no true Shakespeare devotee should miss. I think Red Hamlet may be my favorite show of Fringe 2011.

Underneath the Lintel
Livewire performance by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 4 kitties
Pat O'Brien's performance in Underneath the Lintel is a delight to watch - it's energetic yet tightly controlled, carefully building from conversational quirkiness to an almost lyrical frenzy. And contrary to some of the comments below, I think the Arena serves him well - the constant circling helps create exactly the sense of restlessness the play demands. That said, the plot is fairly predictable, and the humorous asides only slightly funny. This is a show that rests almost entirely on the momentum of Mr. O'Brien's antics. I suspect you're more likely to enjoy this show if you've never heard of the Wandering Jew before. If you're familiar with the myth (as I am), then you can see what's coming a mile away.

Ballet Amore
Charming by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 4 kitties
Ballet Amore is a charming souffle of a show, featuring some high quality dancing (I was particularly impressed with Luke Tucker). There's nothing remotely 'fringe' about this show - as jazz ballet goes this is about as mainstream as you can get, but if you're looking for an evening of classic entertainment that pleases the sense without challenging you too much, this is the show for you. I would have given this five stars but for the blatant product placement of 'Pas de Quatre'.

Mother Tongues
Sum less than the parts by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 4 kitties
Let me start by saying that Mother Tongues included some of the most witty and inventive movement I've seen in this year's fringe. The show includes a number of really strong dancers, some brilliant duets, and a series of voice recordings of people talking about their mothers that are fairly interesting in their own right. The trouble is that none of this really fits together. The dances have little connection to the voice recordings (that I could see) and the gestures of the dancers seem disconnected from the recordings. I assume this is the point, but the end result is a multimedia performance where every part is exciting on its own, but each part detracts from the others.

Raw Potential by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 4 kitties
I saw Nic Lincoln perform Judith Howard's Dressage at the Southern a few months back, and was so impressed with the performance that when I saw it was part of this show I knew I had to watch it again. Dressage remains, for me, the finest of the five pieces that make up Flesh; it is a vital and accomplished piece that no one interested in contemporary dance should miss. The other pieces here aren't quite as polished, though I did enjoy Laura Belle Virtucio energetic Her Kind, and thought Amy Behm-Thomson's "secondaries" showed considerable potential. All in all, Flesh is a good opportunity to watch some exciting if somewhat raw work from some of the Twin Cities best talent.

A Good-Natured Gut
Games people play by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 4 kitties
An engaging performance that combines muscular interactions and graceful solos with a dash of conceptual wit, A Good-Natured Gut is a high-octane exploration of human emotion. A show I enjoyed watching, by three young dancers/ choreographers I hope to see more work from. The one false note in the show was the inclusion of cellist John Devereaux to provide live accompaniment. Mr Devereaux's playing was atrocious and entirely ruined two otherwise promising pieces.

Nice concept, but not much else by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 3 kitties
I confess to being a little disappointed in this performance. The idea of restaging Aliens as a Shakespeare play is clever, but it gets old quickly. The faux Shakespeare language has no real spark. The fight sequences are adequately staged, but they drag on and on. And what little connection there is to the original Tempest is entirely superficial. This is one of those shows that looks better in summary than in actual performance.

Soirée Preview
Mostly Harmless by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 3 kitties
There's nothing really wrong with Kinetic's Soiree Preview. The dancers are uniformly talented and play familiar archetypes, the choreography combines fairly generic styles with some cute playacting, the soundtrack is classic jazz. And that's the trouble with the show - it's a little too vanilla. Ms. LaRose-Holland takes few risks, and there is little in the piece that is either conceptually or formally daring enough to generate any real excitement. It's a pleasant show that offers light entertainment, but little more.

The Attic Room
Incoherent and uneven by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 3 kitties
The best explanation I can offer for the choreography of this show is that it's the product of an afternoon's brainstorming on "How many different things can you do with 6 dancers, a carpet, a map and a pile of books", with no effort made to organize it into a coherent whole afterwards. This is not entirely a bad thing: when it works the show delivers moments of surreal and startling beauty. Unfortunately, it doesn't work nearly often enough. Most of the time you're left watching a lot of childlike (not to say childish) playacting that is charming, but short on ideas. And the constant scene-shifting means the show has little emotional resonance. All in all, not a show I'd recommend.

Two good dances in a sea of banality by Aseem Kaul
Rating: 2 kitties
First, the good: This show includes two glorious duets - brilliantly choreographed and superbly executed. And that's pretty much it. The rest of the show is a jejune regurgitation of every tired cliche about the information age, that is only 'thought-provoking' if the idea that all this technology doesn't actually make us more connected has NEVER, EVER occurred to you. The plot, such as it is, centers around a couple with communication difficulties (because, of course, that never happened before the Internet). The dialog is wooden, the acting amateur, and the garbled voice-overs between segments is made up of the kind of vapid banalities that self-important undergraduates consider poetry. Avoid.

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