Fringe Day 6: In space, no one can hear you dance
The Minnesota Fringe Festival is a marathon of theater that can leave the viewer exhausted long before the final encore performances.
Image courtesy Green T Productions 2001: A Space Odyssey
Not only that, but there are more intriguing shows than even the most committed viewer can catch (you can get to less than a third of the shows during the festival). Still, the Fringe is only here for 11 days a year, and it's key to make the best of it. One way to make decisions is to check out the various reviews at the Fringe website, though you need to take it all with a grain of salt (I guess you have to do that with any review). Anyway, here are a few more shows of note:
Fringe Day 5: Pick a show, any show
An interpretative dance version of 2001: A Space Odyssey is a concept tailor-made for the Fringe. Green T Productions' show, however, has its roots in a full-length show they brought to the stage last year. What we have here is a one-hour trip through the minds of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke. Both creators are important here, as this production takes plenty of cues from Clarke's novel, filling in some of the more confounding moments of the film and underscoring its sometimes hidden themes.
Like the film, it's most dazzling when focused on the dialogue-free moments, like a dance of manmade satellites (and their payloads of nuclear death) or the "stargate" sequence where a dark stage and lit dancers stand in for the wild journey through hyperspace. Ultimately, it's a satisfying experience, even if some of the mysterious grandeur of the original film is missing.
Improv shows can be difficult to review, as they change from performance to performance depending on the elements provided. I did a Sunday afternoon double shot of shows that showcased the strengths and weaknesses of this approach.
Over at Intermedia Arts, Power Point Karaoke provided laughs via a simple concept. A series of performers are asked to make up a presentation on the spot, using slides that they have never seen before. The slides themselves don't make any kind of rational sense (then again, most power-point slides don't anyway; these are, at least, intentionally funny). The slides could feature cute videos (a dog knocking over a piece of birthday cake) or a bunch of nonsensical information (a chart tracing the growth of grout vs. gout over a period of time).
The pieces ranged from so-so funny to outright hilarious, with the best presentation of the show belonging to Molly Glover, who channeled her inner high-schooler for a talk about how to be popular, smoothly dealing with slides of a man wearing nothing but packages of bacon and a baby goat wearing black-metal makeup. "Goats are metal as fuck," she said at that point.
Similar issues hurt the Theater of Public Policy's The History of Minnesota Unscripted! at the Bryant-Lake Bowl. For this show, the company, which usually provides improv comedy centered on current events, was given a couple of stories drawn from the state's past and asked to improv around them. Storyteller Richard Rousseau offered a pair of tales that touched on the growth of Minneapolis as the flour-mill capital, the "birth" of Betty Crocker, and the origins of WCCO. These were funny, entertaining, and even educational. The improv that followed only occasionally reached that level, as the work was generally too scattershot to build up any kind of comedic energy.
Image courtesy Theater of Public Policy
For more information on the Minnesota Fringe Festival, visit online. The festival runs through Sunday.