Fringe By Numbers: All for Fringe and Fringe-For-All
The Minnesota Fringe Festival doesn't start until July 31, but there are ways to get a little taste of the main dish already. There are a number of previews at metro area libraries, and there are the Fringe-For-Alls. This past Monday (July 21, 2008) was the day of this year's second Fringe-For-All. I missed the first one, earlier in the year. But then, I didn't have a place to write about it at that point, yet.
So... Here's the format of a Fringe-For-All. Thirty of the shows that will be in the Fringe were given 3 minutes each to show what they've got. In theory they show off their best three minutes of entertainment, and we, as viewers, are able to decide if that is good enough to make us want to go to the longer version of their work.
Oh! You'll want to check out the first of my continuing podcasts made up of the sounds of the Fringe. Fringe-For-All audio! Yay!
Without further ado, I give you a list of four shows that made an impact on me in the positive, and another list of four that I'd probably not spend $12 to see. Finally, there will be a list of four shows that just struck me as odd for various reasons. After all, who doesn't like to talk about odd things, right?
- Conundrum Rehabbed -- Joseph Bingham: This is a dance piece that involves the ballet clichÈ of women as birds (probably swans, though one was pink... a flamingo, perhaps?). It also turns said clichÈ on its head by including two male dancers in the roles of hunters. Comedy ensues. I love dance that is humorous for the right reasons. Random thing: One of the female dancers studies at the same place as my daughter. This was cause for excitement for the 9 year-old girl seated next to me, although probably means nothing to anyone who doesn't dance at MYDT.
- Secrets of the Little Yellow Diary -- Patty Nieman: Patty Nieman is one of the best female singers in town. Her voice is beautiful, but more importantly she carries so much of her character through it that she convinces you that she really is still a 13 year-old girl effervescing over the performances of Romeo and Juliet about which her diary entries tell. It's a one-woman musical, and it is brilliant.
- Meet the MacBeths -- Lauren and Josh Iley: There is the feel of a Coronet Instructional Film in this piece. What is that, you say? Well, for those who grew up in the 50s, 60s, 70s & 80s, those are the 16mm films that were shown in classrooms in an exercise in social engineering. Once upon a time we were made to view films on hygiene and how LSD would make you think your hot dog had turned into a freaky cheap plastic toy. Anyway... This play has the requisite announcer for exposition, the hokey 50s costumes and setting, and the crisp execution of the characters that the Thane of Cawdor and his wife would have been if they'd been neighbors to June and Ward Cleaver. Clever.
- Dance of the Whisky Faerie -- Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw: This play features the talented husband-wife duo of Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw and Joseph Scrimshaw. She's pretty and can dance really well. He's funny and can act pretty well, too. If you tie them together for an hour, lubricate with alcohol, and ask them to do what they both do best, not surprisingly, you get a very wonderful production.
- A Dash of Poe -- Mercury Ninety Productions: First question: Why do people perform the role of Edgar Allen Poe with an affected British accent? He was from Baltimore, Maryland. Second question: Can we have really seen the best three minutes of this show? No. The performer only did about 90 seconds. Nevertheless, if this was the best minute and a half, you shouldn't waste time seeing the other 50+ minutes during the Fringe.
- Catfight! -- John Irvin: Here's an example of a good idea gone horribly wrong. The Republicans have given us a lot to lampoon over the last few years. And much of that came out of, or passed through, Minnesota (sadly). So, poking fun at a Michelle Bachmann-esque politician ought to be fertile territory for comedy. This would be true, if the only thing funny in the world was the word ìfuck.î I lost count of how many times that one word was shouted in three minutes. And when I say shouted, I mean in a way that would damage the vocal chords. From what I got here, that's the whole show. Hmm.
- Skunkape Sexkult -- Mother/Destroyer:
What can I say about this... Wow! What a show! The writing is less than witty. The acting was more like reciting of lines by elementary kids than by folks who might want to pursue this seriously. The whole thing was painful. I'd explain the plot to you, but I really can't find a reason to bother.
- Advice-a-Versa -- Interwine: This is a show that proclaims to be about advice that we all receive. However, it seems to be comprised of mom-isms. You know, those little things that Moms say that often make little sense like, ìI'm cold. Put a sweater on.î This play also tries to be interactive by making the audience raise their hands in response to questions. That's fine in certain situations, but if there isn't any follow-up to make it worth the effort of minor muscular exertion, then just leave me alone and put on a show. Please.
- How Does a Drug Deal Become a Decent 3rd Date -- Green With Envy Productions:
A Canadian company sent in a video in lieu of being present at the Fringe-for-All. It was a commercial for their show. I still have no idea what the show is about, or if it'll be good at all. I can't imagine that's the impression they were shooting for.
- The Mistress Cycle -- Maddak Productions: Acknowledged as one of the best leading ladies the Twin Cities' musical theater scene has to offer, Jen Burleigh-Bentz sang a song in this preview. It was a good song. It didn't really tell a story. The material gave little opportunity for acting through the music. Jen spent much of the time sitting on a stool singing in a well-executed and precise style that made the entire thing seem more like a Nautilus Music Theater ìRough Cutsî performance than an full-blown production. This is in the ìOddî rather than the ìBadî section only because I look at the cast list of the show and think that this has to be better than it appeared at the Fringe-For-All.
- Dying for the Chance -- Sundial Theater Company: This play was a mess. Once again this is a production that wants for actors who can force their voices out into the audience. It also involves bad accents, campy acting, and a bit of cross-dressing for comedic effect. However, all that aside, the fact that the premise of the show grew out of the fact that someone thinks that the dead body in Little Miss Sunshine was underutilized piques my interest.
- One Missed Step-- Bold Theatre Company: There was a kernel of a story hinted at somewhere near the beginning of the scene. It then broke into 2 minutes of dancing that, while interesting, seemed to have no connection to what was said at the beginning. I'm left wondering what I'm watching.