Colleen Kruse in Becoming Inga
The Minnesota Fringe Festival gets underway Thursday (Aug. 4)—and, as usual, nobody knows much of anything about the quality or entertainment value of this year’s shows. Audience reviews sort the winners and losers as the event unfolds, but without some crowd-sourced guidance, that first week can be madness.
That said, these are the shows that are on my must-see list so far:
By Ben Dal Presents
Some Fringe hits are easy to predict based solely on the talent involved. Apple Picking is a comedy produced by a team of actors with a long comic pedigree, including Mo Perry, Natalie Rae Wass, Jason Ballweber, Christopher Kehoe, Joshua Scrimshaw, and Rachel Petrie. Writer/Director Ben San Del is an eight-time Fringe veteran and respected local comedian as well. His tale of an apple-picking outing that goes horribly wrong is sure to amuse.
By Colleen Kruse and David Mann
Based on comedienne and former talk-radio host Colleen Kruse real-life experiences as a dominatrix, this one-woman show has been in development for several years, which means it’s considerably more polished than most Fringe shows. Writer/director David Mann has helped Kruse shape her material, and the show itself is as much about human frailty, addiction, and connection as it is about the curious world of fetish and bondage.
By Giant Giraffe
Up-and-coming local playwright Katherine Glover has paid her dues on the Fringe circuit, playing more than thirty shows in the U.S. and Canada. Solo storytelling is her strength, but this time out she’s written a four-hander about a couple who are negotiating the idea of getting a free pass to sleep with the celebrity of their choice. The X factor: Who does the celebrity want to sleep with? Hint: The LGBT crowd will love this one.
Flying Solo: A Chronicle From the Absolute at Large and Saving Our Superman
By Cloud Leigh Productions
Yes, the title is a mouthful, but this is really two shows in one—with puppets. Internationally reknown puppeteer Carol Cooley’s A Chronical From the Absolute is a satirical deconstruction of the idea of absolutism in all its forms—moral, religious, political, etc. And, as we all know, -puppets have a way of saying things people can’t. Saving Our Superman is a one-woman show about race written and performed by Debra Leigh, a performer, dancer, and activist from St. Cloud.
By Classical Mechanic
Taking in a dance performance or two is a good way to break things up at the Fringe. A group from Midwest Youth Dance Theatre calling itself “Classical Mechanics” performs this show, which it calls an “art in motion” piece. What this apparently means is that the dancers will use movement to bridge the gap between static art forms, such as painting and photography, and kinetic art forms, such as dance and performance. And they’ll do it by bringing to life well-known works by artists past and present.
Lazy Eyed Geek
By The Theatre Cosmic
Fringe veteran Brandon Taitt’s Stuck on an Elevator with Patrick Stewart won the Audience Choice Award at the 2013 Fringe. He’s back this year with a solo show based on his own experiences growing up with one blind eye and a whole lot of teasing. But the eye itself is really a metaphor for seeing the world differently, which is what all artists end up doing, whether they like it or not.
H.P. Lovecraft’s The Rats in the Walls
By Ghoulish Delights
I’m a big H.P. Lovecraft fan, and happen to think that any opportunity to see, read, or experience a Lovecraft story should not be missed. Make no mistake, The Rats in the Walls is a horror story, but it’s one that goes in a different direction than one might expect from the title—the kind of deliciously gruesome, Lovecraftian direction that fans like me can’t get enough of.
My Uncanny Valley
By Oily’s Room
The so-called “uncanny valley” is a term used to describe the creepiness people feel when they see a robot that looks almost (but not quite) identical to a human being. Under the Fringe category “Something Different,” this show uses the uncanny valley to explore various ideas of perception in the areas of gender, sexuality, and personhood, using magic as a tool to remind us that our senses cannot always be trusted. Sounds brainy and fun to me—“different” in the best sense of the word.
By Vox Medusa
Local multimedia performance troupe Vox Medusa can be relied upon to deliver an engaging, inventive, visually spectacular show, no matter the subject. It’s what they do. Narratively speaking, Rune is about a Sami shaman who journeys to the Norse Otherworld to battle a virus that has taken over her tribe. But with Vox Medusa, how the story is told is just as important as the story itself—and VM rarely disappoints.
SmashHammer: Heavy Metal Musical
At the Fringe, it’s sometimes necessary to cleanse your palate with something completely different—in this case, a humorous mashup of medieval storytelling, musical clichés, and the ponderous pounding of SmashHammer, which may or may not be welcome, by either the actors or the audience. YouTube clips suggest that humor is pretty much the point here, as pretty much nothing about it can (or should) be taken seriously.
By Wallace Shawn | Performed by Patrick O’Brien
Written by Wallace Shawn, of My Dinner with Andre fame, The Fever is a viciously honest meditation on the self-serving, often hypocritical paradoxes that expose “good” liberals as inadvertent destroyers of the world. Yes, you’ll laugh—but most Fringe-goers will also leave the theater full of shame and guilt, having endured a thorough flaying of their beliefs, ideals, habits, politics, and morals, to name just a few of Shawn’s targets.
By Trouveres Theatrics
There are quite a few Trump-themed shows in this year’s Fringe. But if you have to see only one, I give the nod to Trouveres Theatrics’ Ubu Trump, which uses Alfred Jarry’s French absurdist classic Ubu Roi to explain the rise of Donald Trump. Jarry’s 1896 play caused riots when it was first performed, and used absurdism to satirize greed, power, corruption, and—most important—public complacency about it all. It’s the perfect play to remind us: we’ve seen this story before.
The Minnesota Fringe runs from Aug. 4 - 14, at various locations. For complete information about performance times and venues, go to www.fringefestival.org.