Sunday, August 20, 2017

DUNGEON - MN Fringe 2017


By Hit the Lights! Theater Co.
Created by Hit the Lights! Theater Co.
Playing at Jungle Theater
Physical theater/Clowning, Puppetry, Sci-fi/Mystery/Horror, First-time Minnesota Fringe Festival producer, Actors' Equity participants, National/international company

A young man falls into the unknown to rescue the thing he holds most dear. Inspired by kabuki, video games, horror movies, and pixar shorts, DUNGEON builds a world where darkness speaks louder than the light.

I should say, the audience LOVED this show. LOVED it. Me? Not so much. Although the use of puppetry and shadow work was inventive, this show felt like a rough draft. The story was pretty weak, the visuals not quite matching up as intended, and some genuinely confusing moments. What the heck was that lantern thing? Some ingenious ideas to be sure, and I'm intrigued by their work, but it didn't come together for me. I kept thinking of Davey Steinman and his show Basement Creatures, and how well it handled so much of the same material. Note to self: What's Davey Steinman doing these days?

Stranger-er Things: Netflix and Kill - MN Fringe 2017

By Turd Spout Productions
Created by Tom Reed
Playing at Phoenix Theater
Solo show, Sci-fi/Mystery/Horror
Warnings: Adult language.

Parody powerhouse Tom Reed hilariously reenacts season one of "Stranger Things" in a one-man musical romp. This nostalgia and pop culture-infused horror cranks the comedy to Eleven and will leave you dying.

I've seen maybe two episodes of Stranger Things, but my friend Cherry and Spoon LOVES Tom Reed, so we checked it out. Despite not knowing much about the source material, this show was hilarious. This two-man show features Tom Reed acting out all of the characters and situations in the first season of Stranger Things, accompanied by Jon Pumper on the piano. Of course, Tom Reed was energetic and very funny, but we loved watching Jon Pumper accompany Reed and his deadpan reaction shots. I swear, it was nearly as good as watching Reed. Again, these are two more to watch for these fairly Fringe newbies!

Making It Home - MN Fringe 2017

By Delve Theatre
Created by the Storytellers
Playing at Theatre in the Round
Storytelling/Spoken word, Includes artists of color

The largest population of Somalis in North America lives in the Twin Cities. Listen as a local ensemble of storytellers share their experiences of the joys and challenges of creating home in Minnesota.

I love the idea of this show and I love the image depicted in this amazing photo, which sums up so much in one fabulous picture. In this show, somewhat awkwardly told in the round, Somali family members share their stories of coming to Minnesota. The show is put together by Zac Deventhal, who provides background into immigrant stories (perhaps a bit too much) and sums up the show. I admire this show, and I loved hearing these stories. I wish the sound had been a bit better, but so glad I saw it.

Buffy the Bedbug Slayer - MN Fringe 2017

By Spike Tape Productions
Written by Gina Musto
Playing at Theatre in the Round
Puppetry, Sci-fi/Mystery/Horror, First-time Minnesota Fringe Festival producer, First-time producer

Buffy Summers is the Slayer, up against new bloodsuckers – bedbugs and a corrupt landlord named Dennis Drumpf. Who will win in this great battle against evil? This parody celebrates the much-loved TV series.

Full disclosure: The writer of this show is my friend and fellow blogger Gina Musto (The Room Where It Happens) and I'm super excited for her and her first Fringe show (and all the drama and angst and joy that that entails).

Remember last year at the Fringe? So many shows about Donald Trump. It's like it was all a joke then, and now it's all too real and hard to even joke about. But planning for Fringe shows takes quite a bit of time, and the world is changing day to day. So let's talk about the Buffy part! Buffy is retired from slaying, but bedbugs are her newest enemy in the form of a bedbug version of Spike and her evil landlord. The great fun in this show is the spot-on portrayals of Buffy, Spike, Willow and Dawn. "SHUT UP, DAWN" can never be said enough. It's a lovely nostalgic trip for the Buffy fan, plus a little real-life angst in the form of Trump. Fun! Not SAD!

The Last Bombardment - MN Fringe 2017

By Oncoming Productions
Created by Oncoming Productions, fr. the short story by Kenneth Schneyer
Playing at Ritz Theater Mainstage
Physical theater/Clowning, Sci-fi/Mystery/Horror, Literary adaptation, Includes artists of color

Nobody noticed the first bombardment, not when it happened. One morning we woke up as usual, and there were babies on our doorsteps. We chose to take them in. Then the choices got much, much harder. (Horror)

Deeply strange play about a community where babies show up on people's doorsteps, causing all sorts of consternation for those who want children, those who don't, and the sheriff who is trying to figure out what's happening. When those who have taken in the babies sicken and die, as do everyone who comes in contact with the children, things take an incredibly dark turn. Such as, what happens the next time babies show up. The show is told through inventive, spare physical theater (this company performed the Deep Dark at Twin Cities Horror Festival IV) and is truly chilling. I love me some horror, but man, there's a lot of killing babies in this show, which made me really wonder about the source material (a short story by Kenneth Schneyer) and the author's intention. Still, based on this and the Deep Dark, I'll be keeping an eye out for Oncoming Productions.

Blackout Improv - MN Fringe 2017

By Rogues Gallery Arts
Created by Blackout Improv
Playing at Phoenix Theater
Improv, Includes artists of color
Warnings: Adult language, Sexual Content.

Members of this all person of color improv team take on the Minnesota Fringe in a way that only they can, with humor, swag, and a focus on social issues. Each performance will feature an amazing special guest!

Blackout Improv is everything. It is ALL the things. It's hilarious, it's thought-provoking, and it's performed regularly at the Phoenix Theater in Uptown. YAY! I love discovering great shows at the Fringe that I can actually see again once the Fringe is over. Some of the funniest performers in the Twin Cities (like MN Theater Love favorites Joy Dolo Anfinson and Kory Pullam), as well as hilarious performers who are new to us (like the delightful John Grebretatose. who is officially one to watch), get together and perform improv based on suggestions from the audience. But in addition to the improv, each show includes some serious discussion of issues such as social justice, which are discussed in such an engaging way that we longed to join in the discussion. LOVE.

Ooh, also during the Fringe they featured a number of special guests. We were lucky enough to see the charming Gregory Parks, a clown, improviser and all around fascinating guy.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sevlin & Devlin Presents: Seven Evans in Heaven - MN Fringe 2017

ShowSevlin & Devlin Presents: Seven Evans in Heaven

By Ferrari McSpeedy Theatrical Productions
Created by Ferrari McSpeedy Theatrical Productions
Playing at Ritz Theater Studio
Physical theater/Clowning, Includes artists of color
Warnings: Violence, Adult language.

Join your hosts Sevlin and Devlin as they present the story of the battle for one Evan's soul. A very weird show in a very small venue.

Our friend Cherry and Spoon really liked this show. You should go read her review of it. 

Belatedly, I realized that John Gebretatose from Blackout Improv was in this show, and he's awesome. I also liked Rita Boersma, who has a lovely singing voice, and engaging comic timing. The audience really loved this show, and laughed like crazy. To me, it felt like it was relying on the familiar charm of the performers instead of anything else, but it clearly worked for the audience.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Repertoire Dogs - MN Fringe 2017

By Ideal Productions
Created by Dana's Boys
Playing at Mixed Blood Theatre
Magic, Improv, Literary adaptation
Warnings: Adult language, Sexual Content.

A high-energy hour of celebrity impressions and cartoon voices "recast" into iconic movie scenes, plays, music, and more! Featuring a panel of well-known local performers and hosted by Josh Carson!

In Short: Light and funny show devoted to impressions of celebrities (and a few Muppets). A few of the highlights from the evening we saw it included Fozzie Bear and Kermit doing the 'Royale with Cheese' scene from Reservoir Dogs, and an Owen Wilson impression contest, where he's reading from Fifty Shades of Gray. Lots of "Wowwww"s. The cast we saw included Allison Witham, Jay Melchior, Joe Weiner, Kelsey Cramer, and Brad Erickson. (No program, so this is based on memory.) This show is fun and funny, but the best thing about the show is watching Josh Carson crack up.

Couple Fight 3: Weddings! - MN Fringe 2017

By Weggel-Reed Productions
Created by Anna Weggel-Reed and Tom Reed
Playing at U of M Rarig Center Thrust
Physical theater/Clowning, Improv, Storytelling/Spoken word
Warnings: Adult language.

"Couple Fight 3: Weddings!" features real couples reenacting their real fights centered around love, weddings, marriage and friendship. Relate to the joys of relationships for better or for worse.

In Short: 
Although there have been two previous editions of Couple Fight, this was the first one we've seen. Wedding stress seems to be universal, but each couple has a different trigger point, causing meltdowns that were probably not amusing at the time. But with the benefit of hindsight, each brief scene takes a stressful situation and brings out the funny. Married or not, we've all had stupid fights, or at least known someone who's gone a little nuts over their nuptials. This fast-moving show packs a ton of laughs, and proves that "one day you'll laugh about this" can come true.

Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Talent Pageant: A New Musical - MN Fringe 2017

By Devious Mechanics
Written by Keith Hovis
Playing at Mixed Blood Theatre
Opera/New Music
Warnings: Violence, Adult language, Sexual Content.

Twenty years after a freak accident ended the Jefferson Township Sparkling Junior Pageant, three contestants will settle the score and see who should've won by finishing the pageant, in all its pre-teen glory.

In Short: Go see this. Keith Hovis is a young genius, and this show is just as dark and delightful as his Teenage Misery. The music is fun and the lyrics are hilarious. And the CAST. Kelly Houlehan plays and sings crazy like no one else, and Ryan London Levin, as her reluctant partner in crime and pageantry is delightful to watch. Leslie Vincent is frighteningly perfect as the small town beauty queen hanging on to her crown with all her might. Zach Garcia is perfect as the ex-jock who might just be the most level-headed of the group. Amazingly, in the span of an hour, Hovis fits a clear story, fully-realized characters, and oh, so many jokes! You'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll laugh again.