The Conversation is a show I wanted to like more than I do. It’s a good idea and a great topic that should make for powerful theater. But, the script for The Conversation plays like a less interesting and less natural version of a real conversation. A conversation can be a great way to come up with ideas, but then you have to dramatize it. The show is full of threads, either intentional or not, that could be developed into something interesting. It’s also full of extraneous details, like a contract for an upcoming venue that interrupts any flow the show has without any real purpose. Like those contract asides, in execution this is awkwardly staged and performed. Suzanne Bengtson is clearly someone with a commanding stage presence and can perform. William Bengtson, who in fairness is making his acting debut, doesn’t have the same confidence and the performance is more like a script reading. What the show needed was an outside director to help address staging and script issues. This feels like 15 minutes worth of material stretched to 45 minutes that just don’t really build to any type of climax.
Rewrites by Phil Holt takes a surreal view of how a playwright creates by imagining that she can actually call and invite her characters over to help her through her writer’s block. But then who’s the writer? As her character’s point out, they cannot tell her what happens until she writes what happens. I love a work in any medium that takes on the challenge of trying to understand and share the creative process. The show explores why we want to create taking loving stabs at the pomposity that can motivate those intentions or that one might use to try and justify their success. It’s a clever script full of surprises and humor that I have no intention of spoiling. The cast is excellent with great comic timing but, also an ability to change the mood and tone at a moments notice to something more real.
In What’s Your Day Job? Or, How Capitalism Destroys Us All Fearless Comedy Productions takes the skit approach to tackle their theme of, well basically how messed up our capitalistic society is. It’s a bit of a mixed bag in terms of the script with some sketches working better than others. The messages are important and come across, though not always as clearly as they could have. What isn’t a mixed bag though is the cast, who all show up and gave it their all in every moment. A good example is the final skit between an engaged couple. There is an interesting idea about the economic realities of trying to do what you love and the cost that can have on a relationship. The message could be better addresses but both performers are terrific and extremely present in the moment.
Living Underground Today’s winner of The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award. Brad Lawrence’s one man show keeps the audience enraptured as he tells about life in New york City and stories of what the Subway has meant to him. It’s a deeply confessional show in which we genuinely feel like we have gotten to know Lawrence. The storytelling takes various tangents but none of them are ever dead ends and they always seem to wind up back on the tracks, but with more background information under the audiences belt. The less said about the details of this show the better, but I will say it got a little dusty in the theater at the end for this reviewer. Brad Lawrence is an incredibly engaging and likeable performer and I found his show very rewarding.
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