The Shrieking Harpies is an improvisational musical by three performers who are clearly on the same page. It works beautifully flowing nicely from scene to scene so that we end up with a complete story with a beginning, middle, and end. Musical improv terrifies me on behalf of the performers. But, obviously these three Hannah Wydeven, Lizzie Gardner, and Taj Ruler accompanied by Justin Nellis on keyboard thrive on that danger. They have the wit and the voices to carry it off. This is improv done right, very very funny.
Finger Licken’ Good is the winner of The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award! For me, this was the most anticipated show heading into the Fringe Festival. I’ve seen many of these artists before both on and backstage and have really responded to and admired their work. It tells the story of Colonel Harland David Sanders and his rise to become the founder of KFC and the undisputed chicken king of America. It’s hilarious, at times a little risque, and when it comes to Colonel Sanders the play leaves little to the imagination. There are some portions of the story that don’t seem quite right, but luckily Shannon Custer is there as the fact checker to keep things more or less on the up and up. This cast loaded with local talent like Custer, Duck Washington, and co-writers/performers Heather Meyer and Nissa Nordland Morgan does not disappoint, nor does Meyer and Morgan’s script. The show belongs though to the incomparable Sam Landman, in what can only be described with the euphemism that he gives a very brave performance. Director Mike Fotis whom I’ve seen perform at Huge Improv does an amazing job as the show seems to fly by, so many fun choices like having Landman on stage as the audience comes in laying on a Chicken skin rug in a red silk robe and hardly anything else. To the staging of the Colonel’s last moments in what one might call poetic justice. Everything from costumes and props to the occasional musical number work together to make one of the wildest and enjoyable shows at Fringe.
He-Man is The Devil & Other Satanic Panic Tales is a one man show written and performed by Kyle B. Dekker based upon his own childhood. I’ve learned as a parent of a transgender child that what is more powerful in terms of opening people’s minds and hearts is not news stories or social media memes but telling your own story directly to people. I have certainly been aware of many of the things in Dekkers play, but for the first time I didn’t just hear them, I felt them. It’s a well constructed assemblage of stories of his upbringing in an ultra right wing religious family. that vividly illustrates a childhood that sounds exactly like what the adults in his life were supposedly trying to save him from. I want to applaud Dekker for his skill in taking a childhood full of stories like the ones he shares and selecting the perfect examples for creating something that flows like a narrative. I also want to thank him for sharing so much of himself. After the performance Dekker remarked to the audience that this was the first time he had ever performed at Fringe, in the past he produced and wrote shows. I’m so glad he chose to perform the show himself, it made it so much more powerful. Telling our stories directly to people like this is what creates understanding and empathy.
Pinata is a very funny exploration of the mean girl phenomenon but the adult version. Taking place at a children’s birthday party where two mothers are marched upon their arrival to the penalty box. One is a mother who has been in the group for awhile now, but doesn’t really fit in. The other is a new mother to the group who is terrified that if things go wrong with her, her son will not be invited to any more birthday parties, thus scarring him for life. While essentially a comedy it sneakily deals with several themes that really do deserve to be examined. Not only are we witnessing this dynamic between the mothers, but issues such as entitlement are brought up, and worrying about our kids not being accepted or teased. Pinata deals with these issues in a humorous way, but it does address them in a way that the audience hears and processes. The three main performers are all excellent. Greta Grosch as Queen Bee Carol who finds herself in the penalty box at one point plays both the one in control and the one losing control equally well. Katie Consamus and Stephanie Cousins play their rolls broadly but not cartoonishly. They have to be certain types, Consamus the free thinker who doesn’t care what the other Mom’s think and Cousins as the timid one who is worrying about everything. There are a lot of laughs in this show with a fair amount of physical humor as well.
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