Before I dive into the reviews today I wanted to cover a few things. First off I didn’t want to do any ties when selecting shows for the Fringe of the Day Award, but at the end of the night I really couldn’t decide between the two shows that share the award today. Secondly, in case you’re confused by the “Day 8” in the headline, there was no Day 7 entry, you didn’t miss it. I took a night off for other activities. Thirdly, but probably most importantly, I wanted to highlight the Golden Lanyard Awards. You can go to https://minnesotafringe.org/awards and vote for the shows you think are worthy for awards from this years Minnesota Fringe Festival. For Audience members there are three categories to vote in, and there two categories for artists to vote in as well, along with awards voted on by staff. The voting cut off is Saturday at 11:59 PM so don’t forget to vote for your favorites.
In Dead Mother’s Underwear Jill R. Hildebrandt combines humor and poetry to explore family lineage, alcoholism, mental health, student loan debt, and of course her dead mother’s underwear. It’s an honest and revealing performance that models one of her key takeaways, to not conceal but reveal your pain and struggles. She traces her family tree, focusing on maternal relationships and how the relationships from mother to daughter from each generation to the next informs the one that came after. I think a lot of audience members are going to find familiar aspects which they can relate to within Hildebrandt’s story. It’s a show that doesn’t sugar coat the world, it acknowledges the hardships but does it through humor, which helps the audience to onboard the messages she’s trying to impart.
Silver Hammer is one of today’s Co-recipients of The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Awards. Silver Hammer feels as it begins with text projection that will be a political piece. Then it becomes an interesting spoken word science-fiction story. Then it becomes an autobiographical account of a failed effort at writing a Fringe show and then how during the pandemic it was converted into a salvage show. From there it delves into analysis of a Beatles song, the title of the show should clue you into which one. All of which leads to the uncovering of a conspiracy regarding arson and its relationship to the Politics of disinformation on Russian Propagandist Vladislav Surkov. A one man show created and performed by the very gifted Nick Ryan. It’s thought provoking, very funny, and you are left, as he indicated could happen, wondering what of what proceeded is true.
Unbelievable! is an amusing and clever look at four bible stories told with a modern sensibility. The scenes start strong, but progress with diminishing returns. The first story about Adam and Eve’s decision on whether or not to eat the apple from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil being the best. The scene acknowledges the absurdities and gaps in logic inherent in the creation myth. The second is the story of Abraham who has been tasked by God to take his son Isaac up the mountain and sacrifice him. This scene focuses on Isaacs WTF? response to this situation and enacts the story through the lens of a modern father/son dynamic. What’s interesting about these stories is that it approaches them with the application of logic and intelligence, it talks through the stories and addresses the fallacies within them, but it never actually destroys them. It’s an entertaining show and should be inoffensive to all but the far religious right. If you haven’t contemplated at least some of the questions this raised you simply are not a critical thinker.
Jon Bennett: Fire in the Meth Lab is also The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award winner. This was the most interesting title at the location I was already at for a 10:00 PM show. Before the many many reshuffles of my schedule it wasn’t even on my itinerary. Boy, talk about happy accidents. I don’t know what I was expecting besides maybe a comedic take on life in a meth lab or something. What you get at Jon Bennett’s show is an exploration of his brothers life of addictions which culminated in Meth and ended him up in prison. From Australia, Bennett reminds one of a younger fitter Matt Berry. He is instantly engaging and tells of his relationship with his older brother with an openness that is refreshing. He manages to illustrate how his brother is an asshole, was a bully to him his entire childhood, and how he still loves him. That is the crux of many addiction relationships and the paradoxes that exist within them. Extremely funny, at times incredibly moving, Bennett makes a connection with the audience that feels almost one on one. It’s an unexpected stunner and whereas I ended up accidentally seeing it due to a rearranging of my schedule, you should be rearranging your schedule in order to see it.
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