Minnesota Fringe Festival Day 11 The Final day: Bonny & Read, The Real Black Swann: Confessions of America’s First Black Drag Queen, Bellerophon’s Shadow: Voyage of the Pegasus, and Black Wall Street: Dreamland Theatre (Winner of The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award).

Bonny & Read is a musical about two female pirates written, directed, and starring Kendra Braunger and Carissa Christenson. The music consists of existing pirate songs, you know the type, “Drunken Sailor” “Blow the Man down,” which are all well sung by the cast from Christenson’s arrangements. It’s an interesting story based on two real life women. For the show their tale is told by two historians who narrate from high backed chairs on either side of the stage. Towards the end the narrator angle is abandoned, which proves to be short sighted. The show that flows along nicely up until that point ends up dragging at the end and the final resolution could have been a lot clearer. The show contains some of the best sword fight choreography I’ve seen on stage.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/bonny-read

The Real Black Swann… is the show that, more than any other at the Fringe Festival, gave me a better understanding of what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes, which is quite an accomplishment at Fringe because there are a lot of shows that do a good job of creating empathy. Les Kurkendaal Barrett shares the story of William Dorsey Swann, a former slave who became the first black Drag Queen in the late 1800’s. He intersperses Swann’s story with details of his own life as a black man in todays America through the storytelling convention of a dream brought on by anesthesia during a surgery. It’s powerful, funny and really effective at helping me, a white middle aged man, understand what everyday life is like for a black man in our times.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/the-real-black-swann-confessions-of-america-s-first-black-drag-queen-

Bellerophon’s Shadow: Voyage of the Pegasus is a puppet show that blends a science fiction story with Greek mythology. The technique of using humans in sight of the audience to not only control the puppet but also to act as the structures, creatures, and elements like the sea, is really effective. This was a show that just happened to fit in a free slot I had in the location I had shows schedule before and after it. It looked interesting and unlike anything else I had seen at Fringe yet. It’s what we call a happy Fringident. I’m so glad I caught this inventive and creative journey into the outer limits of the universe.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/bellerophon-s-shadow-voyage-of-the-pegasus-

My Dance With Lisa is a one woman show about a former architect now working as an overnight security guard in the Louvre who watches over the Mona Lisa. To stay awake and because she needs someone to talk to, she tries to engage the painting in conversation. It’s not a fantasy play, the Mona Lisa does not talk back. But through monologue we learn of the disappointments that have led her to this place. It’s performed well by Gina Sauer, but the script isn’t terribly original or interesting. There’s nothing to her story but a failed marriage and bitterness that comes from not moving on but dwelling on things that didn’t work out as we hoped. It’s tricky because it’s like listening to your Mom’s friend complain about her divorce that happened 10 years ago; you feel bad for her, but you don’t really want to hear about it for an hour. The only thing that saves this from being exactly like that is Sauer’s performance and the fact that they keep the divorce issue under wraps for the first half of the show, so you are kept going out of curiosity of what is up with this woman, what is she down about?

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/my-dance-with-lisa-

Black Wall Street… is The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award winner. This tells the story of a piece of history that I only became aware of when I watched The Watchmen TV series last year. Set in the Dreamland Theatre on the day of the Tulsa Oklahoma race massacre. A screening of a film is interrupted by reports that a young black man, Dick Rowland, who had been arrested mistakenly for attempted assault of a white woman but was going to be released was about to be lynched. The Black patrons of the theatre band together to head over to the jailhouse to make sure that doesn’t happen. There is a discussion between the patrons and their white friends about getting involved. When the black theatergoers leave to try and save Rowland, we see the white friends left alone in the theater. We hear and, via a projected clip from The Watchmen, see the the beginnings of what led to one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in our country. The show makes the audience feel as if we are part of the audience in the theater way back in May of 1921. It’s brilliantly acted in particularly Charla Marie Bailey and Dante Pirtle as Loula and John Williams the theater owners and Camrin King as Emma Gurley, Loula’s best friend. Doc Woods directs from a script by Atlese Robinson. Together they have found the perfect way to tell this story to an audience of all races. Certainly we all felt differently if we were black or white. As a white man I was angered and shocked and unable to understand that world of 1921. If I was a black and sitting in that audience what would I have felt? Maybe a lot of those same feelings, maybe a lot of other feelings as well. They made a point at the end during a talk back of pointing out this is not “black” history it is American history. We all need to know this story and we shouldn’t have to wait until we are 50 years old to learn about it in a TV series adapted from a superhero comic book.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/black-wall-street-dreamland-theatre

Don’t want to miss a single Fringe review from The Stages of MN? You can subscribe and have each post delivered directly to your email. On your computer from the home page on the right, enter your email address and click subscribe. On your mobile device scroll to the bottom of the page and do the same. Also, you can follow me on Facebook, search @thestagesofmn and click follow and on Instagram thestagesofmn.

Minnesota Fringe Festival Day 10: Neil Gaiman’s “The Wedding Present”, Happy Endings Church: A Haggardly Tale of Woe & Redemption, Jesus Qhrist (Winner of The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award), The Witchy World of Luna Muse, and Burr: A New Musical.

Neil Gaiman’s “The Wedding Present” is the story a newly married couple who receive a letter as a wedding gift that describes in detail their perfect wedding day. A year later they come across the letter again but it has changed. Now it’s describing their first year of marriage but instead of the happy successful marriage they have, it describes an alternate reality version where tragedy has struck and they are having a difficult time. It’s like a modern day variation on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. The letter updates as time goes on reflecting a more and more unhappy outcome to their lives, while in their real lives they seem almost too successful and happy. In this stage adaptation of Gaiman’s short story, the gender was changed from a man and woman to two men. Perhaps a nod to Wilde, who was imprisoned for being homesexual in the less enlightened times in which he lived. It’s a great story idea, though I’ve not read the source material and the script is solid as are the performances. It did feel like the ending didn’t quite come together as clearly as it could, but that may be an issue with the short story.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/neil-gaiman-s-the-wedding-present-

Happy Endings Church… is a musical about a very religious couple who get married and found their own church. One of the guiding principles of their church is that homosexuality is wrong. What their followers and the wife do not realize is that the pastor is gay. There’s a conversion therapy camp and then they see the light and found a new church where it’s OK to be gay. It’s an unoriginal idea, that plays out without anything very interesting happening. Most of the songs are decent and the songwriting is probably it’s strongest element. The cast is obviously having fun and giving it their all, but while several are good singers, no one is a great singer and the musical performances are better written then they are performed. The idea for the musical is just not enough, it’s a concept most of us support but at this level of simplicity it makes a better bumper sticker than a musical.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/happy-endings-church-a-haggardly-tale-of-woe-redemption

Jesus Qhrist is the winner of The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award. A phenomenally funny and politically savvy show. Christopher Kehoe is a very charismatic performer which when you think about it is a perfect fit for Jesus. It’s humorous without being insensitive to any thinking person’s beliefs. It uses the character of Jesus to give the audience a feel for the spirit of his teachings. Then it takes a turn and it uses someone else’s words as a contrast. In doing so, it shows how the words of that second person are not compatible with the character of Jesus we have gotten to know or his teachings. It’s so effective even though it’s obvious to most of us. It seems that even the unthinking should be able to see that you cannot reconcile those words with Jesus and be able to see the truth. But, of course they will not even see the play will they?

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/jesus-qhrist

The Witchy World of Luna Muse appears to be an autobiographical drag show about a boy who always identified with the villians and witches in stories rather than the princesses. Cam Pederson, who has created and stars in the show gives a performance that is witty, energetic, and quite sexy. A Combination of Lip Synching and dancing, both done expertly, and a comic monologue. He has the diva attitude and double entendres down pat. He has a confidence on stage that is well earned. I enjoyed this so very much and will absolutely check out future shows featuring Pederson or his alter ego Luna Muse.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/the-witchy-world-of-luna-muse

Burr: A New Musical Revue is a qualified success. Most of the songs are really strong and many of the performers are good singers. This could have been, or maybe it’s better to say, this can be great. But there are a couple of things that are working against the show. First most of the acting outside of the musical numbers, is not good. It’s almost baffling how they perform the musical numbers really well and then the few moments of dialogue it’s like they have never been on stage before. Not every performer but particularly Marie Finch-Koinuma as Theodosia and Trey Arika as Aaron Burr, seemed like they were acting for the first time. And Finch-Koinuma’s problems carried over to her singing as well. At times she sang beautifully and other times, not. Stand outs in in both acting and singing were Tony Peterson as James Wilkinson and Zack Cambronne as Thomas Jefferson. The second issue was the music track they were performing too at times overpowered them. I thought the actual songs and plot line were very solid, it was in the execution that it was really hit or miss, but mostly hit. I’d love to see this expanded upon.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/burr-a-new-musical

Don’t want to miss a single Fringe review from The Stages of MN? You can subscribe and have each post delivered directly to your email. On your computer from the home page on the right, enter your email address and click subscribe. On your mobile device scroll to the bottom of the page and do the same. Also, you can follow me on Facebook, search @thestagesofmn and click follow and on Instagram thestagesofmn.

Minnesota Fringe Festival Day 9: Whoosh! The Civil War Mythology of Michael Hickey and His Perilous Precipitation Over St. Anthony Falls! (Winner of the Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award), The Hysterical Woman, Sunshine, and ShMILF Life.

Don’t forget to vote for your picks for the Golden Lanyard Awards at https://bit.ly/3zVDdMI the polls close at 11:59 PM Saturday 8/13/22.

Whoosh!… is… well first off, it’s The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award Winner. Secondly, wow! What a performance by Andrew Erskine Wheeler. Portraying multiple characters throughout, each is a brilliant characterization, distinct and fully realized. It’s a story that incorporates so many different elements. The Civil War, post war, Artist Douglas Volk, it’s part ghost story, part comedic tale of an Irish immigrant and his survival going over the St. Anthony Falls. It’s so many different things yet it tells a cohesive and well structured tale. Allison Vincent does an amazing job directing the show. The timing and staging of how and when to move, pull props out, refer to visual aids, subtle changes in costume, all done brilliantly. Which brings us again to Wheeler’s performance, It is absolutely the best piece of acting I’ve see at Fringe, a true tour de force and a master class in stage acting. Saturday he has performances back to back, if you haven’t gotten to it, make sure you do. Frankly, I’m staggered by the thought of him performing twice with but 40 minutes between them, it is such a physical and intense performance it hardly seems possible.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/_whoosh-the-civil-war-mythology-of-michael-hickey-and-his-perilous-precipitation-over-st-anthony-falls-#info

The Hysterical Woman is a series of scenes on a theme which is that of the systematic mistreatment and mischaracterization of women throughout history as hysterical i.e unreliable, over sensitive, to be humored and other ridiculous ideas. Pulling from sources as varied as Greek mythology and Emily Dickenson to Anita Hill’s testimony about Clarence Thomas and Britney Spears Conservatory saga. The show uses humor to make the medicine more palatable, but there is a message to be heard here. Filled with examples from the grievously obvious to the subtler types that happen everyday. Showing us the examples that remind us what an historical and pervasive issue this is, but also the ways in which we can all do better.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/the-hysterical-woman

Sunshine is a one woman show written by Adam Szudrich and featuring Lisa Marie Fulton in a strong performance as Ellen, a single woman who is at a point in her life when she is feeling a bit lost. Focusing on her insecurities and self doubts, her relationship with her father and deceased mother, the ex-boyfriend she can’t forget, and as the show opens, the prospect of a first date. A teacher by day, alcohol abuser by night, we learn as much about her character through her relationships as we do from what she tells us directly. I think a lot of women in the audience are going to find a connection with Ellen and her feelings about her looks, her weight, and her interpersonal relationships. It’s a good script that put me in mind of an American Bridget Jones. I’d like to see an extended version of this fully staged with actors playing the roles of the other characters instead of voice overs as this Fringe production utilizes.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/sunshine-by-adam-szudrich

ShMILF Life is a one woman show written and performed by Penny Sterling. Sterling’s show explores, among other things, what it’s like to be trying to date as a transgender woman who transitioned just in time to enter menopause. It’s a self deprecating and revealing show by a very good writer and a natural performer. Sterling worked in the 80’s as a stand up comedian for a time which makes sense as it’s clear that she knows how to write and time a joke. Most readers will know by now that my youngest son is a transgender man and that I gravitate to shows like this that help expand our knowledge and understanding of the transgender experience. Sterling does a fantastic job of sharing her story and putting things in a perspective that helps people empathize with a person whose journey is different than our own. I really enjoyed ShMILF Life, in made me laugh and think, and it gave us a lot to discuss on the car ride home.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/shmilf-life

Don’t want to miss a single Fringe review from The Stages of MN? You can subscribe and have each post delivered directly to your email. On your computer from the home page on the right, enter your email address and click subscribe. On your mobile device scroll to the bottom of the page and do the same. Also, you can follow me on Facebook, search @thestagesofmn and click follow and on Instagram thestagesofmn.

Minnesota Fringe Festival Day 8: Dead Mother’s Underwear, Silver Hammer (Co-Winner of The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award), Unbelievable, and Jon Bennett Fire in the Meth Lab (Co-Winner of The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award)

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.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/dead-mother-s-underwear

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.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/silver-hammer#tickets

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.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/unbelievable-

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.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/jon-bennett-fire-in-the-meth-lab

Don’t want to miss a single Fringe review from The Stages of MN? You can subscribe and have each post delivered directly to your email. On your computer from the home page on the right, enter your email address and click subscribe. On your mobile device scroll to the bottom of the page and do the same. Also, you can follow me on Facebook, search @thestagesofmn and click follow and on Instagram thestagesofmn.

Minnesota Fringe Festival Day 6: Stages: A Horror Play, Moonwatchers (Winner of The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award), I Love My Body and It’s Trying to Kill Me, and We Are the Sea.

Stages: A Horror Play is based on an original Short Story by Phillip Andrew Bennett Low. Sometimes a show just doesn’t work for you. I admit I was somewhat lost in this one. I can say that there is a consistent dreamlike quality to the piece. The individual performances, costumes, sound were all well done. By the end, the final action solidified what I think was happening but I suspect that the point is not knowing until the end, so I’ll not spoil that. I think for me it was possibly the source material. This was the second show I’ve seen based on Low’s work and in both cases I felt that the use of horror in the titles, or subtitles, was misleading. I think the real issue is that Low and I are just not on the same wavelength and his style just isn’t going to be my cup of tea.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/stages-a-horror-play

Moonwatchers is today’s The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award Winner! It’s a hilarious show about two moonwatchers whose job it is to turn on the moon each night and manage various night sky activities like having the cow jump over the moon and a comet fly by. It’s all pretty routine until one night they discover the moon has been stolen. While one of the moonwatchers subs in for the moon the other goes off in search of the moon rustler who made off with it. Yes, you read that right – they are not just a myth, there really are moon rustlers. This show gives you everything: comedy, music, comets, cows, and if that isn’t enough it gives you the moon as well, literally. It’s the kind of show that sinks or swims on the personalities of it’s two performers. Nigel Berkeley and Corey Quinn Farrell are two very charming moonwatchers.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/moonwatchers

I Love My Body and It’s Trying to Kill Me is not my usual type of show but I’m really glad I chose to see it. Katie Knutson is the type of natural storyteller who can feed you information through a narrative, like a sneaky form of education. The faux game show hook that opens the show and returns throughout is a wonderful way to point out some real absurdities in regards to our rights as citizens, patients and consumers. It also helps the information to stick with you longer because you have a visual cue as well as the audible. The show is more like a speaker’s presentation than a theatrical production, but these are important topics and worth making the shift in gears.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/i-love-my-body-and-it-s-trying-to-kill-me

We Are the Sea is a production by Out of the Mist Celtic Theatre written by Laura Lundgren Smith. It’s a haunting and tragic cross between historical truths and celtic folktales. The reality is that Irish immigrants came over to America in what would come to be called “Coffin Ships.” The Folktale or fantasy aspect is that when the bodies were thrown overboard after death that the sea accepted them and listened to their stories. The show is filled with beautiful celtic music, get there early and hear the band play a few tunes before the show begins. There are strong performances particularly from Sage Hovet, Catherine Hansen, and Katrina Stelk, as three women who are trying to survive their crossing of the Atlantic. John Haynes gives an equally compelling portrayal as the heartless and murderous Sailer. No one is credited with make-up but whoever is responsible, particularly the makeup on Hovet and Stelk, deserves some special recognition, they looked like they were really on the brink of death particularly around the eyes.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/we-are-the-sea

Don’t want to miss a single Fringe review from The Stages of MN? You can subscribe and have each post delivered directly to your email. On your computer from the home page on the right, enter your email address and click subscribe. On your mobile device scroll to the bottom of the page and do the same. Also, you can follow me on Facebook, search @thestagesofmn and click follow and on Instagram thestagesofmn.

Minnesota Fringe Festival Day 5: The Shrieking Harpies, Finger Lickin’ Good (Winner of The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award), He-Man is the Devil & Other Satanic Panic Tales, and Pinata.

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.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/the-shrieking-harpies

Photo by Ryan Lear

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.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/finger-lickin-good

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.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/he-man-is-the-devil-other-satanic-panic-tales

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.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/pi-ata

Don’t want to miss a single Fringe review from The Stages of MN? You can subscribe and have each post delivered directly to your email. On your computer from the home page on the right, enter your email address and click subscribe. On your mobile device scroll to the bottom of the page and do the same. Also, you can follow me on Facebook, search @thestagesofmn and click follow and on Instagram thestagesofmn.

Minnesota Fringe Festival Day 4: The Conversation, Rewrites, What’s Your Day Job? Or, How Capitalism Destroys Us All!, and Living Underground (Winner of The Stages of MN Fringe of the Day Award).

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.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/the-conversation

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.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/rewrites

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.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/what-s-your-day-job-or-how-capitalism-destroys-us-all-

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.

https://minnesotafringe.org/2022-show-information/life-underground

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