Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres, An Evening of Great Food and Big Laughs!

After a hard week and with a busy weekend ahead of me, Stevie Ray’s Comedy Cabaret was exactly what I needed to unwind and release the tensions that had been building up. To sit back, let someone else do the cooking, and much better than I could for that matter, enjoy a drink, and just let all your cares slip away. To watch people make you laugh for two hours while you nibble on a decadent dessert, isn’t that what Friday should always be like? Don’t you deserve that too? This was my first time in a theatre other than the mainstage at Chanhassen, but I was delighted to find that the menu was exactly the same as I have come to know from attending the Mainstage musicals. I recommend the Spinach Artichoke dip and the Herb-Crusted Roasted Prime Rib, and of course the Turtle Cheesecake! They also have what I’m sure are delicious adult beverages with a full bar but for teetotalers like myself, soft drinks, and some fun N/A blended drinks.

Performing every Friday and Saturday night this is an improv show, meaning every show is unscripted and thus original and unique. In fact, even the cast changes night to night. Drawing from a pool of 14 troupe members so you never know who will be performing on a given evening. We had a special treat the night I attended as Stevie Ray himself performed alongside the hilariously talented Kip Hathaway, AJ Kueppers, Ellie Walton, and Brett Williams. Improv always makes me anxious at the thought of it, but as I begin to laugh that anxiety melts away and I’m left with a true appreciation for the talents of the performers. My dinner companion’s favorite was Kip Hathaway, who came up with several of the best one liners of the evening. My favorite was Ellie Walton, who fought a bull and also sang her heart out. The improv games that give me the most anxiety are the musical based pieces. To not only come up with something funny to move a scene forward, but to set it to music, sing it, thinking far enough ahead to make sure it rhymes! That is a skill set that leaves me awestruck. The entire cast we had was quick witted, even when pretending they weren’t, I’m looking at you Brett Williams.

For more information and to purchase tickets for an upcoming Friday or Saturday performance go to https://chanhassendt.com/stevierays/. Seating for dinner begins at 6:00 PM with the show beginning at 8:00 PM. And if you haven’t made it out to the current mainstage musical Footloose it’s running through February you can read my thoughts on that show here https://bit.ly/3NjETFKFootloose.

Don’t want to miss a single review from The Stages of MN? You can subscribe and have every post sent directly to your email. To Subscribe 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.

Lumberjacks in Love is a Thing and it’s Happening at Lyric Arts in Anoka.

Photo by Molly Weibel, 1000 Words Photography-MN

These are the toughest reviews to write. It’s not a bad review, those suck to write because who wants to be negative, and it also means I just spent 2 to 3 hours of my life at a show that wasn’t worth my time, but they aren’t difficult. No, the difficult ones to write are for the shows that are good, just good. Everyone involved should feel good about their work. I don’t feel like I spent my time poorly. I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from going. But here’s the problem – it’s the opening of the theatre season, there are more shows than I can see, and I’ll see 3 to 5 a week throughout September. It’s hard to say, “this is the show you must to see!” Lumberjacks in Love is a hit or miss affair. It hits more than misses, but it would be misleading to say it’s terribly lopsided. I spent almost the entirety of the show changing my mind about how I felt about it. The cast is game and is clearly having fun, which helps the audience have fun as well.

Lumberjacks in Love has a book and Lyrics by Fred Alley and music by James Kaplan. Alley is clearly inspired by Shakespeare, with several jokes playing off lines from Hamlet and Henry V early in the play, and the plot is full of ladies disguised as men. The story focuses on four lumberjacks: Moonlight, Minnesota Slim, Muskrat, and Dirty Bob at a logging camp way up north. Also in camp is “The Kid,” who is secretly the daughter of another lumberjack who died after bringing his “son” up to the camp after his wife passed away. Each of them have their own little plot thread. Muskrat is turning 40 and having the lumberjack equivalent of a midlife crisis. Moonlight finds he is falling in love with “The Kid.” Minnesota Slim receives a letter and realizes that Dirty Bob took his drunken idea to heart one night and sent away on his behalf for a mail order bride who will arrive the next day. Dirty Bob hasn’t bathed in 31 years and will not until he finds a bar of blue soap like his mother dropped when he was a boy. There’s a lot more to unpack with Dirty Bob but let’s leave a little mystery on the table.

The issue is the book and lyrics by Alley for this musical about Lumberjacks, some of whom fall in love. The songs have nice music written by Kaplan and there are a couple, “Shanty Boys” and “It Would Be Enough For Me,” that with a few more listens could grow into songs you’d sing along to. But most of them have the feel of improvised comedy songs, you know the kind, where the performer forces an extra syllable or two into a verse. They also too often have the quality where you think, that’s funny if you made it up on the spot, but not funny enough for a fully written musical. The songs are not the strong point of the show, but they also have the benefit of being short, with 19 production numbers in a show that runs a little over 90 minutes. On top of that when it’s over you almost forget it is a musical because they play such an insignificant role in the show. As I write I think more and more that the issue is the songs. As I watched I was conscious of thinking that this is very mediocre. Mostly, as I reflect now, that feeling was most present after a song had just ended. Then a second later I’m laughing out loud at a bit of silliness. That’s the best way to describe this show – it’s silly. The characters are ludicrous caricatures and the performers commit to playing them that way, which works, as it is where most of the laughs come from. The plot is straight out of a Shakespeare comedy passed through the writers of Hee Haw. I almost don’t know what to say about this. I laughed too much to say it isn’t good, but I also spent too much time thinking this isn’t that good. But there were big laughs, usually of the “that’s so stupid you have to laugh” variety. For instance there is a lot of mileage gotten out of the fact that “The Kid” doesn’t know what a bosom is. It’s a joke that keeps on giving, and surprisingly works every time.

Unreserved praise though to this cast, featuring Ryan Lee as Minnesota Slim, Mark Palmer as Muskrat, Mark Deel as Moonlight, and Steven Ramirez as Dirty Bob. If they didn’t commit, none of this would have worked. I think it’s due to them that what does work works better than it had any right too. They sing, they dance, they play the music, sometimes a guitar, sometimes a wood burning stove. Not to take away from the other three but a little special shout out to Ramirez. True he gets the most outrageous character to play but man does he find a way to wring every laugh possible out of Dirty Bob. I’ve seen Ramirez in several productions now but this silly side is not one I’d seen before and frankly it was eye opening. “The Kid” is played by Siri Hammond and the mail order bride named Rose is played by Caitlin Burns, both of whom fit right in with this group of oddballs. I think the Director Scott Ford did everything you can with this material. Apparently it originated and is performed often at an outdoor theatre in the woods of Wisconsin. I think it probably plays like gangbusters with families who are camping or on vacation and checking out a show. In fact 8 to 12 is probably a great age for this. It has that feel, it doesn’t quite have the feel of a full blown musical comedy. The author would be better off jettisoning most of the songs and turning it into a comedy with a couple of musical moments.

I’m still chuckling about some of the bits now, so if this sounds like your cup of tea, definitely check it out. Lumberjacks in Love runs through September 25th, for more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.lyricarts.org/lumberjacks-in-love

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A Streetcar Named Desire is a Classic Done Right at Yellow Tree Theatre

Nora Targonski-O’Brien and Nathan Keepers. Photo by Tom Wallace

Bless me father for I have sinned, it has been three weeks since my last review. Since then I have watched films and television, had impure thoughts, and binged Stranger Things. But that’s all over for another year, the 2022 – 2023 theater season launched for The Stages of MN last Friday evening at The Yellow Tree Theatre in Osseo MN. On the bill was Tennessee Williams Pulitzer Prize winning classic A Streetcar Named Desire. Headlining the play were Nora Targonski-O’Brien as Blanche and Nathan Keepers as Stanley in what are two of the most powerful and mesmerizing performances of the year. With a supporting cast that plays only slightly less eccentric characters, it’s a production that keeps you engaged from start to finish even though the material is so familiar. Which is the sign that you’ve gotten a classic right. Set in New Orleans during the summer the heat is the match that threatens to set off the bomb that is Stanley Kowalski and shatter Blanche DuBois fragile nerves.

A Streetcar Named Desire made its Broadway debut in 1947, and there’s no denying that gender politics have changed dramatically in the intervening 75 years. The play is about the dynamics between the characters and the roles they play within their relationships. There isn’t a character on the stage that doesn’t seem to have some sort of psychological quirk. Stanley is the king of his castle, which is a tiny two room apartment. He is volatile and uses his masculinity to control everyone and everything around him. When he feels he’s being slighted or laughed at he lashes out due to his fragile sense of self with his manliness. His wife Stella is drawn to his animalistic nature, and seems to feel that the odd slap to keep her in line is part of that charm. When her older sister Blanche arrives for a visit she falls back into the role of caregiver or almost servant to sibling who has always required that, as her fancies or exaggerations that keep her functioning are themselves as fragile as Stanley’s ego. Even Stanley’s friend Mitchell, who becomes Blanches suitor, has some deep seeded mommy issues. The way these dynamics play out over the course of the evening as well as the secrets from Blanche’s past that are revealed are masterfully constructed. It truly is one of the great American plays of the 20th Century and it’s clear that it still has power in the 21st.

Nathan Keepers Stanley Kowalski doesn’t rely on a mimic of Marlon Brando’s famous take on the character. Keepers knows he has a different stage presence and wisely chooses to interpret the character in his own way. We see less of the smoldering sex machine and more of the little man lashing out. But we also see a Stanley that seems more intelligent, we see there is more going on behind his eyes than just a dumb beast reacting to things. Being loud and volatile can be easy and easily overcooked. But playing it in a believable way is a masterful task and Keepers doesn’t have a false moment on stage, he is truly electrifying every second he’s on stage. Whereas playing Stanley can lead a less accomplished actor to an over the top performance, playing Blanche can easily lead to a boring and grating performance droning on and on in a southern accent about absolute rubbish. Thankfully, not so with Nora Targonski-O’Brien’s performance which is nuanced and perfectly balanced. She floats between superiority and false humility with ease, her revelations and confrontations when they come are heartbreaking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more sympathetic Blanche. Targonski-O’Brien’s portrayal, like Keepers, grounds the character in a reality that allows for empathy and understanding. Rounding out the cast are Kendall Kent as Stella, who has to placate these two extreme characters. She does a nice job of showing us the characters struggle to be who Stanley and Blanche need her to be for them, which are incompatible persona’s. They both need her to be at their beckon call, at the same time. Finally Bradley Hildebrandt’s Mitchell is basically a supporting character to both Stanley and Blanche as well as his off stage mother, though he gets his moment to go a little dark when he confronts Blanche on her birthday.

On the technical side of things praise cannot be piled high enough on Scenic Designer Justin Hooper’s work. The set of the Kowalskis apartment is a true thrust formation leaving just enough room on either side of the sides or the front of the stage for the characters to walk without grazing the audience. It has a depth and dinginess to it that gives it an authentic feel even as it takes liberties for visibilities sake, like the screen door that leads to the porch that doesn’t actually latch to a far side door frame. The reality of the set is enhanced by the work of Lighting Designer Kathy Maxwell and Sound Designer Jeff Bailey. Some of their key contributions come in the form of audio queues for Blanches memories of the husbands death, the repeating of which is a powerful audio motif. The costumes by Samantha Haddow represent the time and place well, but it’s her work with Blanche’s wardrobe that is particularly memorable. As worn by Targonski-O’Brien, they help us to picture Blanche in better, happier days, which makes her current circumstances all the more tragic.

Don’t miss a chance to see this classic of the stage performed by and outstanding cast. A Streetcar Named Desire runs through October 9th at Yellow Tree Theatre. For more information and to purchase tickets go to https://yellowtreetheatre.com/streetcar.

Don’t want to miss a single review from The Stages of MN? You can subscribe and have every post sent directly to your email. To Subscribe 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.

This Show is Cheaper Than Gas – America on Empty at Brave New Workshop

August is traditionally a slow month for theater. Once you’ve seen Wicked and now that Park Square’s summer mystery Holmes & Watson has closed you might be wondering what else is there to do. Well look no further than Brave New Workshop’s latest, This Show is Cheaper Than Gas – America on Empty. Does the state of our country, everything from the price of gas to the supreme court have you feeling sick to your stomach? Well if, as they say, laughter is the best medicine, then Brave New Workshop has what you need to fix what ails you. This Show is Cheaper... is so hysterically funny it just might cure cancer. I’d like to say that you’ll forget we live in a country controlled by rich white men who play lip service to the addle minded and religious extremists in order to ensure they continue to widen the wealth gap. But that isn’t the case, instead they are going to keep reminding you of it, but in the most humorous way possible. It’s a sketch show that skewers everything from musical theater to Clarence Thomas.

This is the companies second show back post covid and after being acquired by The Hennepin Theatre Trust, a move which should allow it to carry on for years to come, maintaining it’s tradition as the longest running comedy theatre in the United States. I was able to review their first show post pandemic as well, and while it was really fun I was left with the disappointment of not seeing Lauren Anderson perform as she was out the night I attended. Artistic Director Caleb McEwen, filled in for her and was great, but Anderson was the cast member whose work I knew from my first months of reviewing, when I saw her at my first Twin Cities Horror Festival as the Leader of a cult called the Oasis in Nissa Nordland Morgan’s Incarnate. This time I got to see Anderson and she did not disappoint. Whether it’s playing a version of herself as the bitter veteran of over 50 consecutive Brave New Workshop shows, or as the owner of a gasoline boutique, she had the audience eating out of her hand. I could gush about her all day really but I want to also acknowledge her costars. First up Denzel Belin, who just did an amazing job directing the MN Fringe show He-Man Is The Devil & Other Satanic Panic Tales, reminds us he’s equally talented on stage as he is backstage. He has several standout characters such as Clarence Thomas, who makes a wonderful transformation thanks to the combined efforts of the other performers as various elements of a woman’s anatomy. Doug Neithercott for me is the master of the reaction, watch him when the others are performing or you are missing half the joke. He’s great as a game show host for, if I remember the title correctly, “If you’re Woke you’re Broke.” Rounding out the cast making her debut is Isabella Dunsieth, who fit right in with her three BNW veterans. She deserves to return, she’s proven herself worthy to tread these hallowed comedy boards. 

I really cannot recommend this show enough, this is a great night out with friends or family. Very funny, very topical, but don’t let that scare you. If you, like many of us, have taken a break from trying to keep up to date on every little bit of news, you’ll be fine. They stick to the proud strokes of what’s been happening, because frankley, that gives them more than enough material. This is a delightful mix of smart and silly, witty and absurd, and like all great sketch comedy it’s being performed by actors who know how to make characters distinct and memorable. For more information and to purchase tickets got to https://bravenewworkshop.org/this-show-is-cheaper-than-gas-america-on-empty/ .

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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

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