Fringe Reviews 2017 – Days 1 & 2
As has been my tradition, I use my blog page to write reviews of the Fringe shows I’ve seen. I don’t write audience reviews on the Fringe page because I’m a producer myself and I understand the hard work that goes into making a show happen. I don’t want to torpedo someone’s work simply because I didn’t like it.
You will find no star ratings. You will, hopefully, find some honest opinions about shows.
But I’ve got to warn you, most of these shows feature work by at least one friend of mine. So that might make me more harsh or more friendly. Depending on the Friend.
Comedy Suitcase is one of the most reliable companies when it comes to producing comedy for all ages. This year, Joshua Scrimshaw and Levi Weinhagen went old school with a series of non verbal comedy vignettes. I guess your response to the show will depend a great deal on whether or not you are OK with a show in which nobody talks. If that bothers you, I don’t understand your sense of humor and we can’t be friends.
But seriously, we can still be friends. You just should skip this show because it isn’t for you. For the rest of you, you will find very few better examples of physical comedy than the work of Levi and Joshua in this show.
Being the writer of the show, I can’t be objective. I am both proud of the show and hyper aware of all the places I could have done better. Overall, the response has been positive. We received a great recommendation from the Star Tribune and another from the Pioneer Press. Given I feel lucky to get a write up in any major publication, I’m feeling pretty good we received them from two major outlets already. The critiques we’ve received are fair. A lot of people think the show is too wordy and yeah, there are a lot of words. I couldn’t figure out how to tell the stories without having a script that was wordy. And that will turn some people off.
Overall, though, I’m happy with our cast and I’m happy with how I managed to wring a show out of some very unusual source material. I hope a lot of people see it and most of them enjoy it!
I’m in this show and I’ve not talked about it as much as I should because as an actor, I lack a certain level of confidence in myself. I like acting but that doesn’t mean I feel I do it particularly well. And this part is a demanding piece of theatre. It is a fifteen minute scene where I’m one of only two actors on stage and it is filled with dense monologues about history and theology. I’m super honored to have been cast in anything and I feel like I comport myself well enough on stage. But make no mistake, this show is outside my comfort zone. Which is why, I guess, I was happy to do it.
Ben San Del is a terrific writer. His work is filled with a nice mixture of comedy, nihilism, optimism, and existential dread. For his storytelling show, he put together a series of speculative fiction works that perfectly encompass his style and his philosophy.
Where many storytellers focus on stories from their own life, Ben took a risk and presented something entirely different. While I love personal stories, I also appreciate that Ben gives his audience a different option. It is one of my favorite shows of the Fringe so far.
This is show is, I think, almost exactly like something I would write. It features a convoluted narrative, a crazy concept, and a whole lot of punchlines. I liked the concept and script of the show more than the execution. The actors needed to tighten up the show. That’s a problem with the Fringe system on one hand, because they only get to run through the show one or two times in the space, but it is also a problem of rehearsal. They simply needed to rehearse more. They were also frequently difficult to understand.
The show, though, is solid and fun. If you are a conservative, don’t go. Unless you are a conservative who doesn’t mind someone poking fun at you. Because it pokes a lot of fun at you. It should come as no surprise that I’m fine with that.
phillip andrew bennet low is one of the smartest people I know. His prose, I think, is poetic and dense and I love to listen to it. Sometimes that prose is nearly impenetrable. His research is so complete and he knows his subject so well that you feel like you need liner notes.
All of that said, Serpentine is one of the most accessible of his shows in terms of understanding the narrative. It is still dense. I wouldn’t have a work by phillip be any other way. But the inclusion of two storytellers who talk about the transgender experience provide a doorway into the greater text. The storytellers, by the way, both nailed their portions of the show.
My main criticism has to do with a couple of sound choices. The use of heavily processed voiceovers in key moments were nearly impossible to understand and it made what followed more confusing.
I also have to be a little critical of Strike theater. Every theater has shortcomings but I found that the acoustics in Strike worked against both shows I’ve seen in the space so far. Often, I was staring at the lips of performers to discern a little more of what they were saying.
I know the people who are running Strike and I know all of the risks and challenges they face. Still, the acoustics of the space frustrated me and I hope they can be sorted out.
David Mann is a proved commodity in terms of his writing and acting.
Above, I commented that I appreciated Ben San Del’s choice to avoid the personal storytelling you see from so many other storytellers at the Fringe. David’s show is a personal narrative about how becoming a father set him on a path that changed his world for better and worse.
And I liked it as much as Ben’s show. David laid himself bare on the stage. He was funny but there was always an underlying sense of sadness. A feeling that he was making choices that was leading him away from who he wanted to be.
There are many great storytellers involved in the Fringe. On this particular day, I was fortunate to see four of them.