Fringe Reviews 2017 – Day 4
As a producer I hate/love Fringe audience reviews. You need them to help your show do well. Sometimes. You want to read constructive criticism about the show. Sometimes.
I imagine most artists are like me. Every time you get a great review, you are super pumped. Every time someone takes the time to tell you they enjoyed your show, you get this great feeling. For some stupid reason, all of that goes away the next time someone writes a review that is the least bit critical of your effort.
It isn’t that you feel like a failure so much as you wonder if every other positive thing anyone said was at all true. You assume it wasn’t and that all those people were just being nice to you.
Somehow, you have to power past those feelings of self-doubt and take from the critiques what is useful. You have to remind yourself that you can’t make everyone happy. You have to remind yourself that sometimes what someone perceives as shortcomings of the show were intentional choices and they aren’t critiquing you. They are critiquing your choices.
It takes a tough skin sometimes. But Fringe is one of the few theatrical endeavors where your feedback is immediate and sometimes harsh. You have to be ready for it.
This show was polished and nearly perfect. The performers all had fantastic singing voices, the songs were all catchy, and the lyrics were hysterically funny. If I can fault this show for anything, it is the fact I may never write a musical again because seriously, what’s the point?
The humor was gleefully macabre, which I always find appealing, and it was virtually non stop. I can’t recall a moment where I felt the show lagged or I was subconsciously wondering how long until the show was over. Instead, I found myself disappointed when we reached the final bow.
And I have to say this again: The singing was exceptional. I could understand every word and they were strong enough vocally to overpower the accompanist. The accompanist, for their part, knew the exact volume for their keys to ensure the music could be heard without sacrificing the lyrics.
There are a lot of good musicals at the Fringe that aren’t anywhere near as polished as this one. It was pretty much the perfect lead off to a good day at the Fringe.
As one might deduce from the title, this is the third installment in the Couple Fight franchise and I think it might be the best. Couples reenact real fights that took place in and around their weddings and allow all of us to laugh at their petty disagreements. That the couples in question are some of the best actor/comedians in the Twin Cities is really kind of a bonus.
Not really a bonus, though. I mean, these people know how to take an argument and turn it into theater. They also know how to structure a show so it progresses chronologically from pre-wedding issues to post-wedding stress. Anyone who has ever been married or even in a wedding can relate to some part of this show.
And even if you can’t, the people involved are some of the funniest people I know.
My favorite fight probably came from Shanan Custer and Eric Webster. Then again, Levi Weinhagen and Laura Zabel had what had to be the perfect ending to their fight. And I could totally relate to Andy Kraft’s side of his argument (even though his wife was probably right). And John and Lacy Zeiler provided the perfect ending. And then there were the pajamas with pies on them…
So yeah – I enjoyed all of it.
Full disclosure, I know almost everyone involved in this production.
The Summoning is a play that isn’t perfect but it has a lot of things going for it. The biggest challenge it faces is one of inexperience. The Playwright hasn’t written a lot of plays. The director hasn’t directed a lot of plays. A lot of that shows in the finished product.
There are a lot of funny moments and the overall concept is clever. I think it works early and gets a little lost in the second and third acts. I wanted to know more about Mackenzie. I wanted her character to have some depth so I could care about her a little more.
I also thought the staging was a bit static and could have used more movement.
Very few people create the perfect Fringe show right out of the gate. There is a lot of talent involved in The Summoning but it is a little raw. I would, however, be happy to go see the next show by this group of artists.
Speaking of audience reviews, I never know what to do with the harsh ones that criticize you for something you did on purpose.
One of our harshest to date said “the script had the feeling of ‘Oh, crap, we were selected for Fringe and have two weeks to put something together'” and I mean, it’s kind of fair. I was writing it to sound a little bit like that. I wanted a sort of “middle of the woods community theater” feeling to the show.
So I guess I should take it as a complement???
In their third year at the Fringe, I can honestly say this trio of talented dancers and musicians are my favorites.
They aren’t just my favorites because their shows are great or because they are so good, they make me want to be better just so I deserve being in the same festival with them. They are my favorites because they are quite frankly one of them most generous acts you will see anywhere.
They devote part of every show to promoting other shows at the Fringe. They don’t care if your show is earning an encore or playing to houses of five. I mean think about that – they give part of their show to other performers. Every night.
Trying to explain what they do on stage is a futile act. Instead, I just tell people to go. So seriously – just go.
Also, my favorite piece this year was Antarctica. Or maybe the part with the hover boards. But it was definitely Antarctica.
No. It was the hover boards.
One might ask how a show that involves a group of actors standing at a microphone delivering dialogue written in the forties and fifties might make for an interesting show.
If one wonders such things, that’s a genuine shame. Tim Uren and a group of talented actors that include the aforementioned Shanan Custer and Eric Webster perform classic radio plays complete with sound effects.
The two scripts selected are both creepy and weird and yeah, the actors “just stand there” and deliver dialogue.
At times, I would close my eyes and imagine I was sitting in my living room listening to the radio. At other times, I was watching how the actors each took turns providing sound effects, even occasionally reading lines and providing sound effects at the same time.
Finding an interesting way to stage something that is inherently static is a challenge that this show tackled with glee. The fact these performers appeared genuinely excited about sharing old radio plays with their audience was especially delightful.
Also, Shanan Custer has a great radio scream and I would never want to discover Joshua Scrimshaw lurking in the shadows. Who knew?