Fringe Reviews 2017 – Day 5 & 6
I’ve had a show in the Fringe for eight straight years now. The result is I’m getting to know a lot of other producers and I want to see and support all of their work.
And it isn’t possible. I’m going to miss some shows. Nobody can see every show at the Fringe. It is literally impossible. Add to that the fact I’m in two shows and I lose ten possible time slots. Also, I can’t go to a show in every time slot. It just gets out of hand.
I could fill my Fringe with shows featuring friends and acquaintances of mine. If I did that, I would miss out on great shows featuring work by people I don’t know.
So we all pick and choose. And sometimes we don’t go to a show by someone we really admire because we just couldn’t make it happen.
And because we are all human, we feel bad about it.
I see more theater during Fringe than I do the rest of the year. And I still miss things I wanted to see.
So I try to avoid spending too much time feeling guilty for missing work by artists I admire. I typically fail.
I had an off night. Missed a couple of cues. Felt like my delivery was off. I was just a little bit unsatisfied. I hate walking off stage and feeling like you failed to give it your all.
You owe that to every other performer on stage. Doesn’t matter your personal feelings about the show. If you are on stage, you should never give less than 100%.
So when I feel like I didn’t quite do that, it kind of sucks.
It wasn’t on purpose. I didn’t walk out on stage thinking “I’m going to phone this one in.” And I didn’t phone it in. But I didn’t nail it.
So I guess I just need to make sure I nail it next time.
The Minnesota Fringe is pretty white. You can’t get past that. The audiences are mostly white. The performers are mostly white. We may mostly be a bunch of super liberal “I support Black Lives Matter” types of white people but, as my good friend Duck Washington would say, our cookie doesn’t have a lot of chips.
Blackout Improv is an improv troupe comprised entirely of people of color and they deal with complex social issues in a funny manner. I admit that there were times they made me uncomfortable because they made points about race and racism that haven’t occurred to me. It made me uncomfortable that I was sitting in a theater that was filled with 90% white people and sometimes felt as if we were all a little too smug at how not racist we were.
It made me uncomfortable to think about the complex world people of color navigate just because they aren’t white.
And it also made me laugh.
The brilliance of this show is the way it tackles the question of race in a way that lightens the conversation. It highlights the absurdity of all of this. It reminds us that all of us are people and that color should not be something that separates us.
It does all of that with comedy. Which is a remarkable thing.
On it’s own, this show doesn’t solve the issues of race. But I hope it got more smug white trying to not be racist people like me to remember that we aren’t there yet. Even while we were laughing our asses off.
Stranger-er Things: Netflix and KILL
Tom Reed knows how to structure a solo show. He also knows how to parody pop culture in a way that doesn’t insult people for liking the things at which he’s poking fun.
Being a fan of Stranger Things, I was a little concerned about this show. I mean, a lot of people have seen the show. But even more haven’t. It isn’t like making fun of Harry Potter. Was he going to be able to tell jokes that actually resonated with an audience that wasn’t really familiar with the source material?
Judging by my wife, who hasn’t seen a single minute of Stranger Things, the answer was yes. I would imagine I enjoyed myself just a little bit more but Tom did an exceptional job making the show accessible to everyone without sacrificing jokes for people with a deeper knowledge of the source material.
While I’m looking forward to the next season of Stranger Things, it is now now only partially because I want to watch the show. I also want to see what I can only assume will be titled Stranger-er-er Things or: Culture Club Iran Contragate.
A show written and performed by a young cast and, all things considered, pretty good. Yes, these young people are all pretty green with the exception of RoRo Germ, who exhibits talent far beyond her years. They attack the subject matter with gusto, though, and have a good time doing it.
The show is a series of vignettes and some are a little more effective than others. The cast, with the exception of RoRo and Fringe veteran Kelvin Hatle, were, at times, difficult to hear.
But I had fun and enjoyed the absurd takes on tired clichés. As a work from a first time writer/director, it was well worth my time.
Live From New York, He’s a Prom Date
This one woman show about that time she went on the Sally Jessy Raphael to find a prom date. As you might imagine, it was not the greatest moment of her life.
The story is mostly funny. At times it is horrifying and at times touching. Jen Maren is talented and charismatic and morphs between characters with the ease of a savvy veteran. Sometimes she belts out a show tune in part simply because she can.
I enjoyed the hell out of the show. It was an amusing story expertly told and it even had a bit of a message about love and family. I went because it was recommended by a friend I trust when it comes to such things and I will now pass that recommendation forward.
A Mermaid Abroad & A Fish out of Water
I really enjoyed the structure of this show, which combined the storytelling of Ariel Leaf and Scot Moore. I’ve seen a few of Ariel’s shows before. Until now, I’d never made it to one of Scot’s.
When two storytellers share the stage, it can sometimes be a puzzle to figure out how to switch from one to the other. This show structures the whole thing as a conversation between the two of them in which the stories become a somewhat natural outgrowth of the conversation.
Sure, it is all a little contrived and the show even pokes a little fun at that.
Any show like this will only succeed if the stories are any good. Fortunately, Ariel and Scot are pros and the tell nicely related stories about bodily functions in foreign countries, the dissolution of long distance relationships, mediocre risotto*, and the ways penises ruin everything.
There are those who don’t care for this style of show. To them I say, thank goodness there are other shows you can see. To the rest of you, I say my only complaint about this show is there weren’t enough stories by Ariel. Or Scot. Because, you know, they only had an hour.
*For the record, Scot’s story had virtually nothing to do with mediocre risotto but I enjoy saying mediocre risotto. So thanks, Scot! Also, your story was really good.