Fringe Festival 2017 Wrap-up and Day 11 Reviews
I’m starting to get caught up on sleep after eleven days in which I averaged about five hours a night. It’s a good thing only one of my two shows required me to have a lot of lines.
In the end, the out of town acts moved on to their next Fringe or headed back to wherever they call home. The locals all started thinking about their next show and about what they will do at the Fringe next year. I’m working on my next script and a couple of directing gigs after that.
Theatrical Brigadoon has disappeared for another year. Rather, it has fractured. We all move apart for almost twelve months only to be pulled back into each other’s orbit by the gravitational pull of the Fringe. I have a lot of friends I see only during this eleven day Festival. Even more I see only infrequently during the rest of the year.
Fringe is the place you take chances because you probably won’t lost money when you do. It is the place you are inspired by the creativity of others. It is the place where you make connections to artists who might just be a collaborative partner next week or next month or next year.
In the end, I watched 32 shows and participated in 11. That means there were only 13 of 56 time slots in which I did nothing. Just over one per day. I saw at least one show in every Fringe venue that was not a bring your own. I watched every show that featured work by members of Fearless Comedy Productions. I saw only three shows I really didn’t like. I saw two shows I thought were truly extraordinary and several others I liked an awful lot.
Here, then, are my reviews for the last few shows I saw. Because I’m a completist. Thanks to everyone involved in this festival. It is one of my favorite things.
From an audience perspective, our final show was the most fun. We also brought in our good friend Allegra Lingo as a guest bear, which was hilarious. I really wish we’d brought in a guest bear for every show because I love the idea that we would have announced “featuring guest performer Mike Fotis” (for instance), and he would have showed up on stage for all of sixty seconds.
I guess that would have pissed some people off. But I would have thought it was hilarious and there are always a few jokes in the show that are just for me.
This show had one of the funniest scripts I saw at the Fringe. It was tight, clever, and had as many dick jokes as you’d expect from a show with a lead character named Dick White. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing.
The acting was…OK. The people on stage were all a little bit green and that was too bad because it sometimes ran counter to the script.
I think the problem was a lack of director. According to the show page, a director wasn’t listed. My guess is the writer/lead in the show also directed. If they had brought in someone from the outside to direct the show, this thing would have been golden. I don’t think the actors were bad but they needed an outside eye to help them hone their performances.
Even without a steady hand guiding the show, it was funny as hell. This is a writer I will continue to watch.
The staging of this show was appropriately sparse as it was focused entirely on the words of Clara Barton following her visit to the Andersonville Prisoner of War camp after the Civil War. Though it was, essentially, a staged reading, the power of her words cannot be understated.
The way Barton spoke of the attitudes of the Southern whites towards the freed Southern blacks resonated even more in the wake of events that had unfolded in Charlottesville less than 24 hours earlier. The performance of Linda Sue Anderson was key in this piece and she expressed the words of Clara Barton with clarity and compassion.
Listening to congressional testimony from someone in the 1800’s might not be everyone’s cup of tea. That’s unfortunate because most of us know little to nothing about Barton and the way this show amplified the words of one of the more important women in our history books was incredibly moving.
This show teetered precipitously close to the kind of show I hate. It was highly theatrical and contrived in the manner of the dialogue and the staging. It could have teetered away from theater and into arthouse theater without a deft hand to guide it to something better. Had it gone that direction, it still would have been an exceptional show. It simply would have been an exceptional show I didn’t enjoy.
Fortunately (at least for me), a deft hand was guiding this production. Amber Bjork really did a great job controlling the direction of the show and keeping it compelling. The product was a sharp, moving, sad tale of two women whose lives were intertwined in touching and tragic ways. The staging was about as good as I’ve seen from any show in the Rarig Arena space which is, in my opinion, one of the worst designed theaters in the Twin Cities.
I keep seeing Boo Segersin on stage and fail to mention how good she is. I will rectify that here by mentioning she stands out in a cast filled with wonderfully nuanced performances.
As the final show I saw during the Fringe, this was an excellent choice because it was a fantastic piece of work.
For the encore, I got to appear on stage with five of my favorite friends from Fringe. The Fourth Wall asked Windy Bowlsby and I to guest star in their show as Bears from Death in Yosemite. It was an amazing experience as the two of us bounced around the stage, delivered amusing bear facts from around the world, and then let some amazing artists do their thing while we watched.
Allegra Lingo, our guest bear from earlier, was also there to participate in a piece she’d been performing with them all through the run. An honorary Fruit Fly, as it were. Or maybe an honorary wall?
It was a microcosm of the Fringe in which a bunch of artists with different backgrounds goofed around in a fashion that was, hopefully, entertaining to more people than ourselves.
What we all do is so different. I mean, I write weird comedies. Allegra writes brilliant tales of her life. Windy is a choreographer who knows how to create dance pieces that really resonate with her audience. And Hillary, Greg and Neil combine music and movement in as compelling a fashion as I’ve ever seen.
And somehow, we all ended up on stage together for an hour. Two of us wearing T-shirts that said “bear” on them.
It was the best way to end the Fringe.