2018 Fringe Reviews – Day 1
The 2018 Minnesota Fringe Festival has begun! This year I find myself involved as a writer in three different shows and an actor in two. I watch as many shows during the Festival as I can, schedule permitting, because I just love the crazy theatrical orgy that takes over the Twin Cities theater scene for these ten days.
A few notes on my reviews:
I don’t use a star rating system. If you got a show on the stage, you are great. Maybe I didn’t like your show and for that, I’m sorry because I honestly want to love everyone’s show. Going to bad theater doesn’t make anyone happy.
If I don’t like a show, I’ll try to be constructive as to why. As a writer, my bias is always going to lean towards what is wrong with the writing. There could be other issues but the writer is likely to experience the bulk of my wrath because that’s what I know about.
So I’ll be as brutally honest as I can. But I can never be that brutal because seriously – they made a show! I just love that Fringe lets anybody make a show.
A Family Friendly Pulp Fiction (Not Appropriate for Families)
This would be one of the three shows I wrote. The concept came from the inclusion of a Family Fringe as part of the festival this year. I loved the idea but got to thinking (as I do) “what is the worst conceivable idea for a Family Friendly show?”
I don’t know if a Family Friendly Pulp Fiction is the worst conceivable idea for a Family Friendly show. Debbie Does Dallas might be a little worse.
But starting from that weird idea, I decided to turn Pulp Fiction into a “family friendly” experience.
I knew that just substituting swear words, however, wasn’t going to be more than a five minute gimmick. Fortunately, I was able to add more meat to the bones of that dumb idea and the result is something I’m really proud of.
More than that, I’m proud that the reviews so far from the Pioneer Press, the Star Tribune, and Shit Analysis have all picked up on the deeper themes I was exploring. That’s pretty cool.
I’m sure I’ll write more about this show because I’ll be there four more times.
Next show is Sunday at 5:30 PM at Theater in the Round
The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist or, Ocean’s ‘E’ht: The Musical
This group has put together some very clever musicals over the last four years including “Oregon Trail: The Musical” and “RomComCon: The Musical.” They poke gentle fun at the source material (in this case – Canada and heist movies) and keep things moving briskly.
I think this year was one of their more successful efforts. They didn’t rely too heavily on the music and used songs when it made the most sense. Every time I see Erin Kennedy in a musical, I’m disappointed she doesn’t get more songs because I really think she has a great voice for this kind of show. She had lots of opportunities to sing this time around.
The rest of the cast could sing quite well, by the way. I’m just so familiar with Erin’s voice that it is the one I look for.
The songs, at times, had a bit of a sameness to them and the biggest issue for any Fringe musical is losing some of the lyrics. Since the actors have to sing over the keyboard but the keyboard has to be loud enough for them to hear it, you are always better off sitting closer to the front of the house if you can.
Based on their opening night attendance – on a Thursday night, no less – I think they will have no trouble filling houses for the rest of the run. The good news is they have earned the audiences they get in the past and they did it again.
Next show is Saturday at 4:00 PM at Mixed Blood Theater
Fringe Orphans 4: Back in the Habit
Conceived as a show for producers who didn’t end up having their idea picked in the Fringe lottery, Fringe orphans is always a bit of a mash up. Never dull, if you don’t care for a particular piece, you won’t have to wait long for the next one.
This year’s show was more loaded than usual with the high(est) point (at least for me) coming during David Schlosser’s “Intro to Gay Dating 101: Fresh Meat.”
To call that a high point suggest that there was a low point and the fact is, there really wasn’t one. From the clowning of Jena Young and Brynn Berryhill to the troubles of Unicorn Sex with Duck Washington and Alison Anderson, this show featured a well paced group of performances.
If you are looking for a cohesive show, this is not it. None of the pieces have anything to do with one another and they aren’t really meant to.
What you do get is short helpings from a lot of talented individuals who might not otherwise have been featured at the Fringe this year.
Their next show is Sunday at 7:00 PM at Theater in the Round
What to do in Case of Dinosaur Attack
Matt Kessen annoys me. Not because he is a terrible person or because he has done anything wrong.
Rather, I am annoyed that he is able to stand up in front of an audience and give a power point presentation and kill it every time. He is alternatively funny and informative. He is never dull. And in spite of all the jokes (and there are a lot of jokes), I never fail to come out of one of his shows having learned something.
His Fringe show is all about learning what you need to do to survive a dinosaur attack (the title is basically perfect). If the (I’ve learned from his show) unlikely scenario of dinosaurs ruling the Earth again ever comes to pass, the information provided will be quite valuable.
And look – you may think you aren’t the least bit interested in watching a guy read his presentation while showing you power point slides. You may think that sounds dumb.
Let me assure you that it is not. Matt knows what he’s doing. He does it better than everyone else. And damn him for that.
His next show is Saturday at 10:00 PM at Mixed Blood Theater