2018 Fringe Reviews – Day 4
I was part of two submissions to the Family Fringe this year. Neither of them were accepted (although “Next” did get picked in the regular lottery so it happened anyway and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” will be part of the Horror Festival). I like the idea of the Family Fringe and I hope it succeeds.
That said, I have only been to one show at the Family Fringe and that is probably all I’ll attend.
The big problem is the schedule. Because it’s 30 minutes removed from the rest of the Fringe, going to a Family Fringe show means you effectively have to spend TWO slots to see one show. You can’t possibly see every show anyway so why would you want see a show that costs an extra time slot?
The assumption, I think, is that the folks bringing their families to Family Fringe are not going to spend a lot of time at the main Fringe. I don’t think that was a good assumption.
The concept is new and I have no doubt it will see considerable changes in coming years (assuming it continues). But that one decision was, I think, a major miss.
Deep in the 100 Acre Woods: a “Pooh” – Dunnit?
Full disclosure: This show was produced by Fearless Comedy and I’m the Artistic Director. I approved the show and have been hands off ever since.
I approved the show because a Noir murder mystery based on the characters from Winnie the Pooh sounds like the perfect Fringe show, doesn’t it?
So as much as I can be fair about a show I approved for production that was written, directed, and starred several friends of mine, I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Rather than offer a critique of the show that can’t really be fair (even though it was seriously very good), I’m going to critique the Minnsky theater a little.
The biggest issue with this show was the theater. The acoustics are lousy and the play (because it is based on film noir) was wordy. That’s not a great combination. I lost some of the actors lines and it wasn’t because they were too quiet. It is because the theater swallowed them up.
All that means, I guess, is I will do my best to avoid producing any wordy shows there.
In their fourth year at the Minnesota Fringe, The Fourth Wall was part of the Family Fringe (there was a reason for the lead-in).
They are great. And I can’t miss their show because it would be unfair. To me.
This year, they took pieces from the last three productions they have done at the Minnesota Fringe. I got to see some pieces I loved from previous years and, because I didn’t see them their first time in town, I also got to see some pieces I’d never seen before.
By far the best part of the experience was seeing them with people who had never seen their show before. That lovely “oh my god – did they just do what I think I just saw them do” moment is delightful and given they are performing 18 pieces in 45 minutes, those moments happen more than once.
I may see better shows at the Fringe in a particular year but the sheer amount of talent and joy for performing these three possess brings me back over and over. Doesn’t matter where they are performing, they are a must see.
A Family Friendly Pulp Fiction (Not Appropriate for Families)
I wrote it. And I have a cameo. So I was there.
The second performance was a lot tighter. We cut a few moments that didn’t seem to work and the actors were more confident with where the laughter might fall.
The show was a dumb idea. It sounds like it is a one joke show. Somehow, it isn’t. That pleases me.
A couple years ago, Sheep Theater did an adaptation of Most Dangerous Game that was one of my favorite finds. I didn’t see their show last year for reasons that are not clear to me.
I might have missed this year had it not been the best looking show in it’s time slot.
As a silly take on Nuclear Annihilation I don’t wish to describe too extensively for fear I will spoil the experience, “Kaboom” was a lot of fun. It was frantic in the best ways, ridiculous without spending too much time winking at the audience and, most importantly, none of the actors looked like they knew they were in a comedy.
The cast was uniformly good but Robb Goetzke was a standout as Mr. President. He had the juiciest role, to be sure. But it was also the easiest to mess up and he never did.
The show has some scenes, mostly having to do with the Vide President, that were a little slow, but that complaint is minor. Overall, I was happy to rediscover Sheep Theater and I won’t miss their next Fringe show.
The Flashlight Zone: 20 Science Fiction Plays in One Hour
I wasn’t much in the mood for this show. I imagined that it would be lighter fare – especially given the enthusiasm with which the actors encouraged audience members to pick the order the plays would be performed.
Most of the plays were about dark and even somewhat morose so there was an odd shift in tone between audience members shouting out plays and the plays themselves. I was OK with it at first but I kept hoping for some break. I wanted one of these stories to have a positive outlook.
A few did. But not very many.
My réponse, however, says more about me than it does about the show itself. The actors understood the emotional resonance of the scenes and did a great job shifting characters (a necessity given that most of them had to play at least a dozen).
I also really appreciated that the relationships in the plays didn’t take gender into account. There were some man/man relationships, some woman/woman relationships, and some man/woman relationships. It didn’t feel like the choices were made for any other reason than to put the right actors in the right roles.
I did leave wishing the show had been a little lighter. I don’t want to blame that on the show, though. They have no obligation to deliver what I want.
Tim Uren has been producing one person horror shows for some time. They have all been good because he understands how to build dread slowly. There isn’t really a gotcha moment in these stories. There is just a creeping feeling that it is all going to go very badly and you, the observer, are going to be powerless to stop it.
This year, Tim helped operate some creepy offstage sound effects and handed the on stage responsibilities to Eric Webster, which was a great choice. Webster takes his character from calm, comfortable and a bit guarded to drunk, terrified, but resigned to….something.
The sound effects really worked to heighten the experience even though they were quiet and subtle. Waves lapping against the shore. The crackle of a fire. An occasional gust of wind. You felt like you were in a cabin by the sea and that you might be stuck there with something very sinister.
I know that a one person show like this might not be everyone’s first choice but this one person show ought to be at the top of anyone’s list.