2018 Fringe Reviews – Day 6
Fringe has two hubs instead of three this year. For various reasons, there is no Uptown hub. It makes things easier (especially when you have three shows on the West bank) but I miss the craziness of trying to make a mad dash across town.
I guess that’s silly. It really sucks to drive from NE Minneapolis to HUGE theater only to find that the show you wanted to see sold out ten minutes before you arrived. On the other hand, maybe you just go over to Jungle to see whatever is there and you are completely floored by something you didn’t even know you should be seeing.
A lot of things change with Fringe every year. And if you’ve been there for a while, you probably have opinions about what is better and what is worse. I know I do.
It’s why I have mad respect for the people who run Fringe. Because everyone involved from the artists to the audience has an opinion. And all of us are probably going to share it.
And that has to be exhausting.
So look – some things are better this year. And something things are (in my opinion) not as great. But Fringe is great no matter what. We can complain about the details but I guess it’s just because we all want it to be a little bit more perfect.
Here’s what I saw and performed in on Tuesday!
The Complete Works of William Shatner (Abridged)
Interesting thing about this show – when the audience is big enough to really laugh at it, it runs about 47 minutes. When the audience is small and kind of chuckles, it runs about 42 minutes.
That’s how much time laughter adds to a show. And it’s why writing comedy can present such a challenge. You have no idea how long your show actually lasts.
I bring this up because Tuesday at 5:30 is a tough time slot and our audience was pretty light. I think it was a good show. But not too many people saw it.
This show is an exploration of the relationship between Cyrano and Roxanne following the events we see in the original play, Cyrano de Bergerac. It is a fantastical exploration of love, and points out a lot of the problems in the relationship between Cyrano, Roxanne, and Christian.
I thought the play was excellently performed. The text bothered me, though. I had a bit of an “atheist problem,” which is really my own fault.
The basic conceit is to ask if Roxanne and Cyrano can find happiness after their deaths. I found myself stuck in that atheist mindset of thinking “no – they really can’t because dead is dead and they (mostly Cyrano) blew it while they were alive.”
I’m OK at suspending disbelief but because the central conceit of the play was that Roxanne was trying to write a better conclusion to the story meant that we knew from the beginning it was all imaginary and, therefore, that any happy ending was equally imaginary. Cyrano and Roxanne had lost the chance to be happy and no amount of creative storytelling by Roxanne was going to fix that mistake.
So the play simply didn’t satisfy me. The main source of my dissatisfaction, however, was the text rather than anything that had to do with performance or staging.
Hit the Lights! Theater company made a huge splash last year with Dungeon. Their inventive use of shadow puppetry, music, and lighting effects captivated almost everyone who saw the show. Myself included.
WHALES (and in this case the capitalization seems important) is a different kind of experience. While all of the pieces that made Dungeon so impressive are still there, the show includes a lot of audience interaction, facts about whaling, songs, and more.
Using the tale of Moby Dick as a framework for a show that is equal parts entertainment and education about the whaling industry both past and present, I think I liked WHALES better than Dungeon because the show was more in my wheelhouse.
Understanding why we hunted whales, the exploitation of the workers involved in the industry, the way whale hunting actually worked, and more was all part of the experience. Moby Dick became the thread that linked everything else but it was really almost backstory. We all know what happens in Moby Dick. But by understanding where the whaling industry came from, we understood the larger context of Moby Dick.
Also, I like any show where I know the lyrics to almost every song they sing and where I get to harpoon an imaginary whale. Not a real one. Because that shit is horrible.
The only warning I would offer is to anyone who doesn’t like audience interaction. Because you aren’t going to be able to avoid it. Since I ended up on stage on this particular evening, it should be obvious I have no problem with such things.
The reviews suggested this show was awful and I’m not going to lie – that’s why a group of us went.
You can learn from bad shows. It really does help you make better decisions if you can understand the truly horrible ones. And I honestly always hope that maybe everyone who came before me was just the wrong audience and I’ll find something to love.
It almost never works out that way. And it didn’t at “I Never Knock.”
I’m reminded that it is important to remember that this show was produced by people and having your show savaged can hurt a lot. I know. Because I’ve had more than one show savaged.
So to the people involved read this review – I’m critiquing your show. Your show was awful. You got it on stage and I have nothing but respect for that. My respect for the art of creation doesn’t make what you created any better.
There is no point in this show that can be considered a success. The script, which clocks in at a plodding, painful 27 minutes is a incoherent mess. The characters lack definition and most of the lines are clunky when they aren’t being misogynistic or homophobic. None of the characters are likable but the thing is – they aren’t hatable either. They are simply collections of words on a page with no connection to the way real people have ever behaved.
The direction is clueless. Most characters are given a spot on the stage and rarely stray more than six feet from that point. One actor was cast to play a character younger than the main character and he was clearly older than her.
Could you change the lines to fix the problem, perhaps?
There was a box placed conspicuously downstage center and it’s entire purpose was to allow the lead to put her leg up and flash her “hairy bush” (a repeated line of dialogue) at the other characters on stage. Every time the actress moved that direction, we knew what was going to happen.
The acting, due in no small part to the poor direction, was horrible. Line delivery lacked any kind of emotional depth or even, in a lot of cases, memorization. Movement was nonsensical and almost self conscious.
Could all of this be some kind of elaborate joke? Could the intent have been to create something this awful? Was the audience a victim of a prank?
Reading the show description on the website, I don’t believe it was a prank. The show is just bad.
And yes, it was created by people. But some of those people needed to know better. Being an actor in a bad show is hard. The best actors, though, at least try to make sure that their part of that show doesn’t suck.
Nobody was pulling their weight. Nobody was trying to elevate the material.
It is easy to make fun of a bad show and certainly there were unintentional laughs throughout. But if I’m going to be fair to the people who made it, I think the biggest crime was that nobody involved seemed to be trying to make it better. And that means they either didn’t realize how bad it was (which is scary) or they just didn’t care any more.