Tag Archive | Minnesota Fringe

2019 Fringe Reviews – Day 8

A rare day off from performing allowed me to spend the entire evening watching other people’s shows!

I had a lovely end to my evening at the Red Stag Supper Club, home to Fringe central. I arrived early enough to order some food, which has proven to be a challenge on other occasions. I was able to socialize with some people I see not nearly enough. I’ve always enjoyed Fringe Central as a place where I can make connections with people I barely know.

I’m not nuts about the Red Stag Supper Club. I know that finding a good Fringe Central venue is one of the biggest challenges the Fringe faces each year and the ultimate solution will, almost certainly, result in complaints by most everyone because if there’s one thing everyone involved in Fringe loves to do, it is complain about Fringe Central.

So, at the risk of being a cliche, I too will complain about Fringe Central.

I think one of the biggest problems with Red Stag is the fact it isn’t really near anything. It takes a long time to get there once you are done Fringing for the day. At least if you are on the West Bank where more than half of the Fringe venues are located.

Aside from that, it is really freaking difficult to actually get food. The kitchen is was closed before I arrived at least once. I’ve been going to shows since 5:30 and I’m hungry. Why put “Supper Club” in your name if I can’t get supper?

And they close at 1:00. Theater people are all night people. All of us. Except that one guy but we don’t talk about him.

As I mentioned, it is hard to find someplace that wants to be Fringe Central so I’m not sure what is to be done. I guess I’ll just complain about it because that’s what we do.

Friday night was a good night of Fringing. Here’s the four shows I saw and enjoyed!

Zelda: The Hero of Fringe

This show was basically everything one might expect from a parody of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. If you were to expect anything at all.

Link is our protagonist but as an actor, I’d be delighted by the number of lines I’d have to memorize. Which is pretty much the perfect way to write Link.

The show is something of a kitchen sink parody of all things Legend of Zelda but mostly Ocarina of Time. A lot of jokes land. A few jokes don’t. Some of the actors are quite good. Others could use a little polish.

But the end result is a lot of fun. I’m a fan of the Zelda franchise but never actually played Ocarina of Time. Even so, most of the references were easy enough to recognize. My kids, who had a lot more familiarity with Ocarina of Time, recognized a little more.

Pop culture parodies are one of the most common pieces of the fringe puzzle (says a guy who has written a lot of them). Some of them are great. Some are not so great.

Zelda falls in the middle. But a lot closer to great. I had a good time.

Mad as Nell, or How to Lose a Bly in Ten Days

The odds of me not liking a Josh Carson show are pretty low. Mostly because he’s that good but also because he’s typically firing jokes right into my strike zone.

This year’s show lists Carson as one of four co-writers and, coincidentally or not, that may be why I think it is one of his best.

I mean let’s be fair, none of his shows have sucked. This one, though, has a voice that is a little different and, while engaging in broad parody, somehow has more heart. There were times where the voice of the show didn’t feel like Josh and that worked really well.

Look, the subject matter – Nellie Bly’s expose of a women’s mental institution – is pretty serious stuff. So a broad, slapstick comedy about it seems completely without being disrespectful.

Yet somehow this show is both wildly funny and deeply respectful. That’s a hard balance to strike and I couldn’t help but be impressed at how well it was pulled off.

My only complaint was a few moments where I had difficulty hearing and understanding a few of the actors.  However, I’m over fifty and I will allow that maybe I should just get hearing aids.

Unproblematic Faves: Best of Ladybrain

This sketch show is pretty much exactly what the show name suggests. A series of sketches pulled from past Ladybrain performances that they decided were some of their best.

Having seen none of their shows, I’m going to have to assume these are, indeed, their best. Or at least their favorites.

I suppose your enjoyment of the show would depend a great deal on whether or not you agree with their choices. Fortunately, I did. Starting with a somewhat inept serial killer in need of some guidance and moving on through a brewpub apocalypse and an unexpected sex party, almost every sketch was clever in the way it somehow subverted expectations. If there were any sketches that feel flat, it wasn’t long until the audience had a new one to enjoy.

For my part, there was only one that, while still funny, felt a lot like other sketches I’d seen before. The rest of the show landed well enough for me to think I should try to see more shows by Ladybrain.

I guess that would be the point. Well played.

Which Middle Name of “Philip Seymour Hoffman” Are You?

I imagine one will look at the title of this show and ask “what is the show about.”

My answer is “exactly what the title says.”

I recognize that isn’t the least bit helpful. For that I apologize and yet I can’t really explain anything about this show without, basically, walking you through the entire show. Even then, I’d probably be asked why I thought it was so fantastic because the description makes it sound…kinda stupid.

This show is about as absurd a show as you will watch at the Fringe. It has a premise that sounds like something the producers came up with while high one night.

Maybe that’s what happened. If so, they need to get high more often because it is clearly when they do their best work.

So far, this is easily the most surprising and yet most enjoyable show I’ve seen at the 2019 Fringe. It’s a manic show in which the audience gets caught up in the completely inconsequential stakes and every time you think you know what’s coming next, you are probably wrong.

 

 

 

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Friend a Day – Kelvin Hatle

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Photo by Bob Alberti

I met Kelvin during the early years of CONvergence when he was performing as a member of Soylent Theater.

Kelvin is a very quiet person when he is hanging out in a group of people.  He’s a lot more likely to listen to a conversation at a party than to join in with one.  You really need to spend some one on one time with him to have any real chance to know him.

He is a gifted improviser, which comes as a surprise if you know him only as the guy who is quiet at parties.  When he gets on stage for an improv, he becomes a different person.  Which is sort of the point, I guess.

Over the last few years, he has taken to producing one man shows at the Minnesota Fringe.  So far, each one has been a little bit better than the last.  He’s really grown as a writer and a performer through those solo shows.

I’d put him in everything I wrote if I could.  He always finds a way to make what I do funnier than it was on the page.

He’s also very good at trivia.  He worked with us on the GPS team trivia contest and he had the ability to write questions that were both challenging and interesting.  When he moved on from the contest, we lost one of our best writers.

When he joined the cast of Vilification Tennis, he brought an entirely different personality to the stage.  His dry delivery and his clever writing take a little while to catch on with the audience at times but with a little time to warm up, he gets them on his side.

There are several performers in the Twin Cities of whom I never tire.  Kelvin is one of them.  I will cheerfully go to anything in which he takes part because I know he will always be a lot of fun to watch.

I look forward to many more opportunities to work with Kelvin because he makes everyone around him look better.