The Minnesota Fringe Festival is the largest non-juried Fringe Festival in the US. That means you can see just about any kind of theater show pop up at the MN Fringe, with any kind of quality. Pros and first-timers alike show up on stage. Shows might be musicals or harrowing dramas or dance exhibitions or stand-up comedy or completely improvised. Selections range from ordinary to downright weird. The only requirement is that the show fits in a one-hour timeslot.
The MN Fringe runs from August 2nd to August 12th this year. Tickets are generally $12 per show, but you can buy in bulk to maximize your purchasing power. (I am a fan of the 10-show punch cards.) You can easily crank through a half-dozen shows in a day, but that’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the full slate of the festival. This last Saturday, for instance, the festival ran 105 completely different shows. That’s just that one day.
I love the MN Fringe because I know a lot of theater nerds, and this is exactly the sort of thing they do well. Every Fringe Festival, I get to watch my friends become firehoses of creativity. I get to wander from stage to stage to see whatever awesome new thing they’ve come up with this year. In addition to that, I often stumble across other performers I’d never seen before. I can easily burn through 20 Fringe tickets every year.
I spent almost this entire previous weekend at the Fringe Festival. What did I see? Well…
NIGHTMARE WITHOUT PANTS
Why I Saw It: Joseph Scrimshaw wrote it, and Shanan Custer is in it with Joseph.
My Thoughts: This is a solid piece of comedy, like pretty much everything Joseph writes. Shanan is delightful, as always. Hard to go wrong here.
What Will Stick With Me: Anger Pony
Why I Saw It: Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw created the show and performs in it.
My Thoughts: I’m not terribly knowledgable about dance, so it’s hard for me to critique this piece. In one of the alcohol-themed dance segments, I found it hard to figure out the narrative being described in the choreography. However, that is more than counterbalanced by a duet/tango between two women that is downright magnetic.
What Will Stick With Me: Free bubbles!
DANCE MONEY GRIND
Why I Saw It: Erik Hoover is in it.
My Thoughts: Interesting combination of dance, physical performance, and comedy. The narrative seems to jaunt off in bizarre directions, but it’s certainly never boring. I loved the “pre-show”, in which you actually have to walk through the dancing performers in order to get to your seat.
What Will Stick With Me: Erik’s Creosote Mints sweater
GENTLEMAN’S PRATFALL CLUB
Why I Saw It: Josh Scrimshaw and Levi Weinhagen created and star in it.
My Thoughts: I don’t think the story of this show is as engaging as Josh’s show from last year, but this does serve as a fine platter for his brand of balls-out physical comedy. I’ve spent a good portion of the last decade of watching him onstage and wondering if I’ll be witness to a horrific spinal injury, but there’s a stunt in here that surpasses everything I’d seen him do before. I have to admit, his pain is funny.
What Will Stick With Me: This show drew blood on its opening night. Levi has stitches.
THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHATNER (ABRIDGED)
Why I Saw It: Windy Bowlsby, Tim Wick, Tim Uren, and Duck Washington are in it; Tim Wick and Bill Stiteler wrote it.
My Thoughts: There are five people in the cast; four of them play William Shatner. Windy Bowlsby is an awesome James T. Kirk. Funny, clever script. It’s a very reference-heavy show, but I’ve heard from people who aren’t big Shatner fans who still enjoyed it. I wonder if the performers would consider making this a short film…
What Will Stick With Me: Tim Wick stumbling around in a Gorn mask.
JOE DOWLING’S WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO & JULIET ON THE MOON, FEATURING KATE MULGREW AS LADY CAPULET
Why I Saw It: I had 90 minutes to kill, and I was already at Theater in the Round.
My Thoughts: I was really impressed with the structure of the show, which made it better than you think it might be, considering the title. It’s actually a play-within-a-play, so the Romeo & Juliet on the Moon bit isn’t the true source of comedy here. Well performed, cleverly scripted, and concludes with a nice point.
What WIll Stick With Me: Best robot faceplant EVER.
Why I Saw It: Dawn Krosnowski is in it.
My Thoughts: Dawn is fine, but the show around her is a mess. I suspect it is mostly an amateur production. Most of the other actors garbled their lines, or had their lines drowned out by other actions onstage. The script had timing issues, and tried to cram far too much into a one hour slot. A couple of moments were cute, but most of the time, I was just wondering what was going on, because I couldn’t hear most of the dialogue. Oh, and there must have been at least 25 people in the cast.
What Will Stick With Me: Inexplicable zombie mice
HUNGRY GAMES: MOCKING THE MOCKINGJAY
Why I Saw It: I’m a fan of Tom Reed’s Lounge-asaurus Rex act.
My Thoughts: It’s a good idea to know the Hunger Games books before attending this one, but it’s not necessary. A knowledge of the film will suffice, as long as you’re okay with finding out stuff that happens after this year’s film. The show is quite funny, but it’s mostly impressive because it’s all just Tom Reed, playing all the characters, singing all the songs (yes, songs), and, by the end, dripping all the sweat. His boundless energy alone should earn your ticket dollar.
What Will Stick With Me: Tom’s flying leap onto a narrow, angled theater structure.
COMEDY OF EDITS
Why I Saw It: Allegra Lingo wrote and starred in it.
My Thoughts: Allegra is a member of the Rockstar Storytellers for a reason; she’s a magnificent writer and storyteller. Here, however, she tries something different: expressing her inner artist dialogue as a play. Unfortunately, for me, it didn’t really work as a whole. Allegra’s dense writing style works great in her monologues, but it feels arch when there are two characters bantering it back and forth. Then again, about two minutes from the end, Allegra hit a sweet spot and the show was briefly enchanting.
What Will Stick With Me: Poking fun at Rob Callahan in absentia.