Sunday, October 07, 2018

Review - Two Degrees - Prime Productions - The Big Thaw, Both Human and Global - 5 stars


Tira Palmquist’s play Two Degrees is that rare and wonderful thing, a really great new play.  Prime Productions’ presentation of Two Degrees in the Dowling Studio at the Guthrie Theater is a production that lives up to a really great script and makes it even better.  Two Degrees pulls off the nifty trick of being about something as big and universal as the fate of the earth, and something as (deceptively) small by comparison as one person’s broken heart.  But the shattered pieces of that heart have an enormous ripple effect on everyone around that character.

“If Greenland goes, the rest of us are f**ked.”

Dr. Emma Phelps (Norah Long) has been summoned to Washington, D.C., by her old friend - now a senator - Louise Allen (Jennifer Whitlock).  Emma is to testify before a Senate panel on the effects of climate change, which she has been studying by examination of ice core samples in Greenland.  While she was away on one such expedition last summer, Emma’s husband Jeffrey (Joel Liestman) died.  Emma’s grief has her seeing Jeffrey’s face on complete strangers, including Louise’s chief of staff, Wilson (also played by Liestman, in a clever bit of double-casting on the part of the author).  In her D.C. hotel, Emma hooks up with a stranger named Clay Simpson (Toussaint Morrison). At first it seems like a one-night stand, but circumstances keep bringing them together in ways that end up being quite surprising.  The play has a few tricks up its sleeve that I won’t give away.  They don’t detract from the seriousness of the subject matter, but they do add a bit of unexpected fun to the proceedings.

“Jonah, it’s sandwiches.  Don’t make it complicated.”

Everyone in the four person ensemble does great work under the direction of Shelli Place, but the play in large part belongs to Norah Long as Emma.  Because of the structure of the play, we see her under increasing pressure in the present, and also through intermittent flashbacks to her life with Jeffrey and her work on the ice in Greenland.  If Long didn’t handle these transitions so smoothly, it might be harder for the audience to follow along.  Because of the strength of Long’s performance, you never get lost in the timeline of the story.  Emma’s grief often makes her a difficult person to deal with, but because the script keeps the audience in the know, even when other characters aren’t, we can understand and forgive her for sometimes being a jerk to other people.

“Are you OK?”
“Yes, no, I don’t know.”
“Congratulations, those are all the answers.”


In fact, everyone has their moments in Two Degrees where they might be less than likable.  But weirdly, it always seems to come from a place of people caring too much, rather than too little.  So even though Louise, Wilson and Clay are all, each in their own way, Washington, D.C. players and pragmatists, they are all, also, working toward some greater good, even if their methods are often at odds with each other, and with Emma.  There aren’t any villains in Two Degrees, just heroes with flaws and baggage (sometimes a lot of both).

“To say what needs saying.  To say what she can’t.”

Joel Liestman digs in to all three of his roles, as the late lamented Jeffrey, senatorial chief of staff Wilson, and even a bit role as one of Emma’s Greenland co-workers on the ice, Malik.  Jeffrey’s face is never far from Emma’s life, past or present.  As Emma’s old friend in a new position, Jennifer Whitlock exudes confidence and gravitas as Louise.  Senator Allen knows how to get things done, and she’s playing a long game.  And if you’re going to rebound after the loss of a great love, you could do a hell of a lot worse than Toussaint Morrison as Clay Simpson.  Clay is good-natured and caring right from the play’s opening scene, and his easy-going charm grows on Emma, long after he’s already got the audience in his back pocket.  And not to treat the man like a piece of meat or anything - he’s a talented actor, everyone here is - but Clay looks equally sharp in a suit, a T-shirt, or… less, and the play features him in all those states.  The guy’s not without his secrets, but he’s still a good guy (and that’s hard to write and even harder sometimes to play on stage, so kudos to writer, director and actor alike on this one).

“When that ice melts, you want land rights so you can go in and start digging.”

Palmquist’s script also wisely chooses to hold back on any in depth discussion of climate change until late in the story.  We get hints, but it’s only after we’re fully invested in all the characters that the real debate about climate change and how to address it begins.  Because we care about the characters, we care about the subject, and we listen.  The script is a vehicle that makes the stakes of climate change specific and personal.  And at that point in the story, we’re willing to listen, because we trust all the messengers, even if they’re arguing for different strategies.  Emma’s professional odyssey through D.C. also becomes a personal odyssey which helps start to thaw her out from where her grief and guilt had left her frozen in place.  Not all warming is bad.

“If 97 percent of mechanics told you the brakes on your car were bad, would you get them fixed, or would you keep driving because it’s just a hunch?”

The staging for this story of multiple timelines and even more locations is quite ingenious and economical.  The back wall of the set is a towering wall of rippled cloth, often lit in a wash of blue, giving off the look and feel of the face of a glacier.  The rest of the stage, and the human activity that passes over it, lives in the shadow of this wall of ice.  But it’s also a surface for projections - of locations in Washington, D.C., or the collapse of an actual melting glacier, the change between night and day, past and present, even the image of Jeffrey haunting his wife in the corner of her mind, large as life.  But Annie Henly’s set isn’t just a surface for the projection of images conjured by Andrew Saboe (projection content) and Andrew Isaacson (image director).  Henly’s design has a platform that serves as many locations both above and below with the simple switch-out of furniture pieces.  And the hotel bed (which, fair warning, gets a lot of action, right from the opening minutes - they don’t have an intimacy coach - Annie Enneking - for nothing) appears and disappears underneath that platform in a fun bit of theater magic between scenes.  Jeni O’Malley’s costumes, Karin Olson’s lights and Anita Kelling’s sound all help reinforce time and place in evocative ways, and there’s even some plaintive original music courtesy of composer Kevin Farrell.

“It’s simply too easy to think we can do nothing.”

Two Degrees from Prime Productions is a great production of a great new script - a sexy, funny, sad, smart, human story with global consequences.  I can’t recommend this play highly enough. (runs through October 21, 2018 in the Dowling Studio)

5 stars - Very Highly Recommended


Saturday, September 22, 2018

Review - Life Goes On - Bucket Brigade - An Afterlife For Those Left Behind - 4 stars


When Bucket Brigade says they have a new musical, they mean new.  Life Goes On, their current musical offering, is only six months old.  And for a toddler, Life Goes On has an awful lot of wisdom and entertainment value to offer. 

“It’s the only thing he ever built, but it’s still standing.”

The story of Life Goes On centers around Stacia (Vanessa Gamble), a trauma surgeon still struggling with the death of her father (Bob Beverage).  The one year anniversary of this loss is approaching, and though Stacia has buried herself in work, it isn’t helping.  So she takes a break to go home and visit her Mom (Janet Hanson) and estranged sister (Katie Consamus).  In addition to being distant from her mother and her sister, Stacia has also avoided meeting her new grandmother.   Dad discovered the birth mother who had given him up for adoption and managed to establish a relationship with her shortly before his death.  That woman, Anya (Dee Noah), is in a nearby assisted living facility.  So Stacia has a lot of catching up to do, for which her sister, and Anya, and even the nurse-in-training who works at the assisted living facility, Sage (Falicia Cunningham), aren’t cutting her any slack.

“That’s how you face what’s waiting at the door.”

Everybody is hanging on by a very thin thread here.  The loss and emotions surrounding it are still pretty raw.  Good memories of Dad help a little, but everyone is fumbling around, trying to find a way to build a life without him.  The great thing this conceit does is set up a story centered on an ensemble of five very impressive women, brought to life by equally impressive performers.  The voices here are first-rate, and when the women sing in any combination, from two all the way up to five, it’s gorgeous.  (No disrespect intended to Dad, he gets his moments, too - but this show is dominated by the ladies.)  The music here gives them a lot to work with, too.  The songs are varied and compelling with some really lovely melodies throughout.

“Simple?  Yes.  Easy?  No.”

Bucket Brigade Artistic Directors Jeremiah and Vanessa Gamble have crafted an engaging story here (book and lyrics by Jeremiah, music by Vanessa and Jeremiah), repurposing recent events in their own lives into something more universal that most audience members can recognize and empathize with.  Director Jeffrey S. Miller and Music Director/Arranger Michael Pearce Donley have gotten both good dramatic and musical performances from a talented ensemble.

“I’d spill coffee and think of him.”

Katie Phillips’ scene design and Courtney Schmitz’s lighting design, backed up by Nate Farley’s work on props, take a simple design concept and allow Life Goes On to tell a story with a lot more characters and locations than you might expect.  Six chairs, a table, and two trunks full of props and costume pieces, all allow the actors to take on multiple roles and move swiftly from one scene to the next.  A nod should also be given to Miller as director, Pearce Donley as music director, Kelli Foster-Warder as choreographer, and Sarah Pierucki as stage manager for keeping everything moving so seamlessly along.  People with less vision would have marked the beginning and ending of every scene and song with a hard stop and start.  Letting it flow is the way to keep a complex story about a hard subject from bogging down.  The whole production has a very light touch for something so potentially emotionally fraught.

“You’d be surprised what you can survive.”

Right now, Life Goes On clocks in at just a little over 90 minutes.  One wonders what they could do with an extra half hour and an intermission.  The story and all the characters still work as is, but sometimes it can feel a little rushed.  And even though it’s structured at first as if it’s Stacia’s story, the focus broadens out to the other characters and it starts to feel like the script really wants to spend more time with those people.

“Busy.  Serious.  Like you’re reading a book but there’s no book.”

This is particularly true of Sage the nurse-in-training, and I think this can partially be credited to Cunningham doing a lot with the little material she’s given.  Right from her lines in the opening musical number, you think “Wow, she’s got a heck of a story to tell.”  And her big solo number reinforces this.  But that’s it.  We don’t get any more about her personally.  This, and other questions the play raises don’t feel like mistakes so much as they feel like missed opportunities, unexplored avenues. 

“When you’ve lost everyone…”

Stacia doesn’t appear to have a personal life at all.  What’s that about?  Sis reveals that she’s separated from her husband.  Why?  Was it the grief over her father’s death and the need to support her mother when Stacia checked out that put a strain on the relationship or was it something else?  Also, she’s a stay-at-home mom who homeschools the kids - how’s that going to continue to work with her estranged, possibly ex-husband?  Mom references money issues, and is going through the house to downsize her possessions and move.  All of that’s huge, plus Stacia’s going to establish a scholarship for women going into medicine, in part to help support Sage.  Maybe Stacia should be applying those buckets of money she’s making to help support her mother or sister instead?  Or they should at least have a conversation about it?  Honestly, how did Mom get through the year and not wind up a basket case like Stacia? 

“The son I lost, and found, and lost again.”

In fact, the only character who seems to have just about the right amount of stage time is Anya.  Sure, I’m curious about those 17 brothers and sisters (how many of them actually lived to adulthood for starters).  I’m also curious about the man who got her pregnant, lo those many years ago, and how the rest of the new family she’s acquired feel about the idea of him.  How did she get to America?  How did Dad find her?  Sure, those are all questions, but they feel like normal questions, not stuff left on the table that would impact the current story that much.  Her big “Family” song almost feels like filler for a minute, until you get to that last verse and realize the happy set-up was all so they could gut-punch you with something you allowed yourself to forget for a second.

“When he’s not in the way, this isn’t home.”

Because the structure feels so tilted toward Stacia at the moment, and the other characters are not as fully realized, the little snippets of “here’s how my life turned out” for the whole cast as they jump forward a little in time at the end really feels like stuff I don’t need right now.  There’s a powerhouse song before that which really feels like the end of the show that I just jotted down a note and called the Naming Song.  It’s actually an outgrowth of an earlier song being reprised, where the characters at the retirement home gather their chairs in a semi-circle and share stories from their lives, to jog their memories and remember.  At the end of the show, the song returns and then transitions into a powerful moment where they start overlapping, singing the names of people important in their lives.  The music swells, and it often sounds like bells are ringing, and the naming continues.  And you start to realize, they must be naming people now that the actors know, that the writers know, the crew, the musicians, the box office, the ushers.  Maybe they’re throwing out random names, figuring someone in the audience must know a person by that name who they’ve lost.  That’s your closing number as far as I’m concerned.  It’s hard to top the emotional wallop of that song.

“Then maybe we can figure out what to do with Dad’s ashes, since they’re still in a bag in my closet.”

If you’ve ever had to deal with grief or loss, Bucket Brigade's production of Life Goes On is an uplifting (often funny) rather than depressing way to revisit those events in your life.  If this is what it looks like at six months old, imagine the musical it will grow into with time.  Meanwhile, this is a hell of a good production of a new piece of musical theater, well worth your time to see.  (runs through October 13, 2018 at Art House North)

4 stars, Highly Recommended

(Photo: The ensemble of Bucket Brigade’s production of Life Goes On (l to r) Falicia Cunningham, Katie Consamus, Janet Hanson, Bob Beverage, Vanessa Gamble, Dee Noah - photo by Bonni Allen Photography)



Sunday, August 12, 2018

Fringe 2018 - 5 Star Show Rundown


(Reminder: There are no encore slots this year for the best-selling show in each venue.  So there is no extra final chance to catch a popular show at the end of the Fringe schedule. Once they're gone, they're gone, so catch the good shows and/or shows you're really interested in before they disappear)

Abeyance - Tyler West - Strike Theater

show 30 - Abeyance - Tyler West's combination of mime, comedy, self-generated live sound FX, and interaction with audience members on and off stage is a delight - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TONIGHT) - Sun 8/12 8:30pm)

Attention Seeker - That's Enough Drama - Southern Theater

tweet review - show 47 - Attention Seeker - was a fantastic way to end a long day of Fringing; enormously entertaining, high energy, as funny as he is awkward (which is to say, very); a jolt of comedy to recharge your theatergoing batteries - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TODAY) - 8/12 7pm)

Couple Fight: The Musical - Weggel-Reed Productions - Rarig Thrust

show 28 - Couple Fight: The Musical - perfect show to be Mom's last for Fringe this year; ridiculous fights between couples who love each other, that this time around burst into song; easily my favorite version of Couple Fight so far - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TODAY) - Sun 8/12 1pm)

Cyrano On The Moon - Red Dice Collective - Ritz Studio

tweet review - show 45 - Cyrano On The Moon - What a delightful way to bring Cyrano, Roxanne, and Christian back together again and give them all a strange but happy ending; don't know Cyrano de Bergerac? no worries, there's a dumb show recap at the top - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TODAY) - 8/12 2:30pm)

Dangerous When Wet: Booze, Sex and My Mother - Jamie Brickhouse - Augsburg Studio

tweet review - #mnfringe show 16 - Dangerous When Wet: Booze, Sex and My Mother - @jamiebrickhouse weaves a tale you couldn't tell just anybody's mother, but my Mom and I both liked it a lot; Brickhouse spares neither his mother nor himself but it's a hell of a story - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TONIGHT) - Sun 8/12 7pm)

Link to full "Dangerous When Wet" review

Dreaming - Gabriel Mata/Movements - Southern Theater

tweet review - show 4 - Dreaming - is so smart about how to put together a Fringe show, it's scary; stunning; darker than last year, but SO good, so meticulously laid out; may be not just the best dancer, but also one of the best performers; damn - 5 stars
tweet review - show 29 - Dreaming - yes, I went to see it a 2nd time; a Fringe show so good it lifted my spirits at the end of the day; in my opinion, one of the very best of the whole festival this year - 5 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Dreaming" review

The Flashlight Zone: 20 Science Fiction Plays In One Hour - Flash Grenade Productions - TRP

tweet review - #mnfringe show 19 - The Flashlight Zone: 20 Sci-Fi Plays in One Hour (order chosen at random by audience) - figured I'd like it, pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it; someone asked Twilight Zone/Dark Mirror? I replied more Bradbury/Douglas Adams sci-fi - 5 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Flashlight Zone" review

Fruit Flies Like A Banana - The Fourth Wall - Celtic Junction

tweet review - show 11 - Fruit Flies Like A Banana - adapt to the Family Fringe like the pros they are, even when kids rush the stage; a shame the amazing things they do won't be fully appreciated till the kids are older and realize how hard it is - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TODAY), Sun 8/12 1:30pm)

Link to full "Fruit Flies" review


A Gertrude Stein Christmas - Theatre Unbound - Augsburg Mainstage

tweet review - #mnfringe show 17 - A Gertrude Stein Christmas - @TheatreUnbound's got a weird one here, but bless Stein's oddball little heart; strange dialogue interpreted as all-female holiday family tale dealing with dementia and introducing a new girlfriend to the clan - 5 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Gertrude Stein Christmas" review


Gunplay - Tom Reed - Mixed Blood Theater

tweet review - show 9 - Gunplay - A sharp satirical musical with an ensemble full of great performers and a lot of laughs. If only the real gun lobbyists were as easy to defeat as the ones in this play - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TODAY) - Sun 8/12 4pm)

Link to full "Gunplay" review




Illinois Boy Blues - Deacon Gamzee Productions - Augsburg Studio

show 27 - Illinois Boy Blues - the phrase master class is overused but actors take note, *this* is how you use the entire range of your voice to create characters, tell a story, and truly connect with your audience - wow - great solo performance - 5 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Illinois Boy Blues" review



The Immaculate Big Bang - Bill Santiago - Strike Theater

show 32 - Immaculate Big Bang - gave his all despite a tiny crowd; neither cynical nor sentimental, despite content on young daughter and death of father; refreshingly smart, irreverent, very funny stand-up show mixing science/religion - 5 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Immaculate Big Bang" review


A Justice League of Their Own - Mainly Me Productions - TRP

tweet review - show 8 - A Justice League of Their Own - Mom said “It’s almost like you have to see it more than once just to catch it all. You want to laugh but there’s so much in that show you’re afraid you’ll miss the next really funny thing” - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TONIGHT) - Sun 8/12 5:30pm)




The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society vs. The Nazis - Rarig Thrust

tweet review - show 12 - The Mysterious Old Radio Listening Society vs. The Nazis - 2 classic radio programs with Nazi villains being vanquished, lovingly recreated down to the performance style and sound FX; couldn't ask for a more fun time more perfectly executed - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TONIGHT) - Sun 8/12 5:30pm)

Link to full "Mysterious Old Radio Society" review

Not Fair, My Lady - Colleen Somerville Productions - Mixed Blood Theater

tweet review - show #1 - Not Fair, My Lady - Perfect way to start our Fringe; the singing, the politics, the attitude, the swearing; listen to these women; could easily end up being one of the best things in the festival this year - 5 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Not Fair, My Lady" review



Now We See It - Michael Rogers - Ritz Mainstage

tweet review - show 42 - Now We See It - took a while to finally see this one but it was worth the wait; the actual horror of childhood trauma gets channeled thru a demon pursuing a man into his own past to help his teenage self try to avoid the worst; great stuff - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TONIGHT) - Sun 8/12 8:30pm)



A Part Of Me - Imagined Theatre - Southern

tweet review - show 36 - A Part Of Me - super solid musical in a Fringe-sized package; integrates then elevates music; book, lyrics and music really work together; impressive cast, strong voices; also about something (organ donation) w/out hitting you over the head - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TODAY) - Sun 8/12 2:30pm)

Link to full "A Part of Me" review


Self-Titled Debut Album - Philip Simondet - Mixed Blood

tweet review - show 35 - Self-Titled Debut Album - such a deceptively simple gimmick: each song gives us character, plot, spotlights a different part of the band; the songs are so damn clever (and meta, but not annoying - bonus); delivers on its promise in a big way - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TODAY) - Sun 8/12 1pm)

Link to full "Self-Titled Debut Album" review


Summers In Prague - Sidecar Theatre - Rarig Arena

tweet review - show 10 - Summers In Prague - Mom said "Wow. This is the best thing we've seen." A lovely, well-crafted new play about an unconventional romance given life by a great production team and two fantastic performances - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TONIGHT) - Sun 8/12 7pm)

Link to full "Summers In Prague" review


The Things They Carried - Beardog Productions - Ritz Studio

tweet review - show 46 - The Things They Carried - Jim Stowell is a masterful storyteller, and this Fringe-sized excerpt from Tim O'Brien's classic Vietnam War story is a perfect fit for Stowell's powerful performing gifts - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TODAY) - 8/12 4pm)




Walking While Black In Moscow - Les Kurkendaal - Ritz Studio

tweet review - show 7 - Walking While Black In Moscow - is back, having survived being both black and gay while visiting Russia (where it turns out he has roots); another surreal trip mined for another delightful Fringe adventure - 5 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Walking While Black In Moscow" review


Whales - Hit The Lights! Theater Co. - Ritz Mainstage

tweet review -  show 22 - Whales - owned the whole Ritz Theatre space and the audience with shadow puppetry, punk rock sea shanty anthems, and a deconstruction of Moby Dick that was a hell of a lot of fun (doesn't sound like it should work, but it sure does) - 5 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Whales" review


The Womyn’s Mysteries - See-Saw Theater Lab - Minnsky Theatre

tweet review -  show 23 - The Womyn's Mysteries - an unexpected winner; Mom said "I've got chills" when it was does; an all-female ensemble excavates and resurrects the stories of women in the origins of the Judeo-Christian tradition - 5 stars - (REMAINING SHOWS  (TODAY) - Sun 8/12 2:30pm)

Link to full "Womyn's Mysteries" review


Youngblood in the Desert/Gateway Drug - OverLaugh Productions - Rarig Arena

tweet review - show 33 - Youngblood In The Desert / The Gateway Drug - 2 actors, 2 one-act plays about 2 guys lost in the world who find each other (in a non-homoerotic sort of way) - once in the Crusades, once in small town America, both well-written and well-acted - 5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TODAY) - Sun 8/12 4pm)



Here's some handy links to reviews of 4.5 Star Shows, 4 Star Shows, 3 Star Shows, and my full Top 10, Top 11-20 and Returning Favorites lists.

Fringe 2018 - 4.5 Star Show Rundown

(Reminder: There are no encore slots this year for the best-selling show in each venue.  So there is no extra final chance to catch a popular show at the end of the Fringe schedule. Once they're gone, they're gone, so catch the good shows and/or shows you're really interested in before they disappear)

The Idaho Action Jackson Playset - Brad Lawrence - Ritz Studio

tweet review - show 6 - The Idaho Jackson Action Playset - childhood traumas and adult-sized fears in Reagan era USA; comedy equals tragedy plus time; another solid, slightly manic, storytelling hour from - 4.5 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Idaho Jackson Action Playset" review

Itchy Tingles - Heidi Arneson - Rarig Xperimental Theater

tweet review - show 2 - Itchy Tingles - quintessential Heidi Arneson; if you've never seen her, this is a perfect intro; if you have, the addition of the guitar player gives it a whole new feel; "old school" Fringiness; great having her back - 4.5 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Itchy Tingles" review

Kaboom - Sheep Theater - Rarig Thrust

tweet review - #mnfringe show 18 - Kaboom - hats off to Sheep Theater for their latest lunatic farcical Fringe hit; allowed me to laugh (a lot) at something involving a president and nuclear war in a way I didn't think possible right now - 4.5 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Kaboom" review

Mrs. Wrights - Quasimondo Physical Theatre - Rarig X

tweet review - #mnfringe show 20 - Mrs. Wrights - 2 biographical dance pieces in 1 day; here, a graceful, athletic dancer channeling 3 wives, 1 mom, 1 mistress and Frank Lloyd Wright himself; visually sharp, factually a bit top-heavy, overall a success - 4.5 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TONIGHT) - Sun 8/12 8:30pm)

Link to full "Mrs. Wrights" review


Here's some handy links to reviews of 5 Star Shows, 4 Star Shows, 3 Star Shows, and my full Top 10, Top 11-20 and Returning Favorites lists.


Fringe 2018 - 4 Star Show Rundown


(Reminder: There are no encore slots this year for the best-selling show in each venue.  So there is no extra final chance to catch a popular show at the end of the Fringe schedule. Once they're gone, they're gone, so catch the good shows and/or shows you're really interested in before they disappear)

Delightfully Rude - Elaine Orion - Ritz Studio

tweet review - show 5 - Delightfully Rude - Mom wasn't a fan, but I laughed out loud a lot (which I don't normally due in shows); guess we'll just agree to disagree on this one; your mileage may vary - 4 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TONIGHT) - Sun 8/12 7pm)

Link to full "Delightfully Rude" review

Forsythian Dweller’s Club - Bittersweet Arts Co. - Rarig X

tweet review - show 25 - Forsythian Dweller's Club - an impressively elaborate shaggy dog story of hilariously scary circular logic in which a literary magazine's plans for expansion get way out of hand on a globally cultish scale - 4 stars (FINAL SHOW (TODAY) - Sun 8/12 4pm)

Gay Hot American Summer - GIRL Theatre - Rarig Arena

tweet review - show 34 - Gay Hot American Summer - I wanted to like this one more than I ultimately did; it was certainly gay, well done, and awfully cute, but it kind of refused to end after it ran out of reasons to keep going - 4 stars - (CLOSED)

Geminae - Oncoming Productions - Southern Theater

tweet review - show 38 - Geminae - cool anti-gravity physical work; a stranded female astronaut running out of air; her sister down at mission control; a plot for revenge; creepy sci-fi horror - 4 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TODAY) - Sun 8/12 1pm)

My 4 Bodies - Nightfox Stage Productions - Ritz Studio

tweet review - show 44 - My 4 Bodies - a writer/performer living with multiple sclerosis recounts her struggles to make peace with her body and herself - 4 stars - (CLOSED)

Night Sets Her Foot In Morocco - Minnesota SkyVault Theater - Rarig Arena

tweet review - #mnfringe show 14 - Night Sets Her Foot In Morocco - less music/more wacky antics in the audience than I was expecting, but still a heck of a lot of fun - 4 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Morocco" review

(a) Normal Theatre Play - Goof Goof - Strike Theater

tweet review - show 43 - (a) Normal Theatre Play - show's closed so it can now be revealed, this stage adaptation was not of Cars 3, but of A Christmas Carol (the horror!); Bob Dylan as Fezziwig, however, was inspired comic lunacy - 4 stars - (CLOSED)

Robert's Eternal Goldfish - Audacity Theatre Lab - Rarig X

tweet review - show 30 - Robert's Eternal Goldfish - a wannabe misanthrope reluctantly brought back into the flow of humanity by a supernatural goldfish; irascibly charming comic storytelling - 4 stars - (CLOSED)

Saint Ex - Spaceheater - Rarig Arena

tweet review - #mnfringe show 15 - Saint Ex - (still noodling over this one) - physical poem where dancer channels both an author/pilot and his wife - compelling visual images, puzzling out what it adds up to - 4 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Saint Ex" review

The Shrieking Harpies - Augsburg Studio

tweet review - show 26 - Shrieking Harpies - a fully improvised musical from a single word (this time, mortician) that even the improvisers admitted afterward was really weird; still, what they do is nothing short of amazing, and their voices are great - 4 stars (CLOSED)

Link to full "Shrieking Harpies" review

Still or I’ve Been Choreographed - Kevin Williamson + Company - Rarig X

tweet review - show 29 - Still, or I've Been Choreographed - Kevin Williamson's choreography/performance starts with almost with an absence of motion, making regular motion seem suddenly huge; intriguing exercise in focus, precision, and audience attention - 4 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Still or I've Been Choreographed" review

Vert-O-Graph - Marvel Ann Theatre - Rarig Thrust 

tweet review - show 13 - Vertograph - campy satire of mid-20th century suburban obsessions, pulled into another dimension and back again; rules were a little fuzzy, sometimes didn't know if I was supposed to be laughing WITH the gay characters or AT them - 4 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Vert-O-Graph" review


Here's some handy links to reviews of 5 Star Shows, 4.5 Star Shows, 3 Star Shows, and my full Top 10, Top 11-20 and Returning Favorites lists.





























Fringe 2018 - 3 Star Show Rundown


(Reminder: There are no encore slots this year for the best-selling show in each venue.  So there is no extra final chance to catch a popular show at the end of the Fringe schedule. Once they're gone, they're gone, so catch the good shows and/or shows you're really interested in before they disappear)

Fringe Orphans 4: Back in the Habit - Navel Gaze Productions - Theatre in the Round Players

tweet review - show 3 - Fringe Orphans 4 - be prepared for unicorn sex; be prepared to be asked to facilitate unicorn sex; and a 3-legged chair; and the feds cracking down on a girl's lemonade stand, and more - 3 stars - (CLOSED)

Link to full "Fringe Orphans" review

Home - Michael Venske - Strike Theater

tweet review - show 41 - Home - one-person show which was strangely unspecific about his time both in MN and in China; could've used more detail like that section of the old dining room wallpaper where the audience could feel the velvet - 3 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TONIGHT) - Sun 8/12 5:30pm)

Theory of Relativity - Theory of Dance - Ritz Studio

show 31, part 2 - Theory of Relativity - the opening number was enchanting, then the rest of the show happened; nothing wrong with the dancers; unfortunate music choices; unfocused, repetitive choreography; weirdly passive use of audience participation - 3 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TODAY) - Sun 8/12 1pm)

Link to full "Theory of Relativity" review

There Goes the Gayborhood - Libra Moon Productions - Strike Theater

tweet review -  show 21 - There Goes The Gayborhood - the script seems like it could be genuinely hilarious, and the cast seems like they could deliver a better show, they just really needed a stronger director for that show to happen - 3 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TODAY) - Sun 8/12 2:30pm)

Link to full "Gayborhood" review

Titus: Sweet Water, Silent Walks - The BAND Group - Rarig Thrust

tweet review - show 37 - Titus: Sweet Water, Silent Walks - strong aesthetic choices, but fair warning, they spend an awful lot of time beating, raping and maiming Lavinia, and then doing it all again in interpretive dance later so... there's that - 3 stars - (FINAL SHOW (TONIGHT) - Sun 8/12 8:30pm)

Writing Wrongs in a Sandcastle - Witchy Beach - Minnsky Theatre

tweet review -  show 24 - Writing Wrongs In A Sandcastle - well, it looked like they were having fun; the strange tale of a writer, an editor, a not quite shipwreck, and a handpuppet dolphin named Trixie with blond hair and pearls - 3 stars - (CLOSED)


Here's some handy links to reviews of 5 Star Shows, 4.5 Star Shows, 4 Star Shows, and my full Top 10, Top 11-20 and Returning Favorites lists.


Fringe 2018 - Day 10 - Sat 8/11 - Tweet Overview


1pm - Home - Michael Venske - Strike Theater

tweet review - show 41 - Home - one-person show which was strangely unspecific about his time both in MN and in China; could've used more detail like that section of the old dining room wallpaper where the audience could feel the velvet - 3 stars

2:30pm - Now We See It - Michael Rogers - Ritz Mainstage

tweet review - show 42 - Now We See It - took a while to finally see this one but it was worth the wait; the actual horror of childhood trauma gets channeled thru a demon pursuing a man into his own past to help his teenage self try to avoid the worst; great stuff - 5 stars

4pm - (a) Normal Theatre Play - Goof Goof - Strike Theater

tweet review - show 43 - (a) Normal Theatre Play - show's closed so it can now be revealed, this stage adaptation was not of Cars 3, but of A Christmas Carol (the horror!); Bob Dylan as Fezziwig, however, was inspired comic lunacy - 4 stars

5:30pm - My 4 Bodies - Nightfox Stage Productions - Ritz Studio

tweet review - show 44 - My 4 Bodies - a writer/performer living with multiple sclerosis recounts her struggles to make peace with her body and herself - 4 stars

7pm - Cyrano On The Moon - Red Dice Collective - Ritz Studio

tweet review - show 45 - Cyrano On The Moon - What a delightful way to bring Cyrano, Roxanne, and Christian back together again and give them all a strange but happy ending; don't know Cyrano de Bergerac? no worries, there's a dumb show recap at the top - 5 stars

8:30pm - The Things They Carried - Beardog Productions - Ritz Studio

tweet review - show 46 - The Things They Carried - Jim Stowell is a masterful storyteller, and this Fringe-sized excerpt from Tim O'Brien's classic Vietnam War story is a perfect fit for Stowell's powerful performing gifts - 5 stars

10pm - Attention Seeker - That's Enough Drama - Southern Theater

tweet review - show 47 - Attention Seeker - was a fantastic way to end a long day of Fringing; enormously entertaining, high energy, as funny as he is awkward (which is to say, very); a jolt of comedy to recharge your theatergoing batteries - 5 stars


Here's some handy links to reviews of 5 Star Shows, 4.5 Star Shows, 4 Star Shows, 3 Star Shows, and my full Top 10, Top 11-20 and Returning Favorites lists.