Friday, August 08, 2008

Fringe 2008 - Day 7 - Down and Dirty

Best Thing We Saw Wednesday

Beowulf or Gilgamesh - You Decide - Chopping Block & Charlie Bethel - Rarig Arena

5 Stars - Very Highly Recommended

“Is there a 6?” Mom asked, immediately upon the conclusion of Charlie Bethel’s staggeringly good rendition of the legend of “Beowulf” the other night. A 6? Oh, on a scale of 1 to 5 stars - Mom wants to give it a 6. Nicely done, Mr. Bethel. It was, easily, some of the best theater we’ve seen this Fringe. One guy, one great story, told with great flair, humor, and insight. Death comes to all, even heroes. It’s what you do while you’re alive that counts. A rollicking adventure tale with a brain as big as its heart, and as strong as its guts. Either way, "Beowulf or Gilgamesh", in Charlie Bethel’s hands, you’re in for some of the best performance work in the Fringe, this year, or any other. (How exactly did all the theaters in town let this guy slip away to the east coast? Thank God he comes back to visit.) Show page here, video clip here.

CLOSED - but he might get the Encore slot at the Arena, so if you didn’t catch him, cross your fingers...

Enchanting Execution, A Little Light On Content

Jack - Eric Van Wyck - Mixed Blood

3-1/2 Stars - Recommended

This was enchanting, start to finish. From the evisceration by the giant of the hapless puppets we thought would be our narrators, to the playful shadow work, to the cow jumping over the moon, to a torrent of beans spilling out onto the stage (and a bit into the audience as well, watch your step), to the bird that lays the golden egg just wanting to break its bonds and fly free again, to puppet Jack’s interactions with the puppeteer giant - this thing was a one-man puppet wonderland. But the story was a little thin. We had Jack and the beanstalk as a starting place, of course, and a loose adaptation is not necessarily a bad one. But if you didn’t already know the story, I’m not sure you’d be able to figure out what was going on from this production. It was a lot of interesting moments strung together, with some unexpected twists, but it didn’t necessarily end up giving the audience a complete picture. Again, though, what was there, was truly enchanting. If you like puppet work, Jack is a good Fringey example of someone pushing the boundaries in interesting ways. Show page here, video clip here

Remaining Performances -
Mixed Blood Theater
TONIGHT! Friday, August 8th, 4pm
Tomorrow - Saturday, August 9th, 2:30pm
And closing on Sunday, August 10th, 5:30pm

Sorry, I Don’t Get It

American Sexy - New Theatre Group - Rarig Arena

2 Stars - Not Bad, Needs Some Work

I’m still baffled by this one. The director’s great, the playwright’s great, the cast is great. So what they came up with, collaboratively created especially for this team of artists and this Fringe, must be deliberate. Why they’re asking us to visit this particular world and these particular people at this particular time, I have no idea. If I were a person of college age, I might be offended. While presenting the audience with four wholly unlikable characters is certainly a valid choice, I wasn’t at all sure why I was being asked to watch them, and dislike them. If you want me to wish for bad things to happen to these people, mission accomplished. They’re vapid, sleazy, hypocritical, racist, mean-spirited, and oppressive. Sure, I found myself thinking, “And we wonder why the rest of the world hates us? Look at these people. If that’s all other people see of Americans, I can’t blame them for resenting us and our privilege.” But that’s not a new or particularly piercing insight. If that was the point, the play didn’t give me anything to hang it on. If that’s your point, fine. But then what? The thing didn’t go anywhere, it didn’t end, it just stopped. Show page here

Remaining Performances -
University of Minnesota Rarig Center Arena
TONIGHT! Friday, August 8th, 7pm
Tomorrow - Saturday, August 9th, 10pm

Right after “American Sexy,” Mom got to see “The Bronze Bitch Flies At Noon” and “Dog Tag” one last time. It was a great way for her to round out her time this year at the Fringe. But I should leave it to others to evaluate. The actors brought some new shadings to the material after a couple of days off, the audience was enthusiastic and very supportive. All in all, a very good night for our little show. We’ve got one more performance left - our final show on Saturday, August 9th at 8:30pm. If you haven’t already, catch us while you can. If you’ve been in the crowds up to know and liked it, please help spread the word with those you know, and maybe leave us a comment on the Fringe web page for our show if you want. Show page here, video clip here, write-ups here, here and here

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