Monday, August 05, 2013

Minnesota Fringe Festival - Review - Fringe Orphans 2 - Random Ideas In Neatly Produced Package

Tweet review - Fringe Orphans 2 - impressively smooth-running grab bag of random deeply strange ideas; great (weird) fun - 4 stars

Though I missed Fringe Orphans the first time around last year, I can't imagine it was any better than this.  Fringe Orphans 2: Orphan Harder is a delightfully weird grab bag of random ideas all thrown together and pulled off by the massive ensemble in really fine form.  Often, assemblages of many different ideas like this can end up being less than the sum of their parts.  With Fringe Orphans 2, it all comes together and everything seems to fit - just as if all these people had planned to get together and do a show, rather than being wrangled from any number of different places by creator and producer Brian Watson-Jones.

"You want to do disgusting?  We can do disgusting."

Not all ideas can stand up to more than five to ten minutes of scrutiny.  Sometimes a one-joke premise is just that.  So where can such promising but stunted mini-Fringe shows go for refuge?  Fringe Orphans!

"Attention must finally be paid to such a clone!"

How about a Beach Blanket Bingo-style re-imagining of Shakespeare's comedy Taming of the Shrew?  Behold phillip low's Taming of a Bikini Shrew.  Ever wonder what would happen if you crossed Star Wars and Arthur Miller? Try Aaron Greer's Death of a Stormtrooper on for size.  Wish the Fringe had its own bitch-slapping reality show? Look no further than Les Kurkendaal's The Return of the Real Housewives of Fringe (two of whom are men in drag, of course).  Concerned that barely contained murderous rage lurks in the heart of those self-actualization seminar gurus?  Then beware Jeremy Brandon and his Be The Dream program, the brainchild of John Middleton.  And don't worry - if arming school teachers with guns sounds like a really bad idea to you, there's the consolation of the existence of Adam Sharp's Teacher Boot Camp.

"We all like to be told nice things, but here's the thing.  It's not true."

Fringe Orphans 2 also offers up some physical performance work as well.  Jena Young's belly dance sequence, Crayola's Revenge, is a running series of bits of belly dancing choreography to original music by Scott Keever, performed by Young between the longer sketches.  Each time her costume is accented with a different color sash.  At the end, she dances the entire sequence all at once, wearing all the colors together.

"The safe word is yes."

Jerry Belich's Etude for Two gives us two red-nosed clowns fighting first over a music stand, and then over a kazoo that provides different results for different players.  One clown gets a full orchestral sound to come out, the other clown just gets a sad kazoo sound.  The escalating battle of the non-bands is quite delightful.

"The Sound - Of Food!"

Also great fun is the series of bits interspersed between the other pieces called The Sound of Food.  Creator Amber Bjork teams up with Theo Langason here.  Amber has a bucket of food and a big spoon.  Theo has a microphone.  He announces, "The Sound of Food!" and then the name of whatever food is in the spotlight.  Theo then holds the mic down by the floor on a plastic garbage bag while Amber scoops the food out of the bucket and plops it down on the plastic so the mic can pick up the noise it makes when it hits.  Potatoes, wet hot dogs, guacamole and chips, cottage cheese, tater tots, eggs (four of them, one at a time), and for the grand finale, a whole pie.  It's just as ridiculous as it sounds and yet no one could stop laughing.

"The Skinny Girl's Guide To Tater Tot Hot Dish"

Best of all, though, was a mime performance by Dean Hatton and Kirsten Stephens called Just Around The Corner.  These two physical comedians are such pros, it's a joy to watch them in motion.  It was just the two of them and two enormous white rectangles.  They play out the individual days of two separate people, with the rectangles representing the bed they sleep in, the kitchen table, the subway, the walls of their office cubicle.  They release and switch off rectangles between each other in a graceful dance that ends with the two people finally meeting, and deciding whether they want human interaction after all or not.  It's sly societal commentary masquerading as a bit of whimsy.

"Being a teacher gives you the right to shoot someone."

The line-up is a little different each night (we didn't get the charades sketch or Tim Mooney's Electric Eye the day we went).  You can check the line-up on the Fringe site for the specific list of artists you'd be seeing when you go.  But I do suggest you go.  With no emcee or obvious framework to hold it together, Fringe Orphans 2 nonetheless moves swiftly and smoothly from one oddity to the next, keeping better pace than many a Fringe show with far fewer moving parts.  Congrats to Brian Watson-Jones and his crew for a well-executed bit of Fringe logistics.

4 stars, Highly Recommended

Next performance, Monday 8/5 (tonight) at 5:30pm
See their Fringe show page for more information

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