Friday, August 09, 2013

Minnesota Fringe Festival - Review - Turn Signals - Choose Your Own Romantic Comedy

Tweet Review - Turn Signals - high energy cast, goofy road trip stuffed w/fun characters, perfect mnfringe romantic fluff w/out the guilt - 5 stars

[In the Interests of Full Disclosure: I am the writer of a show that shares a venue with this show. Thus, we are both in contention for the extra Encore slot at the end of the festival, which goes to the show with the best attendance in the first four out of their five performances in that venue.  While I write this review honestly and with no thought of sabotaging a show that could be seen as a rival, still feel free to take anything negative I say below with an extra grain (or two) of salt.  Since I heartily recommend this show to you, I'm not expecting this review to do them any harm.  My hope is that it does them a lot of good.]

"If at any point in your life you don't want a treehouse, I've failed as a parent."

Right out of the gate, before the canned Fringe welcome announcement even, Freshwater Theatre's latest Fringe offering of Ruth Virkus' Turn Signals kicks into high gear (no pun intended).  And high gear for this show always means fun.  The trio of Michael Terrell Brown, Dana Bye and Rachel Flynn do a rousing rendition of "Make A Choice" to the tune of Abba's "Take A Chance" which is an a cappella song giving the audience instructions for how to guide the show.

"Oh good, she's out of jail."

Turn Signals is a script designed with several points during which select members of the audience, sitting in well-marked seats so people know what they're getting into, get to choose whether the car (and plot) turn right or left.  Depending on the audience member's choice, the script heads off in a different direction.  The day I was in attendance, we got a con artist at a rest stop, a creepy hotel and other amusing detours I won't spoil here.

"I can't look that bad. I showered today."

The main plot from which the audience diverges with their turn signals involves a road trip for Melissa (Mame Pelletier), Melissa's daughter Janet (Laura Mason) and Melissa's boyfriend Danny (Joe Swanson).  They are attending Melissa's brother's latest wedding, which may or may not go off without a hitch.  In transit, Melissa is wondering if Danny, several years her junior, may be planning to propose marriage for the two of them as well.  She also wonders whether it will be a welcome question if he pops it, and how exactly she plans to answer him. 

"But they shot him, 'cause it's Florida."

Between all the good-natured humor of Virkus' script, the high energy of the cast, and the easy camaraderie of the three leads, Turn Signals makes for a fun, relaxing way to spend an hour.  But it's also an interesting exploration of family dynamics and the decisions for when exactly a relationship gets serious. 

"I don't want to alarm you but I think it might have been a devil monkey."

Melissa's first marriage didn't work out, and daughter Janet has misgivings about mom's latest boyfriend Danny.  Is getting along with Danny somehow a betrayal of her own, unseen, father?  And what of the age difference between the pair?  The script thankfully steers well clear of the soap opera notion of a man being attracted to both the mother and the daughter.  Besides, who in their right mind would throw over Mame Pelletier for another woman of any age?  Mame is fierce and fabulous, always making quirky, strong original choices, and the character of Melissa is no different.  Joe Swanson's laid back boyfriend act is utterly charming.  Even Laura Mason's constant standoffishness as Janet has an understandable basis in the facts of her situation, so we can't hold her reserve against her.  She serves as a constant check against us getting too comfortable with any given moment.

"Just stop trying so hard not to like me."

The opening trio are cast in multiple roles.  Michael Terrell Brown is particularly fun as the mumbling angry clerk at the creepy motel.  Rachel Flynn is having a ball as the many and various incarnations of identical twins (triplets? quadruplets?) who come and go out of every conceivable entrance.  Danny's uncertainty about which aunt exactly he's speaking to, and what her personality quirk might be, is most amusing.  Dana Bye makes for a very disturbing hotel housekeeping staff member as well as the bride who may or may not make it to the altar (and may or may not be doing it for love).

"How did you and Bill meet?  You seem really competent."

Director Amber Bjork and her company of actors have the whole thing running so smoothly, you wonder how any other set of choices but the one your audience makes could be better.  Maybe you have to go more than once to find out.  But even if you only take the show in once, like I did, Turn Signals makes sure you have a good time.

5 stars, Very Highly Recommended

Next Performance, today, Friday 8/9 at 4pm
For more information, see their Fringe show page

No comments: