Thursday, August 11, 2016

Fringe 2016 - Terror On The High Seas - Another Absurd Chapter In The Story of Les And His In-Laws - 4.5 Stars

Tweet review - #mnfringe Terror on the High Seas: you'll feel like you've been on a cruise with Les' in-laws, for better or worse :) - 4.5 stars

Do I really need to tell people to go see Les Kurkendaal’s new one-man show, Terror On The High Seas?  OK, go see Les Kurkendaal’s new one-man show, Terror On The High Seas.  We’re so used to seeing Les do his thing, you might start to think what he’s doing is easy and anyone can do it.  Nope. 

“Senior citizens are running around in various states of confusion.  It’s sheer pandemonium.  Like a herd of geriatric cats.”

It’s hard to believe, but Mom and I have been seeing Les Kurkendaal’s shows in the Minnesota Fringe Festival for ten years now.  Les is based in California, but he’s a regular on the Fringe touring circuit.  Les loves our Minnesota Fringe Festival a whole lot, and we love him in return - it’s why he keeps coming back.  If Mom didn’t see Les’ show, it wouldn’t feel like a real Fringe to her.

“I can’t hear my mother-in-law.  This is awesome yoga!”

This time, with Terror On The High Seas, Les is telling a story primed for comedy - getting roped into traveling with his white in-laws on a 12 day cruise to Alaska.  Les quickly bonded with the other spouses on the cruise who were also signing up for as many of the land-based side excursions as possible in order to escape the ship and their own extended families.  There was also the recurring couples tradition of hanging out at the nearly deserted late night party on board.  But the real story here is a subtle one, and quite sweet.

“You’re just a vegetarian because that’s a liberal thing to do.”

Oh, Les regales us with imitations of his father-in-law, mother-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and their kids.  But these are ultimately loving, if humorous, portraits.  Though they all may bumble their way through interactions with their son or brother’s black boyfriend, these people mean well.  It takes Les a while to realize that the people he’s trying to escape are actually trying very, very hard in their own way to make sure he’s having a good time and feels like a real part of the family.

“Why can’t we go somewhere normal, like Vegas?”

Some of Les’ previous Fringe shows have dealt with larger issues of racism or coming out or alcoholism or body image or caring for aging parents, though always through a humorous storyteller’s lens.  Here, as in Nightmare In Bakersfield, where Les accompanied his boyfriend to a school reunion, and realized he was having a bit of a problem being the less noticed (or famous) one in the couple, Les is dealing with some of the nuances of negotiating being part of a team.  When that team is a couple, often that means there’s a larger team of extended family.  How do you maintain your own separate identity in this context, and what, if anything, do you have to give up - or share - of yourself?

“Les, I hate to admit this, but you’re part of the family, too.”

It’s just not a full Fringe experience without Les.  So go see Terror On The High Seas.

4.5 Stars - Very Highly Recommended

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