Every year at the Minnesota Fringe Festival I'm introduced to new artists I've never had the pleasure of seeing before, and they become new favorites. Last year was no different.
There's three such artists coming back this year to a second virtual Fringe. All three ended up as 5 stars shows, among the best that I saw the whole Fringe. One is a live stream again like last year at select days and times. And the other two don't have a set schedule so you can start viewing them online whenever you want once the Fringe online portal opens up on Thursday. (That is one the key benefits of a virtual format, if you have to find a silver lining - you can watch it any hour of the day or night that fits your schedule best.)
So, three returning new favorites, two of which I'll be looking to slot in as soon as I can, perhaps day one, are:
AWAY, NOW - The World's Most Desired Destination - Theatre Mobile - Flight of the Concords meets Pee-Wee’s Playhouse! 16X Best of Fest winners' hilarious song-filled live travel guide to the place everyone wants to go: Away, Now! *WINNER - Best Variety Show - Orlando Fringe*
Erika Kate MacDonald and Paul Strickland really knocked it out of the park last year. These were live performers who adapted so skillfully to the enforced video format that you think they'd been doing this kind of thing for ages. Here's how I gushed about the visiting artists last year in brief - "Paul and @othererika's House Show" from Theatre Mobile; A-MA-ZING; absurd, sweet and delightful; embraces weird time we're all in theatrically; have your plate ready; so great; 1 of the best of Virtual #mnfringe - 5 stars - and here's the full review. Best kind of Fringe show, just defies description. Whatever they're doing this time, I'm here for it, enthusiastically.
StockHome - Unreliable Narrator Theater Group - Danielle's been kidnapped! Worse yet, the kidnapping ring is a start-up with some kinks to work out! Corporate burnout, office gaslighting, and bottomless egomania reign in this workplace satire. (Warnings: Abuse/Physical violence, Adult language, Blood, Crude Humor, Drug Content, Gun/Weapon usage, Violence)
Now normally, based on that description, this would not be my thing. However, this is Unreliable Narrator (a local group) we're talking about, and their show last year, Super Patriots (written by the same playwright Carl Danielson), was a genuine hoot. A short sampling of my reaction to last year - "Super Patriots!" from @UNarrator; hilarious, one of the funniest things I've seen at Virtual #mnfringe; half popsicle stick political puppets, half live action; satire on proud tradition of US demagogues, McCarthy, Buchanan, etc. - 5 stars - and here's the full review. They adapted so well, having to move to video last year, that I'm on board for their followup.
Also local is the one live-streamer in this trio:
Monster Island on $20 a Day - Monster Science Productions - Acclaimed one-man show "Reverend Matt's Monster Science" returns for its 4th MN Fringe! This year: a travel guide to the imaginary lands where monsters dwell! Facts! Comedy! PowerPoint!
It was a little embarrassing for me that I only *just* got around to finally seeing my first Monster Science show last year in the Fringe. He's an established local performer, and I just kept missing his productions somehow, totally my fault. Glad I finally saw one because, as expected, I really enjoyed it. The concept is that Reverend Matt meticulously researches things that don't exist, creatures from myth and legend, and then he presents wry, cheeky lectures about said creatures. In lesser hands, this might not work so well, but Matthew Kessen knows his stuff and is the most genial of performers. So I am game for another super amusing lecture, bring it on. He's scheduled at 8pm on Friday 8/6, Monday 8/9, and Thursday 8/12, with a final 3pm show on Sunday 8/15.
Can't go wrong with these three. Add them to your schedule.