Friday, August 12, 2022

2022 Fringe Review - Stars of the Twin Cities - Overlooked Gem - 5 stars

“Life goes on and, stars or not, I want more of it.”

Synopsis: Stars of the Twin Cities is a movie musical—an original film accompanied by a trio. The movie on screen is scored on stage. And there’s interludes of new vocal music. Stars are here! A new kind of movie musical! This is for those of you who like the soaring plays of Ionesco, the colorful extremes of Keita Takahashi and the idealism of an idling riverside MGB. This musical event is a screening of an original, silent short film about surprise with no surprises, accompanied by new music from a new trio. We hope it will leave you feeling hopeful and that the Stars stay on your mind for a while.

Tweet review: #mnfringe Stars of the Twin Cities: quite possibly the cutest Fringe show I have ever seen; 3 person band (electric guitars/melodica) plays along with whimsical film about colorful clay stars invading the Twin Cities; delightful, refreshing, different - 5 stars

Stars of the Twin Cities is getting me to do some things I don’t normally do with Fringe shows.  First of all, I’m planning to see it a second time on closing weekend.  Normally I get all I need from a Fringe show the first time out, and there’s so many other shows to see, it’s rare I go back for a repeat visit.  Second, I boosted my original tweet on the show, because I did it on the fly while I was out and about seeing shows and I didn’t give it the benefit of a link to the show page or a photo that some others get.  Third, I wrote a review on the Fringe website.  Since I have the blog and a twitter feed, it seems redundant to job on the Fringe website as well.  The Fringe site should be for folks who don’t have another platform handy.  But they were already three performances into their 5 show run by the time I saw it, and no one had yet written anything about them, which seemed a shame.  So I posted there before I turned to writing this because some people really do look for kitty ratings and other people’s opinions on the Fringe site and up till about an hour ago, Stars of the Twin Cities wasn’t even showing up on the audience review page (because they didn’t have any).  Now at least they have one, so neither their review page nor the kitty/star ranking is a complete blank.

“I can’t afford to be dazzled all night and day.”

Why am I so into this show?  It recharged my theater-going batteries - I was already 30 shows in when I saw it and it gave me a boost, lifted my spirits.  I was completely charmed by the production.  The folk music accompaniment from a live three man band on two electric guitars (Sam Walker and J Leininger), and a melodica (Cabe Walker) was relaxing.  The film the music was backing up was sweet and funny.  It’s a perfect little mix of art forms.

“Water will always be bigger than the stars.”

In a way, the film portion of Stars of the Twin Cities (edited by Bethany Walker, written by Sam Walker) is almost like a silent film.  Not completely silent, because it does have engine noise for the car, but that’s pretty much it for sound on the film itself.  The dialogue appears written on the screen with the various characters saying it.  The film has a mix of actual locations and people, and miniature locations and people.  Human Sam will get in a real car and drive off, and then a tiny plastic stand-in for Sam will be riding a toy car that gets pulled around by a string or a stick.  An exterior shot of a grocery store will transform into a print-out of a photo of the interior of the grocery store where our action figure cast will converse about the invading stars.

“I’ve found I’m more ready if I smell like chlorine.”

Ah yes, the titular stars.  The premise of the film is that a bunch of multi-colored clay stars, either mounted on sticks or hanging in the air on string have suddenly invaded Twin Cities locations en masse - just bursting into hotels or pools or grocery stores, and even wedding ceremonies.  Last winter, there was just one star and it kind of came and went.  For some reason, now there are bunches of stars everywhere, and they just seem content to hang out and crowd the place.  And they’re colorful stars, so they can be a bit distracting.

“This one is for all the cars that are pulled by a rope.”

Both human and tiny action figure Sam have their doubts about the stars.  They go on a car ride around the cities to confer with friends and acquaintances about whether or not all these stars invading is a good thing or a bad thing.  There’s Cliff, a tiny stuffed lion, who in close-up on camera in relation to tiny action figure Sam, looks quite huge.  Cliff’s just passing through and staying for a while in a hotel (invaded by stars).  There’s David, a brown knit figure that looks a bit like a needlepointed potato, hanging out in the grocery store, of course, also surrounded by invading stars.  Randomly, there’s an action figure of former professional hockey player Arturs Irbe, hanging out at the local pool - the stars are there, too.  Last but not least there is both action figure Beth and human Beth, who gets on a real riverboat for a ride with Sam.  Everyone has their opinion about the stars, positive and negative, and Sam polls them all for their thoughts.  Then they have to band together when some of the clay stars drop from the sky, break and need fixing.

“I love cheering on newlyweds.”

It’s a goofy little premise, executed in whimsical fashion.  The difference in scale between humans, action figures, stuffed animals/potatoes, and stars offer lots of amusement.  In between sections of the film, we get a full-on music break and song from the band.  The whole thing is just super charming.  It’s a pity that words like cute or adorable are viewed as pejoratives because I mean them sincerely when applying them to a production like Stars of the Twin Cities.  This bit of whimsy and optimism is presented with such sincerity, it’s quite lovely.  If you want to see dance or puppets or magic or musicals or high drama or political discussion or personal storytelling, you can certainly find all that in the Fringe this year (and I have, and continue to).  Stars of the Twin Cities is a different sort of show, a little experiment with film and live music, and it’s quite refreshing and engaging.  They claim a very eclectic set of influences (Eugene Ionesco, Henry Threadgill, Bob Dylan and Keita Takahashi - a couple of whom I had to look up)  - all I know is, I enjoyed myself.

“Don’t be so serious about where you live.”

If you’re looking for a change of pace to switch things up a bit, I heartily recommend Stars of the Twin Cities.  Like I said, I’m going again.  Stars of the Twin Cities has two more performances: Saturday 8/13 at 7pm, and Sunday 8/14 at 2:30pm

5 Stars (no pun intended) - Very Highly Recommended


(You can click on the following links to see a set of links to reviews of all the 5 and 4.5 star shows (VERY highly recommended), 4 and 3.5 star shows (highly recommended) as well as other shows, plus the full Top 10 list, the Top 11-20 list, a list of returning favorites, and the full coverage of the 2022 Fringe on this blog.) 

(Side note: The primary may be over, but the midterm elections are coming up soon. Early voting for the election starts Friday, September 23 (so, not much more than a month after Fringe is over). You can check out what's on your ballot ahead of time on the Minnesota Secretary of State website, as well as other voting services and information - like handy links to all the candidates who have websites so you can learn more.  In Minneapolis, not only do we have the Governor and Lt. Governor on the ballot, but there's our U.S. Congressional Rep., our MN State Senator, the MN Secretary of State and MN Attorney General, as well as our County Sheriff and County Attorney, and two members of the Minneapolis School Board.  These are the people who decide what laws we live under and how they get enforced.  These are the people who decide whether or not we have voting rights.  These are the people who decide how our kids learn.  This is how we change things.  Personally, I'm alternately furious and despairing that my goddaughter and her little sister now have fewer rights over their own bodies than they did when 2022 began. There are things we can do, voting in the general election is one of them - if you're looking to volunteer, here's a place to learn more.)




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