It’s here! It’s here! If you haven’t “done the Fringe,” you are in for several days of theatrical surprises. Part of the fun is the comraderie, so get into!
Swede Home, Nebraska
The name’s not made up. That’s where the creator of this memory piece, Carl Franzen, grew up. This is essentially a casual reading of Franzen’s memoir, primarily delivered as songs in his smooth, JamesTaylor-like style. The music is bumped up several notches with exquisite color work by pianist Rahjta Ren. Where Franzen really shines is as a storyteller and lyricist. Pay attention to the words! This is a lovely, pleasant experience, and sure to be a welcome rest from the abundance of mayhem typical of the Fringe.
- at The Playwrights’ Center
Ms. Luisa Eats
And she eats pretty much through the whole show. And she sings. A banana (which she shares with a willing audience member) to “Home on the Range,” a cupcake and bunch of grapes (she also shares) to “Wild Thing,” and a climactic pasta pigout to an Italian aria (of course), which she can seriously handle, even with her mouth full. She is looking for “the wild man,” who will cook for her and sing her to sleep, so she heads to “big sky country.” A cowboy and “guitar dude,” Ty Otis, is the perfect foil for Luisa’s ebullient personality. Parker Genne, who created the piece, plays Luisa. Silly and clever fun. Enjoy!
- at Patrick’s Cabaret
Not Dead Yet: The Return of Mr. Elk and Mr. Seal
Rob Elk and Dean Seal had a nice run as a comedy duo in their younger days. Happily, they’re very much alive and still capable of popping off one inventive song after another, strung together with just snippets of banter. Less is more with these two pro’s. They’re really good at the songs—especially ones with lots of words in them—and that’s what you get. This is very funny stuff from seriously good writers.
- at Mixed Blood Theater
The Complete Works of William Shatner (abridged)
Written by Tim Wick and Bill Stiteler
It helps to be a Shatner or Star Trek fan (the audience laughed at everything), but even if you’re not, you’ll have a good time at this spoof on all things Shatner – his signature verbalisms and mannerisms in Star Trek, his ability to reinvent himself as “the negotiator” for priceline.com. Denny Crane even makes an appearance. The acting is solid – very consistent – the jokes are legit and the writing is clever. The ending took a long, long time, but you know you’re going to get out of there in under an hour, so let’s call it part of the schtick. Great fun!
- at The Rarig, Thrust Stage
Joe Dowling’s William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet on the Moon
Written by Christopher Kehoe
If one is going to do Shakespeare, one really has to do something with it, doesn’t one? With that starting point, the two families are earthlings (I think that’s what they are) on one side and aliens on the other. Think of the logical Star Wars influences and you can guess what the Friar is. It’s worth it to see this for those scenes alone.
This is a wittily constructed dramatization of the story, narrated by various characters outside the world of the play, but invested in it in some way. Rather than feeling contrived, this device drives the action, with one delightful twist after another. And the denouement is absolutely right on. This is Fringe fare at its best.
To be clear, the only connection, really, to Joe Dowling is the premise that this production is the sort of thing Dowling would do (which is funny enough). Dowling himself does not appear and is not spoofed. Maybe next year?
- at Theater in the Round
Last of the Red Hot Flops
Written by Britt Aamodt
It’s right after the end of Prohibition. A theater in St. Paul is about to be auctioned off, when a gangster shows up to ostensibly pump some money into the place and make a go of it, giving the hapless custodian, the floosy has-been singing star, and her soda jerk suitor another chance at a life in the theater. There’s a hastily thrown together show (in front of an audience of gangster pals) that is as bad as you might expect, but at that point, the love interest has heated up, so we are not supposed to care. I think that’s it.
Unfortunately, this lives up to its name, and that is disappointing and unnecessary. Much of the writing is really quite good, and the premise is intriguing, but the execution doesn’t do the writing justice. I think good direction and a couple of better casting choices could have turned this into a Fringe favorite instead.
- at The Gremlin Theater