MINNESOTA FRINGE: July 31, 2015

Three shows today:

 

By MoonlightBY MOONLIGHT – Rarig Arena

Su 8/2 1:00, M 8/3 8:30, F 8/7 8:30, Su 8/9 5:30

By Moonlight – written and directed by theater artist extraordinaire (he writes, acts, directs) Ben Kreilkamp – makes no straightforward sense. By Moonlight lacks an easily summarizable plot. Which it makes it perfect Fringe material.

Rather, By Moonlight is an imagistic, lyrical, free (very free) form celebration of the lovely rhythms of life, urging us to forgo the past and the unknowable future and live in the “great fuzzy ball of now.” The tone is sweet and optimistic. Hew to your friends, this play seems to say. Don’t be afraid of death. Celebrate the “catbagans” (a bewildering term which I won’t even try to define; By Moonlight tries; see it) that life throws you. Smile.

The cast – Kreilkamp, Marian Kimball Eichinger, Karen Elaine Massey, Bill Mears, Chris Cinque (what a pleasure to see this artist once again, after 20 long years), Teresa LePiane, Greg Tromiczak – does wonderful work. If you demand conventionality, By Moonlight may not be your cup o’ tea. But you don’t; you’re a Fringer. Don’t miss this one.

 

 

Hank & JesusHANK & JESUS – Rarig Arena

Sa 8/1 10:00; T 8/4 5:30; Th 8/6, 8:30; Su 8/9, 7:00

H&J is one of the best winter plays I’ve seen. It’s the story of Hank (a lovely turn by C.J. Wachholz), living in frigid small town Minnesota, struggling to keep sober, struggling to finish (and record and perform) his terrific C&W-ish songs. Into Hank’s life comes Jesus (Justin Cervantes). Jesus becomes, literally, Hank’s savior, galvanizing him into action, making him show up at his family’s Christmas celebration, where his nasty brother Wesley (Mitch Oleson) tries to undercut his every effort to recover. His young sister Michelle (lovely work by MacKenzie Diggins) moves in with him. And Jesus gets him a job at Busters, the local ginmill, making him finish, and then perform (again, at Busters), his song.

Hank & Jesus (Hay-Soos) was written and directed by Janet Preus (a longtime HowWasTheShow.com reviewer) and the songs are by Preus and the highly gifted Bryan Cumming. The songs are simple (sometimes just 3 chords, often in the “people’s key” of C) but rich and evocative, and Wachholz’s voice fits them perfectly.

All this is good. Less good: the incessant scene changes, which cause the play to feel chopped up and garbled. I hope they can minimized and dealt with because Hank & Jesus is excellent material and the play deserves a solid life.

 

 

GuillotineSAINT GUILLOTINE – Rarig Arena

Sa 8/1 2:30; Su 8/2 5:30; F 8/7 4:00; Sa 8/8 7:00

Saint Guillotine is a hard play to like. The production is solid and the actors – especially Jake Sullivan as Dr. Beaurieux, he of the creepy obsession with freshly severed heads – do first rate work. But the play, written by Jaap Kemp, is lugubrious and dour. Dr. Beaurieux wishes to be presented with heads straight from the guillotine. He wants to shout the deceased’s name, to get some sort of reaction. He wants to watch the lifelight fade from the guillotined prisoner’s eyes. Because…

Well, Saint Guillotine is never clear about what Beaurieux wants to accomplish. The play is by no means an anti-capital punishment screed; the soon-to-die condemned, multiple murderers all, are getting precisely what they deserve. Wandering in and out of the action is the super-somber Madeline (Anna Kempfert). She’s effective but as to why she’s there, well, I can’t tell you.

Saint Guillotine may be up your alley; it’s not up mine.

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