Sunday, December 10, 2017

"North Pole 1973" at Strike Theater

There's a new theater in Northeast Minneapolis known as Strike Theater, "dedicated to building a community for sketch comedy, storytelling, and spoken word." It's been open for Fringe shows for the last two years, but just opened as a home for comedy performances and classes this fall. Founded by Allison Broeren, Mike Fotis, and Joe Bozic (whom you might know from the Minnesota Fringe Festival), it's sure to become the place to go when you're in need of a good laugh (or to learn how to elicit said laugh). And it certainly was that last night, when I attended their first ever holiday* show, North Pole 1973.

North Pole 1973 takes place, yes, at the North Pole in 1973. A very good year for many reasons, including the fact that I was born that year, and a very special toy was invented (no spoilers here, you'll have to see the show, in which there are enough clues to guess it). It's a hectic Christmas Eve at Santa's Workshop (is there any other kind?), and we the audience members are Elf interns, given a welcome speech by Mrs. Claus. We learn how to create an Elf name, similar to how you determine your porn name, but different. This results in characters with names like Cinnamon Danger, Magic Ditch, and Sugar Awning. The premise of the show is that there's a Master Builder in charge of a machine that produces a hot new toy that all the kids want, and the title of Master Builder is passed on to someone who is perhaps not yet ready for it, to disastrous results. There is blood, and vomit, but because this is the North Pole it's represented in a funny, sweet, and tasty way. All's well that ends well, the hot new toy is produced and Christmas continues, but not without a few Elf casualties along the way.

Mike Fotis, Debra Berger, Allison Witham,
and Andy Rocco Kraft
The show features four of my favorite Fringe (and non-Fringe) performers - Andy Rocco Kraft and Mike Fotis, who also wrote and directed the show, along with Debra Berger and Allison Witham. I would watch any one of them in anything, so to watch the four of them playing together is great fun. They all play multiple Elf characters in plaid shirts and green aprons, differentiated by a hat or accessory and a slightly different way of speaking. Much fun is made of entrances and exits, missing characters, and characters that look alike. It's a scripted show, but loose and playful with room for ad libs in response to something unexpected happening, which is often the funniest part. There's also some minor audience interaction that isn't too scary.

The charmingly makeshift set includes a big wrapped box (very pivotal to the plot) and the cardboard toy machine with lots of buttons to push. They use their props well, including clipboards (great for making slapping sounds), the aforementioned blood/vomit substitute, and a reindeer that gets thrown around a lot. The show made me laugh out loud with it's silly, clever humor for much of the 80 minutes or so, and what's better than that?

North Pole 1973 has four more performances this weekend and next, and is often followed by a 10:00 pm show, which you can see for just another $5 (if you're not a morning person like me). Check out their full show calendar here. You can also find their class schedule here (including a musical improv workshop next Saturday, led by the queen of such things, Madde Gibba) to learn how to do this sort of thing yourself. If it's not already, make sure Strike Theater is on your radar as a destination for comedy of the sketch, storytelling, spoken word, and improv variety.

*You can read about all of the holiday shows I've seen here.