Sunday, August 29, 2021

"A Pickup Truck Opera; Volume One: The Odyssey" by Mixed Precipitation at Various Outdoor Locations

While Mixed Precipitation's annual tradition of the "picnic operetta" is on hold due to the pandemic, last year they premiered a new fun and accessible opera mash-up experience - the Pickup Truck Opera. Driving a 2011 royal blue Ford pickup to parks around and outside of the Twin Cities, and performing out of the bed of the truck (have opera - will travel), they mash up Monteverdi's 17th Century opera The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland with the songs of Dolly Parton. Last year they teased us with Episode 3, but this year they're presenting the full three-episode saga, and as always with this troupe, it's sheer delight. I caught them near the end of their two-month run in a nearby park, but you can still see them today at Cedar Lake, next weekend in Hastings, or their closing weekend September 11-12 in St. Paul and Minneapolis (see details and schedule here).

Saturday, August 28, 2021

"The Uncertainty Principle" at Open Eye Theatre

Live performances at Open Eye Theatre's charming and intimate stage in South Minneapolis returned this week. Whether it's one of their work, or one of the guest artists they support, a show at Open Eye is always going to be unique and interesting. Teresa Mock's solo piece The Uncertainty Principle fits the bill. It's a memory play, not just about her memory, but also her father Paul's, a Vietnam vet. In this funny, poignant, moving, and very personal play, she explores the idea of memory, legacy, and multi-generational trauma. And since this is Open Eye (formerly Figure) Theatre, there is also puppetry to help tell the story. Only three performances of this moving piece remain (click here for details).

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Storyhill Fest 2021

On the Monday of Labor Day Weekend of 2014, I drove away from Storyhill Fest at Clearwater Forest Camp, as I had the previous four years, but this time not knowing when I would return. What used to be an annual festival was no longer going to be a regular event. It took seven years (including one pandemic postponement), but this year we finally returned to the idyllic folk music festival in the Brainerd Lakes area of Minnesota. And in the weird way that time and memory work, it felt like I had never left. Settling into my dorm-like room in the lodge, walking the beautiful hiking trails on the grounds, going for a swim, sitting around the campfire (faux this year, because drought), and most of all sitting in a camp chair on a warm (or cool, because Minnesota) late summer day listening to an array of incredibly talented singer/songwriter/storytellers, it all felt so familiar, so real, so right. It felt like coming home, like coming out of a long drought, not of rain but of performing arts. As one of the performers said, we're not out of the woods of this pandemic yet, but for a few days, in this one place, we all came together (with appropriate safety protocols) to share and celebrate music and humanity.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Ghostlight Series: "Music to Our Eyes: Designers Sing Out" streaming from Theater Latte Da

The final virtual cabaret in Theater Latte Da's excellent "Ghostlight Series" has now been released, with all five available to view through August 31. Music to Our Eyes: Designers Sing Out is a beautiful conclusion to what has been an in-depth look at artists and what music, theater, and performance means in our lives. Every one of the stories of these four designers brought tears to my eyes as they talked about their art. If you've been to a Theater Latte Da show, particularly in the last five or so years in their new home, the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis, you know how important design is in their storytelling. Whether it's the wacky carnival world of Assassins, or the "seedy elegance" of Chicago, or the multi-level train station of Once, the set, costume, hair, prop, lighting, and sound design in a Latte Da show is extremely detailed, specific, and thoughtful. It's about time these designers, with such familiar names from reading programs but whose faces we rarely see, get their time in the spotlight.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: Wrap-up and Favorites

After a very long extended intermission from theater, which included a 2020 all-virtual Minnesota Fringe Festival, live and in-person performing arts began to return this summer. I saw a dozen shows in July, three of them indoors (a first in nearly 16 months). Then came August, and a hybrid Fringe Festival, with most shows occurring virtually, along with independently produced in person shows. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "Last Summer's Love"

Day: 7

Show: 16

Performance Type: In Person

Location: 11 Wells Spirits Distillery (indoors)

Length: 60 minutes

Title: Last Summer's Love

By: Graber Productions

Summary: A sort of concert version of a new musical about star-crossed lovers.

Highlights: The show is chock full of incredible songs, in a sort of indie-folk-pop style. A very loose and not very original story ties the songs together, in which a man and woman fall in love despite being in relationships. The man moves to California and they try to move on, but they can't forget "last summer's love." I would love to see the story fleshed out a little into a true and full musical, but right now it's all about the music, which is really great. Watching the show feels like being at a concert; the cast (Adri Mehra, Cherelle-Renee Childs, Sylvia Michels, Elliott Graber, Ninchai Nok-Chiclana, and Jack Bonko) performs with mic stands in a traditional band set-up, and are loose and playful as they engage the audience with banter. The cast also doubles as the band, with most of them playing instruments, in that great tradition of Once (of which this show is a little reminiscent) where there is no separation between actors and musicians, between story and music. Both of the leads (Sylvia and Elliott) just shine on stage, very appealing with gorgeous vocals that blend well together. The space in the distillery is very hip, strewn with tapestries and hanging lights, and a cute baby blue vintage bike that is featured in the lyrics and story. The Fringe isn't the Fringe without a new musical, and this one prettily fills the bill, the perfect ending to what has been an entirely satisfactory, if smaller and less exciting than usual, Minnesota Fringe Festival.

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "Impulse"

Day: 6

Show: 15

Performance Type: In Person

Location: Southern Theater (indoors, masks required)

Length: 45 minutes

Title: Impulse

By: Manifest Dance

Summary: Three new original dance pieces performed by a talented company of dancers.

Highlights: One of my favorite things about Fringe is that it gives me an opportunity to see dance, which as a busy theater blogger in the before times I rarely had time to do. This is the only in person dance show at this year's Fringe, and if this is an indication of the #TCDance community, they're coming out of this pandemic really strong and ready to create beautiful meaningful work. Creator and choreographer Sam Lewis performs a gorgeous solo piece sandwiched between two group dances, which are also performed and co-choreographed by Isaiah Langowski, Sam Meryhew, Joe Tennis, and Vivian Wolkoff. The choreography is modern, unique, evocative, and beautiful to watch. The dancers are so graceful and specific in their intentional movements, and I love the way they use the space at the Southern Theater, perhaps the best dance venue in town. Unfortunately there's only one performance remaining, and if you don't already have a ticket for tonight's show, you're out of luck. I'll leave you with their description of the show: "After being cooped up for over a year we are ready to come out swinging. This show is our screams, our cries, and our celebration. For ourselves, for lives lost, for lives begun. 2020 was perspective."

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "Breakneck Comedy of Errors"

Day: 6

Show: 14

Performance Type: Virtual

Location: Streaming Anytime

Length: 60 minutes

Title: Breakneck Comedy of Errors

By: Timothy Mooney Repertory Theatre

Summary: A one-man one-hour retelling of Shakespeare's wacky tale of twins - The Comedy of Errors.

Highlights: Timothy Mooney, who also brought us Breakneck Hamlet at the 2015 Fringe, among others, now brings that breakneck speed through a full Shakespeare play to the virtual world. It's no less impressive, perhaps even more so, because now he only has the change of hat or wig, along with voice and facial expressions, to create all these different characters, rather than a full performance space. Scene by scene, he leads us through the ridiculous story of two sets of twins separated at birth who by happenstance are reunited with each other and their parents (soap operas got nothin' on Shakespeare). He also manages to provide historical background to the story, and most amusingly, commentary on the story, characters, and dialogue. In a weird way, it's actually a great and accessible way to be introduced to or gain more understanding of a Shakespeare play. An this one in particular, with all it's mistaken identities and plot twists, is particularly fun. One look at the detailed show image should tell you that.

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Zephyr Theatre's ShakesFaire - "Shakespeare LOL" and "As You Like It"

I'm interrupting this Fringe coverage to bring you news of FREE Shakespeare in the Park! Stillwater's Zephyr Theatre is presenting three shows as part of their annual Shakespeare festival, held in lovely Valley View Park just outside of Stillwater. I saw two of the three shows last night, the first of only five performances this weekend only. It's a gorgeous location with a natural and partly shaded slope for audience viewing (bring a chair or blanket), and really fantastic performances of these two great shows. Read on for more about Shakespeare LOL and As You Like It, then make plans to head out to the park this weekend to enjoy some great outdoor theater, which also includes a puppet show by Open Eye Theatre. Click here for details, but reservations are not required (although donations are accepted).

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "Campsite"

Day: 5

Show: 13

Performance Type: In Person

Location: Boom Island Park (outdoors)

Length: 40 minutes

Title: Campsite

By: Lady Z Productions

Summary: Four friends, old and new, go on a camping trip.

Highlights: Boom Island Park is a gorgeous location that's perfectly fitting for this story that takes place in a campsite in a park. They perform in a shelter with a fireplace in the middle (unlit, because summer heat), and it's easy to imagine that this is the place where lifelong BFFs Terry (Colin Healey) and Jimmy (Maureen L. Bourgeois, who also created and directed the piece) are camping with their friend Allison (Leah Indrelie) and new friend/set-up Debby (Sarah Catcher). Not a whole lot happens in the show, there's a lot of talk about setting up campsites, tomorrow's plans, and what a great guy Terry is. Turns out Jimmy and Allison are conspiring to set their almost-40 friend up with Debby, which makes for a lot of awkwardly sweet moments. The storytelling feels very casual and naturalistic, almost improvised at times, with multiple conversations occasionally going on at once. It's a sweet little inconsequential story about friends, and the free snacks are great!

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "The Scribbler"

Day: 4

Show: 12

Performance Type: In Person

Location: Bakken Museum (outdoors)

Length: 70 minutes

Title: The Scribbler

By: Kyle Munshower

Summary: A comical fantasy about a world in which the King declares it illegal to read and write, with that task falling to one man only (or the woman behind him).

Highlights: This is a really fun, broad comedy, which is obvious by the name of the buffoonish King - Scoopty Woop (played by writer and co-director Kyle Munshower). The titular Scribbler (or Scribner as he tries to insist) Bartleby (played by the other co-director Kevin Duong) has a secret, which is that it's actually his sister Athena (Sela Weber) who is the one doing all the reading and writing, women not being allowed to read and write, natch. When the King, prone to malapropisms and irrational outbursts, sends his loyal steward Stuart (Brennan LaFeber) to translate a letter from the Queen of neighboring country Luxembrovia (Teri Schafer), the siblings find out that war is brewing, and try to stop it. This leads to a confrontation with the King, who cannot be calmed down even by his beleaguered therapist (Laura Ricci), and the Queen, who isn't as benevolent as she seems. It's a ridiculous fantastical farce of a tale, well executed by the cast, with a nice use of live music in the storytelling (Griffin McEnery on fiddle and various other noisemakers), lots of clever and silly wordplay, and more than a little of Sheep Theater's trademark "deranged sincerity" (with whom Kyle has previously worked).

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "Turnabout Musical"

Day: 4

Show: 11

Performance Type: In Person

Location: Phoenix Theater (inddoors, masks required)

Length: 2 hours 15 minutes

Title: Turnabout Musical

By: Albino Squirrel Productions

Summary: A "fan-written parody" musical based on the Ace Attorney video game series.

Highlights: I'm old and uncool, so I don't even know what a video game series is, much less where to find it or how to play (watch?) it. But it seems to have a built in fan base; the young women behind me were talking about the different characters, scenes, and songs as if they knew all about it. Even though that wasn't the case for me, I found it to be a fun and entertaining show. In a world where trials last at most three days and are decided by a judge because of an increase in crime (scary thought), underdog defense attorney Phoenix Wright (Christian LaBissoniere) works to free the innocent. The musical is a series of trials, each one lasting a few scenes/songs, often featuring defendants we met in an earlier episode. Since I did not see the runtime hidden on the "more information" tab on the show page and assumed it was 60-ish minutes like Fringe shows typically are, I had to leave halfway through the second act to get to my next scheduled show. But I got the gist of the accusation-trial-Phoenix wins formula. The huge and talented cast delightfully ham it up playing these broad crime characters, and do a good job with the score, singing unmiked to a recorded track. I would have preferred a trimmed down 60-minute version that adheres to the spirit of the Fringe Festival, but it's a great effort on a novel idea.

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "Compromised"

Day: 4

Show: 10

Performance Type: In Person

Location: Phoenix Theater (indoors, masks required)

Length: 50 minutes

Title: Compromised

By: Reservoir Frogs 

Summary: A long-form improv show based on audience prompts.

Highlights: The show description is "An improvised tale of greed, lust, hubris, and failure. A dark comedy of people letting their ambitions get them in over their heads." Using the suggestions "ice cream," "post office," and "lawyer/client," this team of improvisors (Adam Boutz, Jenny Benusa, Rob Ward, Amy Zajack, Andy Christian, Heather Jo Raiter, Mickaylee Shaughnessy, and Mike Deneen) created just that, in a world centered around a small town post office that was being shut down, sending all of its employees scurrying. There were bees and bee-keepers, junk mail scams, real estate, a hit man, and arson. But who knows what you'll see when you go see the show, that's the fun of improv.

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "Open Your Eyes, Be Bully-wise!: An Anti-Bullying Spectacular"

Day: 4

Show: 9

Performance Type: In Person

Location: Phoenix Theater (indoors, masks required)

Length: 60 minutes

Title: Open Your Eyes, Be Bully-wise!

By: An Alleged Theatre Company 

Summary: An edutainment show about bullying, how to recognize it, and why you shouldn't be a bully.

Highlights: This is a ridiculous show, in the best way. Creators Jake Mierva, J. McIntyre Godwin, and Danylo Loutchko play characters with their same name, but hopefully are nothing like them. The show opens with a hilarious parody of YMCA, like an anti-bullying PSA. They then proceed to educate the audience about bullying, all while Jake and Mc are subtly, and then not so subtly, bullying Danylo. There is audience participation in the form of questions for the audience, confessions to Santa, and a beach ball Q&A about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There are skits and ads for their sponsor HERTZ, which they transform into a handy acronym about bullying, and more songs. It's a lot of silly fun, with the performers fully committing to the concept and these over-the-top characters (smoothly responding to audience prompts), culminating in an important lesson learned by all.     

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "On Air: The Wuppet Time Murders"

Day: 4

Show: 8

Performance Type: Virtual

Location: Streaming Anytime

Length: 60 Minutes  

Title: On Air: The Wuppet Time Murders

By: Melancholics Anonymous

Summary: A delightful spoof of true crime documentaries that features gruesome murder of puppets on the set of a local cable children's weather educational show.

Highlights: I loved this group's show at the virtual Fringe last year, the sweet and poignant children's grief counseling session, so I was eager to see more of their work. This doesn't bear much resemblance to last year's show, except for the clever concept and spot-on execution. With deadpan seriousness, a true crime documentarian (voiced by Claire Chenoweth) investigates multiple murders that happened in 1999 on the set of a children's puppet show called Wuppet Time (a questionable show that cheerily warned children about snow-related disasters and head trauma from falling staircases). Like any good docuseries, it has interviews with survivors, found footage of events, and people obsessed with the crime who have tried to piece together what happened on that tragic day. The truly funny and absurd thing is that the weather puppets in the show (played by Claire Chenoweth, Gillian Gauntt, and Matthew Humason) are treated as people - the victims and possible perpetrators of the crime. Watching a jaded puppet of a raindrop smoking a cigarette as they reminisce about a tragic event in their youth is just ridiculously amusing. As are the two humans in the cast (played by co-creators Rachel Ropella and Timothy Kelly), one of whom is a controlling jerk with anger issues, the other of whom tries to share the nuance of the situation. Like Avenue Q, casting these sorts of familiar human dramas in puppets just makes everything funnier.

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "For a Limited Time Only"

Day: 3

Show: 7

Performance Type: Virtual

Location: Streaming Anytime

Length: 35 minutes

Title: For a Limited Time Only

By: The Feral Theatre Company

Summary: A $5.99 unlimited breadstick deal at the Italian Garden Factory turns into a nightmare for a couple when they're told they cannot leave until they finish the bread.

Highlights: Because nothing lasts forever, except for bread of course. Written by Daniel Prillaman and directed by Isabella Dunsieth, this absurdist dark comedy imagines a world in which the promise of unlimited breadsticks is a threat. Arlo (Christopher Jenkins) and Val (Sky Turiello) are stuffed after their dinner and cannot possibly eat another bite, and therein lies the danger. Their server (Daniel Collette) tells them he can't bring the bill until they finish the bread, and then he brings them more bread. They decide to just leave, only to discover there are no doors. All of their plans for an escape fail, including calling 911 (no signal) and violence (can't do much damage with a butter knife). Eventually they resign themselves to the fact that they're never getting out, and begin living their life together in the restaurant. A sweet, believable couple and an amusing rumination on making the most of the life you're given.

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "AWAY, NOW - The World's Most Desired Destination"

Day: 3

Show: 6

Performance Type: Virtual

Location: Streaming Anytime

Length: 60 minutes

Title: AWAY, NOW - The World's Most Desired Destination

By: Theatre Mobile

Summary: This video travel guide of a mythical place called Away, Now, where everyone wants to go, is a collection of songs, stories, and many puns.

Highlights: I loved Paul and Erika's House Show at last year's all-virtual Fringe, so I was eager to check out more work by this Cincinnati-based duo, created in their apartment. They've actually done AWAY, NOW as a live show in a couple of places this summer, but they also created a virtual version using all of the charming tricks and techniques they discovered making last year's show. This one is pure silliness, including some great silly songs, like the man who fell in love with 3:12am. It's all framed as a travel guide to the city of Away, in the county of How 'Bout, in the state of Now. Where smellsniffing is recommended when you get tired of sightseeing, the dead end road is an endangered species, people are not ashamed when their feet fall asleep and snore, and the letters c-o-n are pronounced but (that's but-cerning). They again close the show with a moment of poignancy, that if you have half of a heart, you can fill the other half with patience, kindness, and listening, as we contemplate What Next. But mostly, it's just a lot of fun.

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "The Darger Project aka The Darger Project"

Day: 3

Show: 5

Performance Type: Virtual

Location: Streaming Anytime

Length: 45 minutes

Title: The Darger Project aka The Darger Project

By: The Winding Sheet Outfit

Summary: Using the reclusive artist Henry Darger as a jumping off point, Fringe darlings The Winding Sheet Outfit give us a glimpse behind their process and what it's like to be an artist in isolation.

Highlights: The website warns us that this show is not about Henry Darger, and director Amber Bjork warns us in the piece that it's not even a show. What it is is a fascinating look inside the company that brought us The Memory Box of the Sisters Fox, You Are Cordially Invited to the Life and Death of Edward Lear, et al., and how they create their collaborative works, often based on historical figures or artists, and often breaking the fourth wall. It starts with an introduction of the ensemble (Amber along with André Johnson, Jr., Boo Segersin, Derek Lee Miller, Kayla Dvorak Feld, Kristina Fjellman, and Megan Campbell Lagas), recorded in each of their homes (whilst holding a creepy doll). We also see some of their the zoom rehearsal/collaborations, as well as footage of the cast in character (dressed in baby doll dresses and bloomers) in what would have been the Henry Darger show, illustrating some of the conversations. Each cast member talks about Darger, how they can relate him (including a list of what things they collect), and what this pandemic has been like as artist who is unable to make art in the way they normally do. The piece is both very well constructed in an organized fashion to tell a story, and raw, unrehearsed, and vulnerable. It's insightful and silly, a lovely look at one of my favorite Fringe companies.

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "Channel"

Day: 2

Show: 4

Performance Type: In Person

Location: Crane Theater (indoors, masks required)

Length: 45 minutes

Title: Channel

By: Dogwatch

Summary: A lighting designer is alone in a theater late at night, working her first show in a year and a half, dealing with family and work issues, and ghosts.

Highlights: This is why I love the Fringe. Experimental work created by local artists combining their varied talents, that you probably wouldn't see elsewhere. The show is part very real and grounded character study, and part ghost story achieved by lighting and sound effects. The program notes that the show was "conceptualized by [director] Larissa Netterlund and created collaboratively with the cast and crew." It's almost a solo show, with Elizabeth Efteland playing the lighting designer, and creating such a real and fully formed character as she goes about her work, often in silence. But not entirely solo, because stage manager Kate Bender makes a brief appearance and is very busy behind the scenes, and the sound and lighting effects play a huge role in the show (technical direction and design by Shannon Elliot). This is essentially a site-specific piece; it takes place in a theater very like the Crane (to which, BTW, it's so wonderful to return after nearly two years). So the lighting designer is really in the space, running up and down stairs, going through doors and coming back in others; it almost feels like we're just eavesdropping on what's really happening. Through a series of voice mails and video chats, we learn that the character lives with her mother, who seems to be suffering from some kind of dementia-related illness, which limits her time at work. Particularly telling are when she records a message that gets a little too vulnerable, deletes it, and records a milder version. Things get weird when the voice mails begin to play over the sound system in a creepy loopy/echo-y kind of way, asking: Why are you here? What do you need? Are you alone? You can watch the show virtually via a live-stream, but if you're comfortable seeing it in person, put on a mask and head to the Crane Theater for the full 360-degree chilling experience.

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "Meemaw McPhearson's Magic Mushrooms"

Day: 2

Show: 3

Performance Type: In Person

Location: Gluek Park (outdoors)

Length: 55 minutes

Title: Meemaw McPhearson's Magic Mushrooms

By: Brick by Brick Players

Summary: A family returns to their favorite cabin in the woods after the death of their father/husband/son, and it's complicated.

Highlights: This is a great family dramedy created by young artists (playwright Grace Ward, director Hadley Evans Nash) that features a multi-generational cast. We have the titular Meemaw (Kathleen Winters), mother of the deceased; the newly widowed Peggy (Gina Sauer); her teenage daughters Burgundy (Simone Reno) and Lily-Pearl (Sarah Anne Munson); prodigal son Roper (Timothy Kelly), who shows up with new girlfriend Lena (Gillian Gaunt) in tow; and camp employee Toby (Dan Patton), whose known the family for decades. To say they have issues is putting it mildly. Peggy mourns her husband, but cheated on him; Meemaw resents Peggy for changing her son; the girls are thrilled to see their brother, yet resentful that he's been away so long; and Lena is just trying to fit into this family unit. They argue, they run away, they see Big Foot and a puppet show in the woods, but in the end this family loves each other and is there for each other, even when it's hard and messy. The engaged and present cast really feels like a family, and although it's not a musical, music is incorporated nicely into the storytelling. Bonus: the setting is gorgeous in a pretty little park on the Mississippi.

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Friday, August 6, 2021

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "The Convent of Pleasure"

Day: 1

Show: 2

Title: The Convent of Pleasure

By: Theatre Pro Rata

Performance Type: Live In Person

Location: Wood Lake Nature Center Amphitheater (outdoors)

Length: 90 minutes

Summary: A hilarious modern adaptation of the 17th Century play of the same name about a woman who forsakes the company of men, founding a commune of women who dedicate their life to pleasure.

Highlights: Theatre Pro Rata got their start at the Minnesota Fringe Festival 20 years; one of the many benefits of this festival is that it supports artists in such a way that allows companies like this to form and expand beyond the festival that birthed them. Local playwright/actor/comedian/baker Heather Meyer's play is one of those "ghost plays" that was supposed to premiere in the summer of 2020, and happily it is finally seeing the light of day. This fantabulous all-female cast really brings out all of the humor in the script (of which there is much), as well as the emotion in the sweet love story between Lady Happy (the delightful Boo Segersin), who uses the money her father left her when he died to create the Convent and live only for the immediate pleasures of all of the senses, and Princess Principle (a serene Megan Kim), who loves Lady Happy but longs for commitment. Kelsey Laurel Cramer, Nissa Nordland Morgan, and Taj Ruler play Lords Somewhat, Sortof, and Soso, who try to woo the ladies, devilishly twirling their greasepaint mustaches. Ankita Ashrit, Lynda Dahl, and Kayla Dvorak Feld flit across the stage and grounds as Lady Happy's companions, while Meri Golden frets as her mistress of accounts. And can we talk about the costumes? So fun, colorful, and playful, with flowers and hats and frills to spare (designed by Mandi Johnson). There's a reason I chose this show to see on the first night of the Fringe - a company that's been doing good work for 20 years, a strong cast, the feminist theme, and the promise of laughs make this a must-see.

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2021: "Fruit Flies & Friends"

Day: 1

Show: 1

Title: Fruit Flies & Friends

By: The Fourth Wall Ensemble

Performance Type: Virtual

Location: Streaming Anytime

Length: 60 minutes

Summary: The team behind the national Fringe hit Fruit Flies Like a Banana collaborates with their equally talented friends to create a collection of short pieces combining classical music, movement, and theater.

Highlights: I never miss a chance to see the Massachusetts-based company The Fourth Wall Ensemble, even if it's a virtual show a year and a half into the virtual theater world that's growing a bit tedious. This ensemble of flute (Hilary Abigana), trombone (C. Neil Parsons), and percussion (Greg Jukes) mixes classical music, acrobatics, theater, poetry, boomwhackers, and other unexpected things in such an innovative way that it's irresistible. While they have recently returned to live performance, this format allows them to safely create and collaborate with each other and with friends and colleagues from the Fringe scene, many of whom will be familiar to Minnesota Fringe audiences. This show is a collection of short pieces, mostly in the now familiar zoom box style, featuring all instrumentals or with vocals, sometimes accompanied by dance or movement, or spoken word, or imagery. It's a wonderfully eclectic mix with that familiar Fruit Flies magic but incorporating some new energy too. 

Read all of my Fringe mini-reviews here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

"Xanadu" by Duluth Playhouse at the NorShor Theatre

I've been to the North Shore four times in the last 14 months. During a time when my two favorite things posed a serious health risk - theater and travel - I travelled locally, Minnesota State Parks permit in hand, or rather, on my car. Now that things are starting to look brighter (but only if we continue to vaccinate and follow masking guidelines), I was able to combine my two favorite things. Duluth Playhouse is back and I just happened to be in town for closing weekend of their production of Xanadu. It's such a fun show that's so silly and ridiculous, but its themes about "the human experience rendered comprehensible through art" and a magical place defined by love and creation are really quite poignant right now. This talented young cast fully embraces the joy and camp of Xanadu, making this a celebratory return to theater. This production has closed, but they've got a full schedule of shows planned both at the beautifully restored NorShor Theatre and at the smaller edgier Underground Theatre. If you're planning a trip to the North Shore, visit their website to see what's playing.