Sunday, August 7, 2022

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2022: "A Day with the Newhearts"

Day: 3

Show: 7


By: Melancholics Anonymous

Created by: Rachel Ropella and Timothy Kelly

Location: Mixed Blood Theatre

Summary: A mock 1960s sitcom set in Minnesota that turns very dark when the Newhearts try to force their new neighbors into their "Minnesota nice" way of life.

Highlights: Complete with a theme song, laugh track, and ads, A Day with the Newhearts feels very much like a sitcom about a happy family in the early '60s (there's a reference to "that new baseball team the Twins," so around 1961 or so). Mom, Pop, and daughter prepare for a barbecue with their new neighbors, a single mom (horror) and her clingy and socially awkward son. Daughter tortures son with news of a recently escaped serial killer, Pop shames single mom for her independence and plans to open a business, but Mom admires her for the same reason, feeling stifled in her Stepford/Minnesota nice life. Things go from odd to deadly very quickly, as we see the dark side of Minnesota nice (which definitely exists, although hopefully not to this extent). The cast (Claire Chenoweth, Bee Davis, and Matthew Humason along with the creators) fully commits to the dark and campy sitcommy tone; costumes, set, and props are charmingly period appropriate (including some Tupperware pieces I recognized from my childhood); and the Minnesota references (scotcheroos, hot dish, and snicker salad) are plenty. It's a darkly funny and disturbing show, consistent in tone, and perhaps a morality tale about how not to welcome new people into the community.