Monday, August 7, 2023

Minnesota Fringe Festival 2023: "Lost In Bear Country: Birth, God, Death, Berenstain Bears"


Show: 13


By: Phil Gonzales / Raffish Ripoff Productions

Created by: Phil Gonzales, Willow Piotrowski, Mitzi Gonzales Gravitz

Location: Rarig Xperimental

Summary: A solo show that uses the Berenstain Bears series of books to explore deep topics in a light-hearted way.

Highlights: Phil Gonzales isn't not obsessed with the Berenstain Bears, he's infected with them. At the beginning of the show, he reveals a game show spinning wheel with various topics like birth, death, God, family, sports, race, and love, and a bulletin board with photos, words, and connecting string, like something Carrie Matheson in Homeland would have. In fact, Phil is not unlike Carrie. Recently diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety, he jumps from one topic to the next, speaking in a stream of consciousness style about seemingly unrelated topics, one tangent leading to the next. But just because his brain works a little differently doesn't mean that he's not speaking the truth. Every show is different, as Phil spins the wheel (which just keeps spinning and spinning, allowing time for awkward silence and non sequiturs) to determine the next topic. I don't think we got through even half of them; I'm pretty sure he could have kept talking twice as long, as he delves into his childhood growing up in Texas the son of a Mexican father and a White mother, his life in the theater, and how the Berenstain Bears new religious line helped him connect to something larger, even as an atheist. And he has visual aids - manilla envelopes with each topic written on them in sharpie, containing multiple books related to the topic (and other visual aids). It's a very funny, wild, all over the place kind of show that in the end kind of makes sense and is even a little inspiring and enlightening. Who knew the Berenstain Bears contained so much.