Local celebs in attendance tonight include Brenda Langton and some guy who’s supposed to be the funniest in the cities, whom I did see open at Acme for a genuinely funny (but non-local) guy. We three, and several others, were taking in the Fringe Festival Preview: Out-of-Towners’ Showcase at the West Bank’s Bedlam Theater. While I can’t speak for funny guy or Brenda, I offer up my synopsized reviews of the synopses we took in. Each troupe was allotted roughly five minutes to convince those in attendance they should cough up $10 to see their particular show in its entirety. Nineteen troupes in all, most from out-of-town, and a very Minnesota-nice welcome had by all.
Reviews are short, in keeping with the spirit of abridgment in the air tonight.
(1) "Systems: A Literal Interpretation of the Fourth Wall" –Billed as an ‘existential comedy,’ the two identically-clad Wisconsin actresses confirm this misnomer with the back-and-forth, "You’re tedious…No, you’re tedious." I’d have to say they tied.
(4) "Get it Off Your Chest"–Not a punny boob play, nor a women’s empowerment plea, rather the first great actress I’ve seen all night. Mary Helena plays a homeless Jamaican woman, possesses amazing stage presence, and implores the audience to share God’s love, all without sounding preachy. To the rich playground moms who clutch their children tightly as they pass by, Helena cries out, "Don’t pretend you no can see me! I’m too big; I’m too black fo’ you no to see me. I no goin’ ta eat you! I no goin’ ta eat yo’ babies!"
(5) "How Does a Drug Deal Become a Decent 3rd Date?"–This one makes me laugh out loud, as they say in the industry. The actors are from Toronto, a city I quite like, so I admit this gives them an unfair advantage over the others from, say, Racine. The girl re-enacts a date with a sleazy blowhard who attributes his sleazy blowhardiness to not having a TV while growing up.
(6) "Beowulf or Gilgamesh? You Decide!"–A ‘perennial Fringe favorite,’ this Charlie Bethel whom I guess I’m supposed to know, is welcomed by jolly boo’s and hisses. He eats it up, does his Gilgamesh thing, all the while reminding me a little of David Cross’ Arrested Development Tobias, though unintentionally I’m sure.
(7) "Oens"–Holy (or wholly) creepy. The fellow’s face looks to be mime make-up that has been sweated off. He tells us of ships sailing with sturdy masts, aromatic incenses, and camphor. He wears a matador-type jacket, bike shorts, and white high tops. To be fair, his handout states the play ‘enacts the eternal wish for a better world.’ Nothing funny about that.
(8) "Fool for a Client"–A stand-up act proclaimimg ‘Lewis Black meets Mark Twain.’ Mark Whitney works the audience, not a few times channeling Rodney Dangerfield. He tells a funny story of his privileged community and its attempt at implementing a Walking School Bus to combine fun with safety, a feat he claims "fucking impossible."
(9) "The Attack of the Big Angry Booty" (if you click on any, click on this one)–The account of one Fringe actor’s ensuing diet rollercoaster following the tour. Delivered with the enthusiam of Jim Carrey’s Juice Man role. Upon a second look after the show, I found Juicer-Man to be quite small, in fact, lending even less validity to the lament over his Pizza Lucé addiction.
(10) "The Cody Rivers Show: Stick to Glue"–Two talented singer/dancers performing a comedic animal number that will bring to mind summers spent at Vacation Bible School. There wasn’t actually any religious context, much like the animal songs you really did sing at VBS. These guys made you want to hold your laughs so you wouldn’t miss the next clever verse.
(11) "The Pumpkin Pie Show"–The crowd loved this tale of a 5th-grade vagina lesson. I wish we could have seen more of the female lead (her acting, not flesh), because the resemblance to Tina Fey leads me to believe she’s darn funny.
INTERMISSION: Audience called upon to drink more Summit (Fringe sponsor) and hob-knob with who’s who in the crowd. No more famous sightings, but several who fancy themselves so. One particularly doting mother, an honest-to-god Mel Brooks look-alike, wringing her hands in sheer joy listening to her beloved son go on and on about something surely unfunny. A lot of puffed-up chests. But what better place to try out your material? And what better audience than Mom?
(12) "Ophelia"–Everybody likes to cuddle, but nobody likes watching other people do it. I don’t want to say this was awful, but the thesaurus keeps telling me that’s what I’m trying to say.
(13) "Roofies in the Mochaccino"–An entry from a poetry slam, but not the ANGRY kind. This particular poem tells the age-old classic of ‘The Night Fozzy Bear Got Jiggy with Miss Piggy.’ With lines like, "This fine ass swine is mine all mine," and "Nipples tasting like bacon and sweat," you won’t be disappointed by this dirty Muppet porn. A poem whose author claims earned him both the highest- and lowest-ever recorded marks at its slam debut.
(14) "Homecoming"–Man, it’s like this thesaurus is broken or something. My only thoughts throughout, "I should work my back muscles more. Hers look nice."
(16) "The Thinnest Woman Wins"–Sigh. More about being fat (see #9). This time, though, with baton twirling. And awkward tumbling on the floor. I wanted to think the awkwardness
was part of the act, I really did. But then she lost her baton behind the curtain. And I told myself, "That was written in, too." But then she says something like, "Well, my time’s probably up. Come see my show if you even want to." Looks stage left for shepard’s hook.
(17) "Leaving Normal"–Another Torontonian. Girl grabs two "random" folks from audience to help with her McFlurry order scene. A semi-funny account of a match that almost was (because they both, uncannily, enjoy Oreo flavor).
(19) "Sex Love & Vomit"–Two female storytellers. The stage lights went out prematurely and they got kind of shafted, just when it seemed they were getting rolling. I think the two would prove to be funny ladies, given more stage time (and light).
The 15th Anniversary Minnesota Fringe Festival runs July 31st through August 10th. Read the officially submitted synopses of all 156 plays here.
Read "Inside the Fringe: Installment One" by John Ervin here.