For the uninitiated: the Minnesota Fringe Festival puts on an annual fundraiser, in which they take a classic script, chop it into five pieces, give each piece to a separate theatre company to re-interpret however they wish, then presents them all back-to-back. This year’s production was bedeviled (be-angeled?) by a number of fortunate synchronicities, taking place on Cinco de Mayo and using as its source text William Shakespeare’s Tragedie of Romeo and Juliet — a text already neatly divided into five acts.
Two caveats: first, that one of my groups (the Rockstar Storytellers) was given a fifth; and, secondly, that the audience was so incredibly warm and responsive, it’s hard to imagine much of anything flopping in that environment. The energy in the room, as both audience and performer, was extraordinary, so I’m sure this will seem less like a review than a gushing fan letter, because, well, that’s what it is.
Opening the shenanigans was Four Humors, of such hit shows as Inspector Rex, Deviled Eggs, and Bards. They kicked it off with some red-nose clowning — which I’ve gone on record as actively disliking in past reviews — but this is a classic example of clowning done absolutely *right* — simple, sincere, and fucking hilarious. Then they pull off the noses and do the ballet.
Yes, the ballet. No, they’re not ballerinas. (Well, they pulled a couple in for the title roles.)
The results of this were as side-splitting as you’d expect. I’d like to add the observation, too, that I think that part of what made this so successful was that it worked as homage, as well as parody — it was successful at conveying information about the plot and characters — in broad strokes, certainly, but I was able to follow the action clearly.
…I missed, because I was backstage having my usual pre-show anxiety attack, vomiting into Mike Fotis’ hat.
…I co-wrote and performed in, so I will leave it to the discretion of others to analyze.
Now this is one that could easily have gone either way for me — a parody of old-school teen instructional movies, a la Reefer Madness — but scraped in as being very, very funny, I suspect in no small part due to the contribution of playwright Matt Everett, of whose snarky style I’m sure I could detect more than a few lines. Did an excellent job of exhausting the possibilities of the premise, introducing new twists, and sustaining running gags (such as the narrator’s offhand disgust with the characters) — it couldn’t have gone on for much longer, and I wasn’t waiting for it to be over. A flaky premise that managed to solid through and through. (I was working on some kind of pie metaphor, but it seemed to be hardly worth the effort.)
…closing down the evening (and bringing the house down) was the Brave New Workshop, with a piece co-written by comedy team Joe Bozic and Mike Fotis, also taking on the roles of the Lords Capulet and Montague. They actually seemed to take a similar approach to the title characters as our company did — as a pair of grating, ditzy, pseudo-surfer teens — with results that equalled awesome, particularly from their Juliet.
(Wandering behind the box office before the show started, I was startled to see Jeune Lune’s Ivey Awards, just sitting gathering dust under a shelf. Somewhere on the internet, there is a photograph of Mike Fotis holding them, Madonna-like, over his nipples. I won’t tell you where — I just want you to know that it’s out there.)