I make a point of not taking notes at these things – in my view, a key part of the test of a solid preview is whether or not I can recall it days later. I now have the additional handicap of having accidentally left my programme on my desk four hundred miles away, so I also don’t have the benefit of the proper show order. I’ll therefore be reviewing these in the order they were listed on the Facebook invitation.
A Mermaid in Narnia (on LSD) presented by Mermaid Productions
Ariel Leaf is a confident, competent storyteller. I wish I had more interest in her topic this time around – based on her sample and the audience response, this is taking the shape of a “crazy drug stories” show, and it’s a subject of which I tire quickly.
Suffering for Nothing* presented by Minnesota Shorts
Solo sketch comedy (as opposed to stand-up) is tricky, very tricky. And I wasn’t in love with her trailer. I was pleasantly surprised by her performance, however – she’s incredibly charming and appealing in person, with a sweet and self-effacing sincerity. And then, in the last few seconds, she switched back to the trailer material – wacky characters and hacky punchlines – and I cringed. How much I enjoy this show will, I suspect, depend on how it’s weighted between the two styles.
Craigslist: Not a Musical! presented by Average Old Guy Productions
I’m a fan of Sam Landman’s writing. It’s really weird to me that this is a genre now (this is the fifth show I’ve seen in recent memory based on ads/missed connections). I can’t remember the preview.
Baby Lost; Family Found** presented by Average Old Guy Productions
Leif Wallin is one of the newer storytelling voices in town, and he’s gradually been developing his across a variety of open-mics. I’m a fan. I was pleased to see that he had the confidence not to significantly alter his approach or persona here: he’s relaxed, almost lackadaisical, in a way that I find not lazy or low-energy but approachable. I’m also intrigued by the musical component – I find it’s always a crapshoot whether it works in conjunction with spoken word for me, but at least in these three minutes it was used in a thoughtful and calculated way.
Reinventing the Wolf* presented by Burntail Arts
They made Buffy references. I like Buffy. They seem to be more than just references, too – they’ve appropriated some of the show’s quippy, self-referential style, and its use against a backdrop of serious issues. I was interested in the fast-moving, cacophonous dialogue, but I found it very difficult to follow, particularly in that space.
Hank & Jesus (‘Hay-soos’) presented by Preus Productions
I have a vague memory of the two performers standing side-by-side and singing, and thinking that they seemed pleasant enough. I can’t remember the preview.
Collyard/Nelson’s Guide to Reviewing Fringe Festival Shows… presented by CNM Productions
I’m the target audience for this show – I’ve been living in Fringe culture for long enough now that jokes at the culture’s expense never cease to amuse me. I’m a fan and defender of audience reviews at the Festival, but good Lord are they often a seething mess of confused babble. Their line “How many of you have ever written a Fringe review? How many of you have ever written a second draft of a Fringe review?” stands out for me as one of the sharper bits of observational comedy from the evening.
Spicy Masala Chai presented by Bollywood Dance Scene
Opened with some bizarre and stilted dialogue, though I’m guessing that that’s part of the appeal. When the performers froze in anticipation of a dropped music cue, the audience began enthusiastically chanting “MUSIC” to the tech booth. Once the cue was found, I saw why the group is so warmly regarded – the stage was flooded with bright, colorful, fast-moving business that it was hard not to be dazzled by.
Confessions of a Delinquent Cheerleader** presented by FurTrader Productions
I’ve had the pleasure of directing Mame Pelletier in a couple of my comedies, long enough to consider her one of the finest comic actresses in the Twin Cities. With this show, she seems to have developed a schtick and a context that she can thrive in – formal enough to sustain an hour, but loose enough to give her considerable improvisational gifts room to play.
Love and Persuasion presented by New Endeavors
I can’t remember this preview.
The Cruel Painter of Radostdale** presented by Laughing Nomad Productions
I’ve worked extensively with most members of this cast – the director and I have been doing mime performances together for years, and Tamara Koltes (a versatile actress, and one of the best-kept secrets in Minneapolis) has performed in a handful of my scripts. These are top-notch movement artists, given free rein to do what they do best – the preview consisted of a series of bizarre and striking images. Extra kudos to the cast for aggressively working the lobby, lurching around in costume and thrusting postcards at audience. I collected around seven.
Couple Fight** presented by Weggel-Reed Productions
This is a show that leans on the star power of a handful of Fringe power couples. I was amused enough by watching how Tom Reed’s stand-in copped his style/mannerisms that I actually think it would be more amusing if none of the writers played themselves.
Stuff That Reminds Me Of Other Things: a walking tour presented by Keely Wolter
I recall this as being both very funny and beautifully timed.
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Death Star presented by Go For Broke Productions
Star Wars remains a vulnerable chink in my geeky vulnerable-chink armor – I like the movies well enough as popcorn, but they weren’t the seminal part of my childhood that they were for so many of my fellow con-goers. Add to that the fact that my position as a Fringe reviewer means that I’ve been exposed to dozens of mash-ups and parodies and cultural appropriations, and I am in no way in the target audience for this. It’s bright and colorful and silly and competently executed and I hope that everyone else has a great time.
(By the way, what’s up with everyone capitalizing articles/prepositions in their titles? Weird.)
SuperOz! presented by Top Hat Theatre
The preview rides on the surreality of having a depowered Superman in Dorothy’s place. I’m a die-hard fan of both Superman and The Wizard of Oz – enough so that I’d like something deeper/funnier than “Ha ha, isn’t this weird?” Which the full show may have, but was scant in the three minutes they shared.
(At this point, I had to break off for my tour, as well as to work on other writing projects, and wasn’t able to return for several weeks. Consequently, my recollection of the previews decayed even further. My hearty apologies to SEVEN DANCE, Looking for Fun(Bags)*, Pam + Javi, Tales from Cafe Inferno, Hey Bangladesh, The Debutante, and Me, You, and Steve; you are casualties of my chaotic process. My scattered thoughts on the remainder are below.)
Fringe Tonight! with Jonathan Gershberg presented by Trouveres Theatrics
It is, in my view, a deeply, deeply perilous choice to open a three-minute comedy act by explaining to the audience how funny you are. “Oh, my God, you guys, we’re so funny! We’re so fucking funny, you don’t even know! You know all those comedians you love? We’re so much fucking funnier than them!” It’s a challenge. It’s a dick-slap. It’s a great way to generate active hostility from your audience. I guess I admire the boldness. But if you’re going to lead with that, you’d damn well better have something stronger to follow it up with than hacky Borscht-Belt vaudeville schtick. I’m still interested, if only because I love political satire, and they’ve put together a compelling lineup of guests. But honestly, between this and their trailer, I’m dreading the show I have to sit through in order to listen to those guests speak.
Dance with the Devil presented by Erin Sheppard Presents
I’m a fan of Erin Sheppard, and of her unique blend of storytelling and dance. As that very blend is the central draw of the show, I thought it was kind of bizarre that the preview consisted solely of an (admittedly enjoyable) storyteller. (Though, as someone who grew up in Rochester, I will observe that this does an excellent job of capturing the surreal, vaguely nightmarish quality of the town.)
Underneath the Lintel* presented by Squirrel!
Jeff made a joke about the performer’s professionalism, and it’s not hard to see why – his delivery was crisp, polished, and competent.
Trans Families** presented by Christy Marie Kent
Short answer: this preview didn’t work. Slightly longer answer: it didn’t work, but I don’t care because I’m excited about the show anyway. Unfortunately, the presentation seemed to be marred by technical issues – both performers seemed stiff and uncomfortable, tripped over words, and spent some time fiddling with what seemed to be an iPad from where I was sitting – but Christy is a fine storyteller, and both the topic and methodology are compelling. I’m happy to call this (early) preview a hiccup.
Demo Tape presented by Philip Simondet
While I can’t recall the content of what was sung, both performers were vulnerable and charming, thrusting CDs of their material into our hands. They also deserve commendation, I think, for working the crowd in the lobby during the intermission.
Pocahontas (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mouse) presented by Albino Squirrel Productions
I’m as critical of Disney’s pattern of cultural imperialism as anyone – but while these three minutes were entertaining, I’m uncertain that this premise can sustain a full hour.
Two Jokes, One Act: The Boar & The Proposal presented by Delve Theatre
Enjoyably physical and fast-moving, which is something I always appreciate in interpretations of Chekhov – he’s often portrayed as slow-moving and dry, but never seems to get sufficient cred for his comedy chops, in my view.
The Clever Artifice of Harriet and Margaret presented by Really Spicy Opera
The premise of this show seems to be that we have a pair of actors, unseen by the others on the stage, who deliver the internal monologues of the characters. That’s a fine joke – but it’s disappointing that (at least in the segment we were given) this boiled down to “These characters claim to like each other, but secretly, they don’t like each other!” Something a little more surprising or unexpected would have gone a long way to selling me on sitting through this for an hour.
The beauty of living in the information age? The vast majority of these previews are archived online, on the Festival’s YouTube page. You are cordially invited to form your own judgments!
Questions? Comments? Enraged invective? Check out my answers to occasionally asked questions in Notes on Notes, or the contact info linked from that page!
* I am producing a show in the same venue that is technically in competition with this one for an additional performance (though I do not view mine as a serious contender).
** I have a friendship/acquaintanceship/working relationship with someone involved in this production.