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THEATER REVIEW | Mu Performing Arts takes on Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music" at Park Square Theatre

Photo credit Michal Daniel

Mu Performing Arts offers an ambitious and enchanting operetta-like version of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music at Park Square Theatre. With Sondheim’s music and lyrics and Hugh’s Wheeler’s book, this musical inspired by the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, is essentially a bedroom farce about misfit couples. Although happy endings occur in the end, much of the musical dwells on the characters’ regrets and longings.

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"Failure: A Love Story" at the 2014 Fringe Festival

Campbell Production’s Failure: A Love Story was beautifully tragic and heartbreakingly funny all at the same time. In the span of 55 minutes it made the audience laugh and it made them cry. The story was well written and surprisingly believable. The cast members seemed comfortable with each other and apart from a few line fumbles they seemed to know the play very well. Kim Kivens and Charles Fraser were brilliant in their portrayals of birds, cats, and dogs. This is a spectacular show and you should definitely see it before it’s too late.

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"Before I Go" at the 2014 Fringe Festival

Before I Go, performing for the Minnesota Fringe Festival at the Mixed Blood Theatre, is a “collection of tragicomedies” which explore death and the moments before. Each mini-play involves a different set of characters who go through very distinct journeys to their last moments of life. The play uses these diverse circumstances to examine the ways in which people handle death and what is most important before dying, as well as what is left unsaid when death comes unexpectedly.

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"The Neverland Players" at the 2014 Fringe Festival

One of the most beautiful aspects about children is their imaginations. Children’s imaginations run free, not yet wavered by experience and the realization that not everything is possible. Losing that imagination is one of the many tragedies of growing up and becoming aware of the world. Fortunately, The Neverland Players, performing in the Fringe Festival at the U of M Rarig Center Xperimental, allow us to relive the days of making up stories about Evil Cupcakes and Rocks Named Zimbabwe.

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Fringe Review - Tourist Trap - Theatre In The Round - 4 stars

Though Tourist Trap is a wonderfully quick and creepy show (clocking in at under 40 minutes), Ghoulish Delights’ leader Tim Uren (who wrote, directed and has a supporting acting role in this Fringe production), may be a victim of his own success at freaking me out in the past. With his entry in last year’s Twin Cities Horror Festival, Trust and Obey, Uren raised the bar almost impossibly high for me as an audience member. That show was such a complex, multi-layered psychological terror machine that now I expect nothing less.

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Fringe Review - An Honest Magic Show - Mixed Blood - 5 stars

In its own quiet, unassuming way, Nick Lande’s Fringe offering, An Honest Magic Show, is just as much a 5 star show as other larger more visually dazzling productions this year. This is mostly because at its core, it’s just a good solid magic show. A mix of sleight of hand, misdirection, psychology, and a handful of things for which I have no logical explanation make for a very fun hour. Lande is an engaging and friendly presence onstage. Even when he’s tricking someone while standing right next to them, he’s never condescending, smug or unkind. He’s committed to keeping things as random as possible and never uses the same audience volunteer twice. There were about two dozen of us in the house on his opening night (“It sounds like there are more than five of you out there so I’m very happy”), and I’d say about half of us ended up onstage before the night was over (myself included).

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August 3rd Fringe shows: From Here to Maternity: By Shanan Custer & Joshua English Scrimshaw, Illusion Theatre

From Here to Maternity

By Shanan Custer & Joshua English Scrimshaw

Peek into the bedroom of Charlie and Meg for a funny but frank look at pregnancy. Does life end at conception? How much work is pregnant sex? Who would win in a fight: your doctor or your midwife?

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August 3rd Fringe Shows: Power Point Karaoke: By Snikt! Bamf! Thwip!, Intermedia Arts

Power Point Karaoke

By Snikt! Bamf! Thwip!

Four people take on a PowerPoint presentation they've never seen before, and which makes no sense!

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August 3rd Fringe shows: Comic-con Clue!: By I Love You, Bickwitus Productions, Garage Theater

Comic-con Clue!

By I Love You, Bickwitus Productions

In a remote island mansion, 5 superfans await a meet & greet with their fave fantasy novelist. When one turns up dead, panic ensues. Alliances are forged. Accusations fly. Can anyone be trusted? Get solving!

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Fringe Review - The Tiger In The Room - Illusion Theater - 3 stars

Mom and I both agreed that the charming and commanding presence of Natalie Rae Wass at the center of The Tiger In The Room is the thing that makes it work. Any way you look at it, she’s the production’s main selling point. In fact, Natalie was so effective for Mom that it caused her to give the rest of the elements in the production a pass. Sadly, the rest of the production around Natalie bugged me too much to entirely overlook the things that left me scratching me head.

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