Answered Prayers. A comedy of Edits, and Silence at the 2012 Minnesota Fringe Festival


Friday Highlights

Nautilus Music-Theatre’s Answered Prayers was the first show I put on my schedule this year.  A collaboration of librettist Jim Payne and composer Robert Elhai, the previous two installments of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio stories were presented during the 2010 and 2011 Fringe Festivals.  With a simple and elegant set by Molly Diers and the two person orchestra of music director Jerry Rubino and Elizabeth Bell, this “work-in-progress” is more polished and professional than most fully produced shows.  The stories work well as vignettes, so beginning at this part of the story will not hinder your enjoyment of the show.

Joshua Hinck returns as George Willard, the young reporter from the town paper.  Norah Long, who played George’s mother last year, is back as Kate Swift, the passionate high school teacher who is the town outsider.  JP Fitzgibbons completed the trio as the Reverend Hartman, the spiritually struggling minister.  Under the direction of Ben Krywosz, they take you on a fifty minute journey to the past that feels so in the moment. 

I could go all music geek on you and tell you why I love this score for five pages.  But I have about 10 more shows to blog!  Composer Elhai takes this elegantly scripted character study and knows when to insert a hymn tune, or bring back a theme, or let Joshua Hinck’s sweet voice soar.    He gives his singers so much to work with emotionally. 

Comedy of Edits, by Callahan and Lingo, is not really by Callahan and Lingo.  Callahan was busy.  So Allegra Lingo has brought on a new partner for this show, writer Taylor Brorby.  Taking a risk that pays off nicely, she deviates from her usual storytelling format.  Comedy of Edits is a scripted play with two characters.  Directed by Kim Schaufenbuel, it is part play, part autobiography, and part lecture.

I enjoyed the play.  Lingo and Brorby have an easy chemistry.   But I’m not a literary writer, so some of the nuances went over my head.  And that’s okay.  It reminded me of the response to Allegra’s piece Crescendo, which is one of my favorite Fringe shows ever.  Crescendo used the music of Aaron Copland not as an accompaniment but almost as a character.  I’m a musician, so the music references were a bonus for me.  If you devour Joyce and Wolf, those references will be Easter eggs.  But the core story of Comedy of Edits is the universal struggle to create.

I really wanted to like Silence, A Deaf Musical, by Yellow Bird Productions.  According to the artists page, it is “A Deaf musical, examining the gap between hearing and Deaf cultures and how shared interest, romance, and tragedy bridge that gap.”  The concept is wonderful-I grew up near the National Technical Institute for the Deaf, and I have seen this idea work.    Silence combines hearing and non-hearing actors into the story.  The show has two strong romantic leads, Canae Weiss as Abby, whose dancing is the best part of the show, and Robert Korsmo, who has an easy charm and a strong voice.  Shawn Vreizen, as Interpreter #1 is equally as strong as Mark.

Unfortunately, the story is steeped in melodrama.  The audience is told more than they are shown.  And the big dramatic event is telegraphed early in the show.  The singing cast struggles with sharing hand held microphones.  And even with amplification it is a struggle to hear some of the singers.