“Damn You Auto Caress!” at the Minnesota Fringe Festival: Promising talent, thin premise


In keeping with the name of this blog, I took a front row seat for Damn You Auto Caress!, a Fringe show presented by the Young Artists Council of the Youth Performance Company. When the cast members took the stage at Mixed Blood Theatre, though, I realized that I hadn’t properly braced myself for the experience of being in such close proximity to theater kids giving it their all. It was pretty intense.

There’s a lot of promising young talent on display in Damn You, which is a good thing, since they need everything they’ve got to make this thinly written show by Madelyne Heyman and Steven Lewer work. The show description initially published in the Fringe program suggested an entirely different show (it’s since been updated), so I was caught unawares when I realized that it wasn’t just the opening song-and-dance number that was about the awkward situations that can ensue when something you’re typing on your phone is automatically corrected to what the phone thinks you were trying to type—it’s the whole show.

That’s not much to build an hour’s entertainment on, and the show’s creators don’t do much building: they’re content to just string a series of sketches together. The result is sometimes fun to watch, with a couple of the performers’ characterizations standing out—especially notable are the boy who plays a theater teacher uncomfortably enlisted to support a supposedly gay student, and the girl whose character objects to the idea of an autocorrect support group and ends the show bound and gagged—but overall, the show seems to underuse its talent.

Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the ambitious shows Jon Ferguson has created in collaboration with young performers (Gregory Gregorson and the Magic Pinto Bean, You Are Not Paris in last year’s Fringe Festival), but I left the theater thinking that these performers are capable of a lot more than this.