Duties and Responsibilities of Being a Sidekick, Recovery, Change Your Underwear, Change Your Life, and Four Clowns


And we’re off. This might be the first Minnesota Fringe Festival opening night ever where I caught all four possible performances. Heeding excellent advice to stay put in one area to avoid road construction hassles, I chose Gremlin. I cut across town on Franklin Ave, skipping University and 94 during rush hour and had no problem at all. There is ample free parking in the US Bank lot kitty corner from the theater.

I loved The Duties and Responsibilities of Being a Sidekick, featuring stage darling and Fringe vet Randy Reyes, with a particularly shining performance by Jason Michael Vogen (Jack, aka Paso Doble). A fun story of the thankless job of the superhero sidekick – all guts, no glory. Lots of awesome stage combat. Highly recommended.  Next show Sunday at 2:30 (all the shows in this post are at Gremlin).

Every year I struggle with how to talk about shows I don’t like. I don’t want to completely pan any show, because I know that a lot of people work really hard and put a lot of heart into every show – whether the results are good or bad, to my taste or not. And what if I know the people involved? And like the person but hate the show? Do I lie? Do I let my silence speak volumes?  How often do I need to remind people that just because I didn’t like something doesn’t mean they won’t love it?

I’m going to man up, for a change. I didn’t like Recovery. There. I said it.

Clumsy writing. Unlikely, unbelievable scenarios, stilted dialogue. The monologue performed at the out-of-towners preview was enough to make me want to see the show (though it repelled Bob), but its application in the script was bizarre and did nothing useful to advance the story. Cool set, though. This show would be an awesome soap opera on Telemundo, in Spanish with English subtitles.

I sometimes finding myself running my own little personal MST2K in my mind during shows. “Who talks like that?” “I don’t know, but if I ever meet someone who does, I’m punching them in the head.” “Child Divorcee Cancer Survivor Beauty Queen Turned Nurse with Heart of Gold and No Sense of Appropriate Behavior.” “Wait. I’m confused. Who was actually driving the car?” And so on. Next show: Saturday at 2:30.

Next up: Change Your Underwear, Change Your Life.  Mary Hirsch is very funny observer of absurdities, and musical interludes by Dean Johnson are lovely. This is a sweet, homey (not homely) show – bring your sister and your mother (maybe reconsider if either really would like to see a woman with the initials MB become president. This show isn’t highly political, but Mary’s political leanings – okay, she’s not leaning; she tipped – are evident. In my newfound openmindedness – remember, I embrace Jesus shows now – I’m leaving the possibility open that there could be a contingent of Tea Party Fringe goers. Welcome, one and all!). Bonus: Audience members receive a free copy of Mary’s book “I Wake Up Beautiful…And Other Fantasies.”  Next show: Saturday at 7.

I closed the evening with Four Clowns, in town from Los Angeles. I met them Tuesday night, because the dude who is billeting with us this Fringe (see him at HUGE tonight at 10!) caught a ride from Chicago with the clowns. They arrived during our National Night Out block party. After a quick restroom break, the Four Clowns crew (of six) started mixing and mingling with my neighbors, and helping out by consuming the remaining food. I had excited neighbors grabbing me to say, “These people are in a Fringe show! They just drove in!” Yes, I know! They just peed in my house!

These clowns are tight. Really, really talented. The material is bawdy, physical and over the top. (Except that of the pianist. He’s simply awesome. And self-taught. And handsome.) It pushes the limits (these are NOT clowns for children), but stops short of bludgeoning the audience with vulgarity.  Bob deemed it in the top five Fringe shows ever. I want to see it again, because they really are amazing to watch, and I’m interested in how much of the show is improvised. Audience participation warning – you won’t be pulled on stage, but those sitting on the aisle or in the front row might have some clown interaction. Or, if you don’t fully understand when audience participation and commentary is appropriate and when you could just as easily shut up, that might bring increased clown attention. Scream random things at random times at your own risk.  Next chance to see them is Saturday at 5:30.