Fringe 2009: Fringe-For-All 2 reviews (Second 10 of 30)


by Matthew Everett | July 24, 2009 • “It’s a play about love. And kicking puppies.”

Dr. Thought

I’d Kick Puppies For You

single white fringe geek is the blog of matthew a. everett. in addition to being one of six bloggers covering the minnesota fringe festival for the daily planet, he blogs throughout the year about theater and culture.

Yes, but would you kick Mike Fotis’ puppy for me?

(Sorry, I’ve been waiting to make that joke ever since the battle of the dueling publicity puppies first appeared on the Fringe website this year)

I was tempted to say this is one of the worst marketing campaigns in the Fringe this year, but actually it’s not. It’s just one of the most frustrating for me. Because “I’d Kick Puppies For You” is actually a great title. And the tag line, “It’s a play about love. And kicking puppies,” is also pretty great. The photo of an adorable puppy surrounded by two pairs of canvas sneakers (one black, one multi-colored) just waiting for the kicking to begin, is also nice work.

But that’s all. we. get.

Even the cast list just lists three people whose role is just “Actor” – one of whom is also the author

There’s no additional website to refer to for more information, no bios, no pictures. Nuthin’.

The only other random piece of information I have is that Rebecca Sandell, author/actor, is the sister-in-law of Fringe funnyman Ben San Del.

I don’t even know what the heck “Dr. Thought” means.

But am I gonna go?



Their Fringe-For-All preview was a hell of a lot of fun to watch. The Fringe’s YouTube page has their clip up and running now (I’ve attached it below) so you can see for yourself.

Something you don’t get in the preview is the fact that their set-up was damned efficient. Two little boxes they used to sit on also has lids that came off, and all the various props they needed for their bit came out of them. Smart work.

In the space of just about 2-1/2 minutes (they got done just as the green light was flipping over to yellow), and a genial pop ballad, a man, a woman, and a fairy (with wings, that kind of fairy – I know, during Fringe time, we need to be specific about our terms)…

Anyway, a man, a woman, and a fairy, in the space of a song, enact an entire sad little modern relationship.

Man takes woman out for flowers, dinner with wine, and then they hold up a sheet in front of them and… well, the motion under the sheet and the looks on their faces say it all.

Later, a movie with popcorn, then back to the sheets.

They go for a walk, the man waves off flowers this time from a vendor, much to the woman’s dismay, they drink beer this time, and head straight for the sheets, a bit less enthusiastic.

Soon he’s playing video games while she reads a magazine (probably with a quiz that rates how lousy a boyfriend you have), and now they’re not even facing each other under the sheet – no movement at all.

The fairy starts looking pretty good to the guy. He and the woman begin to fold up the sheet for good, then just give up, drop it, and go their separate ways, the debris of their relationship scattered behind them.

I kinda loved this preview.

Even though I still don’t know much of what the hell the show’s about.

If this is the comic sensibility, I’m interested.

Their show page

Their funny Fringe-For-All preview…

“You can smile if you want to.”

Urban Spectrum Theatre Co.

The Nightingale

The European Renaissance and the Harlem Renaissance collide in a delicious blend of cultures, and the Nightingale sings the blues! A rather pompous 16th century Italian ruler and his intelligent albeit bumbling prime minister seek out a nightingale who supposedly resides in the royal forest. Little do they know, this nightingale comes from a very faraway place, and has somehow time-traveled into the emperor’s era and forest! This is a rollicking, bawdy, delicious romp with dancing salsa birds, 1920’s-era music and the charleston, and one very saucy and talented nightingale!

The thing I liked the most about this preview was that the Nightingale (Mari Harris) was not one bit afraid to work the crowd during her song, even assuring us after one racy double-entendre “That’s as wild as I’m gonna get.” As was evident in many another Fringe preview over the last couple of weeks, that first crowd can be intimidating, even if they’re essentially friendly. This lady was not at all phased. She just came out and had a good time singing her song, and that translated out to the crowd, because she was inviting them to be a part of it.

The ditty, “I’m Wild About That Thing,” sounded like an old tin pan alley number, and was a lot of fun to listen to.

The performer who played the King, for whom the Nightingale was performing, had the most hilarious gobsmacked look on his face while he listened to her sing – getting progressively more turned on and unable to speak.

Don’t know much about the show as a whole, but if this is an example of what’s in store, then it’s liable to be a very enjoyable Fringe production. (They went out on the red light, but they didn’t waste a second of their preview time. Good on them.)

The Fringe’s YouTube page has the preview up now, so look below and see for yourself. Also…

Their website –

Their show page

Their Fringe-For-All preview…

“Everyone seems so happy, like they’ve never cried a day in their lives.”

Rock Dude Productions

Two Bowls of Cereal and Some Bacon

Mahmoud recalls heart-rending childhood memories from meeting a Mystery Girl and tolerating racial slurs, to playing Nintendo and confronting an abusive stepfather. He can’t promise cereal or bacon, but he can promise truth.

I’m pulling for Mahmoud Hakima to be a success this Fringe and here’s a couple of reasons why…

His storytelling is simple and straightforward, but very effective. There’s humor and emotion, but nothing over the top. Nicely done. (Also, got in and out in less than two and a half minutes with the light still green – efficient.) – you can seen the video of his preview at the end of this post.

He’s been a loyal Fringe audience member for several years, seeing as many shows as he can, and was inspired by other solo performers he admired to try this crazy Fringe thing himself.

The title is odd, but interesting. The publicity picture with him sitting between two cereal boxes with pictures of himself as a kid on them, some artfully arranged bacon, and a couple of bowls of cereal, is strangely welcoming. Like it’s saying, “Man, what a day I’ve had. Come join me, let’s have some cereal and chat a bit.” It’s kind of perfect.

His postcard was among the first I ran across this Fringe season – out at Open Eye Figure Theater where I was seeing the latest Off-Leash Area production. Like the first bird of spring.

I think I’ve even seen him doing some improv comedy out at Improv-A-Go-Go, a while ago now, but I’m pretty sure it was him. I like me some improv. And it bodes well for his performance skills.

He’s been supportive of other Fringers in progress this season. I saw him out at Allegra Lingo’s preview at the Bryant Lake Bowl earlier this month. Bonus points for staying and participating in the discussion.

He’s embraced the Fringe, I think the Fringe should embrace him back. I’m trying to figure out how to make his show fit in my schedule. I recommend him to you as well.

His show page

The Fringe’s YouTube page has his preview up now (I’ve tacked it on to the end of this post), so take a look and see for yourself…

His Fringe-For-All preview…

“None of us had ever met his dad, which gave him an aura of authority and danger.”

What Happened Productions

Slow Jobs: Servicing America for $12 an Hour

Overworked and underwhelmed? Punch the clock with Fringe favorites Laura Bidgood and Curt Lund as they relive first jobs, creepy coworkers, minimum wage, office romances, and doing whatever it takes to pay the bills. What did you want to be when you grew up? And what the hell happened instead?

From the nerds that brought you the Fringe hits Boys Don’t Make Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses, Take a Left at the Giant Cow: A Beginner’s Guide to North Dakota and Two Queers and a Chubby, Laura and Curt are proud to present the premiere of their new comedy storytelling dorkfest that will tickle you with real life observations from the nerd perspective.

Laura and Curt, two more returning favorites of mine – flashlights under their chins, re-enacting that age-old childhood rite of passage, the sleepover. It was here that Curt’s discomfort with the idea of picking one thing (a job) to do for the rest of his life first started to really bug him.

Curt claimed that the red “time’s up” light foiled the actual intended punchline of the story, but it’s to their credit that the audience seemed to enjoy themselves so much that it didn’t matter. Perhaps it was the references to Rick Moranis and the movie Innerspace that did it.

(After all, that whole scenario is a joke to most gay men. After you get Dennis Quaid inside you, who in their right mind would want to get him out again? I’d been trying to inject him into my bloodstream ever since Dreamscape. Thus endeth the “way too much information” portion of our blog)

The Fringe’s YouTube page has the preview up now, so I embedded it at the end of this post. Some other online resources…

My previous write-up

Their website –

Their show page

Fringe-For-All preview video…

“Don’t forget your promise.”

Balance Theatre Project

The William Williams Effect

The true story of the last man executed by the state of Minnesota features an illicit love affair, a violent murder and a botched hanging.

It’s a story with resounding impact, that almost wasn’t told, because the press was barred from publishing details of executions or witnessing them. But they found a way in, and told the people what they saw.

The William Williams Effect is about love and passion, obsession and crime, and the impact one man brought to a family, a community and our state.

The original script is culled from actual trial transcripts, historic newspaper articles, and Williams’ personal letters to “his best friend and partner,” Johnnie Keller.

Speaking of enormously depressing…

This whole thing is top-notch across the board. It was the one and only show that a Fringe staffer brought up to me in conversation in which they mentioned they had real interest. (And this was someone inundated with details of all the shows. To rise above the crowd and get on their radar takes some real effort.)

The show’s video trailer (at the end of this post) is pretty cool.

Just the people in the cast I know from past work I’ve seen, in and out of the Fringe – Shannon Troy Jones, Jean Salo, Edwin Strout, Wade A. Vaughn – are a dream for any playwrights developing a new script for first production.

And the whole thing pivots around the murder case which in the end helped put a stop to capital punishment in Minnesota. This was the last person executed in the state.

There’s even a homosexual love affair in the middle of it.

My homo-loving, bleeding heart liberal self should be first in line to see this, right?

Should be. Probably will be.

But part of me is resisting seeing yet another doomed gay love affair that ends in murder.

Oh, and the younger man in the couple is jailbait (of course – aren’t they always?). 16.

Now, this was 1905, mind you. And the older guy is only 27. So it’s not like there’s a chasm of time separating them. But there is a decade. Can anyone really blame the kid’s parents for being a little worried and stepping in, particularly when their son keeps running off with the guy? Considering how unstable Mr. Williams turned out to be, no, you can’t blame ’em.

Is it right that the whole homosexual element of the story essentially doomed Williams to hanging? No.

Is it the very least you should be able to expect at your own hanging that the rope should be the right length – you know, so your feet don’t touch the ground and your neck snaps quickly, rather than a bunch of deputies have to hoist you back in the air and let you swing there for 15 minutes until you’re well and truly dead? Yeah, that’d be the least you should expect. Efficient inhumanity.

So. Will I be going? If only to see how they took all these great artists have crafted a story out of all this unfortunate circumstance? Probably.

You need a little meat in your Fringe diet sometimes. This would be pretty meaty.

The Fringe’s YouTube page has their preview video clip and I’ve attached it to the end of the post, so give it a look and decide if it’s the meat for your Fringe diet as well. Some other online resources…

Their website –

Their show page

Their really cool video trailer…

The Fringe-For-All preview…

“If you all were overachievers, you wouldn’t be working here.”

Ruth Glaeser and Company

Thank You and Have a Nice Day

Although the associates at the O’Frip Department appear as typical, helpful and friendly employees, they are actually living, breathing individuals who are not always what they seem.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this show, or their preview. It was actually a very good representation of what it is they plan to do. They got out on the green light, under 2-1/2 minutes. Very efficient. They also get points for the most effective cliffhanger of the evening…

Offstage scream!
“Suzy,! What is it?!”

And, scene. Everyone take a bow.

(Subtext – Want to know what that scream was all about? Come see the show! Heh heh.)

It was essentially a combination of dance, and dialogue (some of it repeated in patterns, overlapping, for effect) by a group of people all in identical purple shirts – the uniform of a retail drone.

Which, having worked in retail – in some sense still working in retail, when I think about it – I found enormously depressing.

The show page proclaims…

“The entire cast and crew is under the age of 20, and many of them are attending college (if they’re old enough!) for dance, music, or theater.”

So they’ll all be working in retail, or food service, soon enough if they aren’t already.

Which I also find enormously depressing.

As I said when I talked elsewhere about Laura Bidgood & Curt Lund‘s welcome return to this year’s Fringe, I’m not a big fan of “day job theater.” In fact, I’m probably the opposite of a fan. I tend to run in the opposite direction. There are very few exceptions. As well-intentioned as this whole enterprise is, I doubt it will be one of the exceptions this year.

However, the Fringe’s YouTube page has the video of the preview up, so I’ll attach that to the end of the post. You can judge for yourself if it’s for you. Some other online resources…

Their show page

Their Fringe-For-All excerpt…

“Day 1 – What the hell?! Where’s the yacht I was tied to last night?!”

Mumble Mumble Productions

My Sinking Ship

Promised to be the best spoken word in a raft ever! Stuck at sea in a raft, Rockstar Storyteller and SlamMistress of Poetry SlamMN!, Allison Broeren, passes the time by spitting stories about ridiculous situations involving beer faries, SCUBA diving with Santa, and more!

A preview notable first for the all-star raft carrying party who helped get Allison’s inflatable raft onstage and in place (even nudging host Robin Gillette off to the side a little) – Laura Bidgood & Curt Lund, Katherine Glover, and Ben Sandel.

I’ve talked elsewhere about why Allison is one of my returning favorites, so I won’t belabor that here.

She was just as amusing in her own slightly befuddled, slightly exasperated way as she always is. This time, set adrift, on a sea of stories as well as water, drifting back and forth from memory to present.

An inflatable raft is not a music stand however, so dealing with a spoken worder’s pages of a script-in-progress was a little trickier than usual. But Allison juggled her papers (and life vest, of course) and kept on going.

I’m liking how several storytellers/spoken word artists this year are dealing with things like props and costumes (even, gasp, sets) and there’s always this initial awkward moment of contact they have with it in the early going, as if to say, “What the hell am I supposed to do with this object? Why the hell am I wearing this? I just need a black void and a music stand and my regular civilian clothes to do my job. What’s all this extra… stuff?”

Hey, the Fringe is all about venturing outside your comfort zone, right?

When the good-natured fellow in a shark outfit came slithering across the stage and smiled up at Allison in the raft, I was enchanted.

“Day 5 – Sharks start talking to me.”

All this, and out by the yellow light of the 30 second warning.

This will indeed be “the best spoken word in a raft ever,” and not just because there’s only one spoken word raft out there right now. Allison is always a pleasure to hear grappling with absurdities of everyday life, this time in a non-everyday situation.

The Fringe’s YouTube page has the clip of her preview up now, so I’ve attached it below. Some other online resources…

My previous coverage

Her show page

The Fringe-For-All preview…

“Who the hell left 54 little bars of Camay in my room?!”

The Dead Composers Society

Two Short Operas: Mr. Berman’s Bath-Size Bar and There’s a Mastodon In My Backyard

Opera? At the Fringe? Yes!

It’s in English. It’s funny. None of the singers weigh 300 lbs. The Dead Composers Society, a Twin Cities-based group of young musicians, presents two short comic (and a little absurd) operas by Minneapolis composer Stephen Houtz. Based on a combination of popular urban legends, the operas explore the ridiculous side of human interaction.

Mr. Berman’s Bath-Size Bar follows the correspondence between the staff of a London hotel and an increasingly-exasperated resident on a futile quest to use his own personal bar of soap. In There’s a Mastodon in My Backyard, a wealthy and eccentric woman’s discovery of what appear to be ancient fossils in her backyard sets off a chain reaction of excitement, skepticism, and scientific fervor within the ranks of the Smithsonian Institute – but the action becomes a race against time when the woman reveals her own plans for the bones.

It was mighty funny, I’ll give it that. The excerpt was from Mr. Berman’s Bath-Size Bar. An obsessive compulsive hotel guest runs afoul of an obsessive compulsive maid service. He just wants to use his own big bar of soap. They are required to leave new tiny bars of soap each day. Things get out of hand.

These performers had those big opera voices – highly trained, enunciating the lyrics to within an inch of their lives and bouncing them off all four walls of the theater. No trouble with volume on these folks. You could hear everything very clearly.

A big part of the humor here comes from these incredibly versatile voices being put in service of a silly little idea. Operas are often about big, sweeping emotions. Tragedy on a grand scale. This was about… well, soap.

Which was where it all kind of started to fall apart for me. Everyone involved in this enterprise – composer, director, music director, singers – are extremely talented. And they’re expending all that talent on… little bars of soap.

It’s funny, and fluffy. And maybe that’s all it needs to be. Maybe too much of a good thing directed at a wisp of an idea is a great problem to have.

Plus, there’s dinosaur bones and frazzled scientists in the second piece. Maybe that one, though also a comedy, may have a little more going on underneath it.

There are certainly worse ideas than choosing to spend time in the musical company of all these people. They’re not likely to be topped in terms of talent in the musical theater category. Maybe I just need to look at it differently. Maybe, just like sometimes dance doesn’t need a plot, it’s just a treat to watch the movement, here, it’s just a treat to sit back and listen. And giggle a bit.

The Fringe’s YouTube page should have the preview video clip up in the next couple of days, so check back and see (and listen) for yourself. Some other online resources…

Their website –

Their show page

“I was attacked by a vicious band of Slinkies.”

Walking Boxes Productions

Horace Greeley the Lesser: On the Isle of Misfit Toys

Fifty years have passed since Rudolph visited the fabled Isle of Misfits. Now the hapless toys live in terror of their new, evil dictator. Can Horace, armed only with his musical weapons, liberate the Misfits?

A couple of friends and I discussed this one at length afterward in the lobby. Which is (almost) never a bad thing.

One of them held up the show postcard. “So, what do we think?”

There was hesitation.

The preview was essentially the title character recounting his battle with a group of ornery Slinkies. Slinkies who had armed themselves with big lawn darts. The human character was affecting a sort of surfer dude vocal delivery. The story seemed to get away from him now and again (not forgotten, just off on tangents that he seemed to remember wouldn’t get him done within the three minute time window, and so there was a course correction or two in mid-sentence to keep things hopping). The two assistants operating the evil Slinkies and lawn darts in the background were hard-pressed not to upstage the narrator, since they had a lot of fun and funky moves to execute.

The thing that kept this preview from going off the rails was the incorporation of rhythm and music. The narrator was wearing what looked like a converted scrubbing board for doing laundry by hand. It was serving as the breastplate of his makeshift suit of armor. When the Slinkies tossed a couple of lawn darts at him, he picked them up and began running the darts over the ribbed metal on his body. It became a sort of syncopation faceoff between him and the Slinkies, which was kind of cool to watch.

One friend wasn’t sure how long she could take a “surfer dude” style of speaking, even at Fringe length.

Two things had me leaning toward it, which I shared with my friends.

One, Walking Boxes has been pretty consistent in experimenting with music as part of their narratives. Sometimes successfully…

2006 – The Musicker’s Balalaika

Sometimes less successfully…

2007 – Wallace and The Dragon

One hopes they’ve learned the good lessons from the Musicker and the bad lessons from Wallace and combined them into another winner.

Two, anyone who grew up seeing Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer on TV at Christmas time, has a special place in their nostalgic heart for The Island of Misfit Toys. (“*Nobody* wants a Charlie-In-The-Box!”) One of my friends also swooned at the thought of them, right along with me.

This can be a double-edged sword of course. You don’t f*ck with The Island Of Misfit Toys. But a certain segment of your audience can’t help longing to go there again.

So, I was arguing in favor of this Fringe show.

I may sometimes be impatient with a Walking Boxes production. But they’re never predictable. And, though I know some friends disagree with me, I find they’re never boring. Sometimes frustrating. But never boring. I’m curious to see what they’ve got up their sleeve this time.

The Fringe’s YouTube page should have the Fringe-For-All clip up in the coming days, so check back there and see for yourself. Meanwhile, some other online resources…

Their website –

Their show page

And their own odd little video trailer…

And the Fringe-For-All preview…

“Not a toy! Not a toy!”

Heidi Arneson


Ms. Heidi’s one-woman kaleidoscope of characters reveal the secrets of girlhood, fires of female sexuality, and future of life on a plastic planet.

Heidi Arneson is an unrepentant freak, and I admire that in a Fringe performer, or a performer any time of the year for that matter.

I also admire Robin Gillette for sensing Heidi’s relentless approach during the introductory speech and not being completely creeped out but forging on until her role as emcee was complete.

It was, frankly, a little unnerving to watch. Though the character is a bit of wide-eyed innocent, Arneson’s voluminous dress, constructed entirely of discarded plastic bags, and raccoon-eyed makeup were ominous in appearance.

All of which, of course, is part of the point.

Heidi’s onstage companion, a baby also made up of plastic garbage, was equally freaky.

She played right up to the red light but got all her points across. Then, like all good performers, mindful of those following after her, made sure to collect all her plastic junk and get it off stage with her. Even when the plastic junk was being fairly uncooperative. That’s a pro in action. (Take notes, people. She’s at a point in her career where she could get away with just wandering off and leaving someone else to clean up her mess. She does it herself. Another little thing I like about the lady.)

This preview snippet had but one of the characters Arneson will be creating as part of her Fringe show this year.

Having been personally weirded out by Heidi’s performance art in the past, I was happy to have the opportunity, while serving on an arts grant panel one year, to get the chance to read and study a few of her scripts. This immediately turned me into a fan. She has a wonderful gift of crafting language, and unlocking the details of everyday experiences to mine both their absurdity, and their deep emotional content. It’s often breathtaking. The weirdness is a tool. A way of breaking down standard expectations of theater. And a way of getting away with a sentimental streak that runs so very deep that if presented plainly might be accused of being maudlin. Instead, her blend of writing and performing digs out important underlying truths.

All of which, if you view these clips, might seem completely off-base.

But trust me.

Close your eyes.

And listen to the words.

It’s there.

And if you see her show, you’ll hear it there, too.

Her bedrock concerns dealing with female sexuality as her primary subject matter seem to be expanding to include the environmental – hence the plastic lady.

Personally, I think I’d be willing to follow her anywhere.

The Fringe’s YouTube page has her preview clip up now. I’ve attached that and her own preview video at the end of this post. Some other online resources…

Her website

Her show page

And her own freaky little preview…

And the almost as freaky Fringe-For-All preview…