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


by Matthew A. Everett | 7/24/09 • “The birds are shining, the sun’s chirping…”

Love Me Or Die!

Savage Umbrella

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.

A classic tale of deception and the theater, loosely based on the opera Pagliacci. Guitars, juggling, singing, heart-break, intrigue, death and fried chicken. Part homage. Totally rock and roll.

These Fringers were already #1 on my Top 10 list, and nothing I saw here dissuaded me.

A man is thinking of throwing over his current beloved for another object of desire. He is surrounded by some kind of bizarre interpretive dance chorus in T-shirts who give him unsolicited advice, and sing backup as he extols the virtues of scrapping an old love and starting over. (Yeah, right, buddy. Good luck with that. This is based on an opera, after all.)

The cardboard bluebird on a stick, operated by a completely visible actor, “flying” by, was a cameo that nearly stole the show. This was especially true when the one-sided, two-dimensional bird crossed the stage in the opposite direction, but couldn’t turn to face the other way. So it was essentially “flying” backwards.

I enjoy low-tech cheese when it’s deliberate.

I also enjoy having my expectations thwarted. When the lead in the scene began to belt out that “happy little bluebirds” ending excerpt of “Over The Rainbow,” and the ladies next to me almost started to hum along to the familiar tune, he (and they) were cut off by the sudden appearance of yet another character. Just a fan there to voice their admiration at the most inopportune time. (And they got it all done within the yellow light 2-1/2 minute warning period.)

Love it.

I also enjoy a good Gabriel Garcia Marquez reference – as you’ll see in the video below, the play within a play is called “Love In The Time Of Chicken”


Can’t wait.

My previous write-up

Their website –

Their show page

The Fringe’s YouTube page should have the Fringe-For-All clip up in the coming days, so check back there. Meanwhile, we have…

Their bouncy musical video trailer…

and another behind the scenes video

“Intersections With Candace! We take you out into the actual world, where two real streets meet, so you don’t have to!”

Erin Search-Wells

Masha 3000

Local comedienne Erin Search-Wells takes Chekhov’s Masha and launches her into the future. Vexed and huffy, Masha 3000 is surrounded by floating screens, voice-protected videos, and multiple online aliases.

Both the video and the preview beg the question – if the character in the play looks genuinely bored, unhappy or in pain, why in God’s name would you want to participate in a scenario that requires the artist to put themselves through that? And why would you not also find yourself bored, unhappy or in pain watching it?

The artist is clever. There’s no doubt about that. The “Intersections With Candace” online service is an example of how to take something as seemingly benign as GoogleEarth and take it to its absurd extreme, where people just plug into the world remotely and never leave the house again.

But that idea was an extended sound cue. In fact, the whole preview was an extended sound cue. We listened to the sound cue, and watched the character dance half-heartedly. The character didn’t want to listen to the sound cue, seemed to be actively trying to ignore the sound cue, in which case, why are we in the audience listening to it?

This will be multimedia show, with lots of sound and video, which is notoriously hard to excerpt for a showcase. Kudos to the artist for at least giving it a try. But theater about technology to me often feels like substituting a stuffed animal for a living pet.

After the Fringe-For-All, I saw the artist out on the sidewalk enlisting a friend to read some material for the show while she videotaped him. They were recording in the ambient light spilling out of a closed storefront. The storefront seemed to be a place where they sold mounted animal heads (or, as my friend who watched this scene with me called it, The Creepy Store). Now *that* was a preview I kind of wanted to watch. It was scrappy and inventive and makes me curious about how the video will be used in the final show. I wish her well. I don’t think Fringe-For-All did her any favors.

Her show page

The Fringe’s YouTube page should have the Fringe-For-All clip up in the coming days, so check back there. Meanwhile, we have…

Her video trailer of pain…

“Life is swell in FairAndWell!”

Top Hat Theatre

The Frog Prince: A Splashy New Musical!

Much to the dismay of bratty Princess Jewel, she finds herself wedged into a slimy situation of promised friendship with The Frog Prince. A court trial and bright dancing frogs all make going green a blast!

You’ve got to hand it to Top Hat Theatre. By the time it was all over (fittingly still in the green light zone, under 2-1/2 minutes), they had managed to cram, by my count, 28 people on stage for a musical number, and it didn’t look like utter chaos. With a cast of various ages and levels of experience, that’s no small feat. They’ve been on a roll creating really popular Fringe shows in six of the last seven Fringe Festivals (that one off year, the ping pong balls of the lottery just didn’t bounce their way).

The chorus of singing frogs was pretty funny – great costumes that the actors could really move in, and move they did. The jazzy song was pleasant, too.

I’m not the audience for this show, but there are a whole lot of people who are, and this preview showed what they do best. The Fringe’s YouTube page should have the Fringe-For-All clip up in the coming days, so check back there to see for yourself. Meanwhile, we have…

(Well, they have a web address,, but the page wasn’t set up with anything yet the last time I checked.)

Their show page

“This is shaped like something we don’t see in public very often.”

Prof. Rudman

The Problem of the Body: Why is our society ashamed of bodily urges?

Like John Waters channeled through Sir Kenneth Clark, Prof. Damon Rudman examines contemporary American attitudes toward bodily urges by comparing today’s US media with jaw-dropping imagery from other times and places.

“I’m not really a performer. I’m just up here on stage pretending to be one.”

Truer words were never spoken, Professor. As we watched the fellow in academic cap and gown burn through the first thirty seconds of his time praising the Fringe staff and his fellow performers, I wanted to tell the poor guy, you don’t get extra time at the end just because you’re nice to people. Get to the point. There’s a difference between conversational and merely rambling. The red light and friendly but insistent audience applause, plus Robin Gillette’s reappearance, to usher him off at the end reminded him of this.

He certainly wasn’t shy about whipping out his penis-shaped water pistol and using it liberally as a prop. But a Fringe audience is the wrong audience to try and “shock.” Trust me, we’ve seen worse. (Some would argue that we saw “worse” at that very Fringe-For-All. Yes, LICK, we’re looking at you.) If you’ve got fascinating facts from a myriad of world cultures having to do with the wonders of genitalia, by all means, bring it on, Becky. But don’t try to impress on us how much we should be scandalized, or how puritan we all are. We’re a Fringe audience. We didn’t wander over from the Ordway or the Guthrie by mistake. We came here deliberately. Perhaps even looking to be provoked. So, you know, go for it.

Good luck, Professor. Remember to keep that penis gun loaded.

His blog –

His show page

His facebook page

The Fringe’s YouTube page should have the Fringe-For-All clip up in the coming days, so check back there to see for yourself. Meanwhile, we have his own video trailer…

Cathy Wright

Thrower of Light

Thrower of Light reveals tales from the hidden corners of the human psyche. Dare to enter the cave of total theater and ride thrill and deception in a chasm of emotion.

This one was kind of a blur. A nice blur. But a blur. No real narrative element to speak of, just a lot of boisterous dance for the sake of dance (not a bad thing) from a band of what appeared to be 10 Irish gypsies. I say gypsies because of the ragtag way they were dressed, and an abundance of head scarves. I say Irish because the rock music to which they were wriggling and strutting and flying through the air (and I mean that literally) had a decided “Irish jig” quality about it. Plus there was a lot of green (including the light they went out on – all done in under 2-1/2 minutes). There was a heck of a lot of energy bouncing off the walls while they were going at it.

It also started with one of those moments that immediately bonds the audience to the people on stage. The perils of live theater. It was time for the preview to start, and the light went on. But no music. And the longer it went on, the more you could see the dancers twitch as they were waiting. They couldn’t start til the music did. It was just seconds. But you could tell for the performers it must have felt like an eternity. Nobody’s fault. It happens. And once the sound kicked in they were off and running. But that pause was loaded stage time. (I don’t know why, but I kind of love that sh*t.)

Cathy Wright, the choreographer/dancer heading up this show, trails a whole lot of good reviews and awards behind her, and all her dancers have hefty little bios listed so it looks like we’re in for more good Fringe dance.

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, we have…

Her websites – and

Her show page

“See, if I was a trained actor, I’d be able to do that sh*t.”

Tommy Nugent

Burning Man and the Reverend Nuge

The magic and mayhem of one man’s journey from Pentacostal preacher to atheist street magician looking for enlightenment at the annual Burning Man festival in northern Nevada. CRITIC’S PICK-Cincy Citybeat

Just your basic preacher turned gambler turned law school drop out turned street magician turned motivational speaker turned Fringe solo show artiste, Tommy Nugent has performed for more than half a million people over the last ten years. He weaves a magical tale told with humor, heart, and the occasional handling of dangerous objects.

This was a video preview from one of the out-of-town acts coming to the Minnesota Fringe Festival this year. I’m convinced now that this guy is probably a lot of fun to drink with. He comes across as a very genial fellow, one who you think could spin a good tale. The style of the video was very laid back, and humorous.

His video tour of his old stomping grounds included shots of buildings captioned with things like – The First Church I Started, The Place I First Fornicated, The First Church to Fire Me For Fornication – and so on. He would give a thumbs up or defeated shrug between each shot, depending on his feelings on the subject. It was most amusing.

We were assured that no one who attends his show will burn in the fires of hell for all eternity. Then he admitted that he doesn’t think anyone will be condemned to hell anyway, but that sort of pitch doesn’t sell tickets.

Given his background and personal journey and general demeanor, this show might be a lot of fun to go see. Now I just need to figure out a way to wedge it into my schedule.

Apparently there were no issues with time on his video, since we didn’t have to worry about the green, yellow and red lights.

The Fringe’s YouTube page has this Fringe-For-All offering posted, and I embed it at the bottom of this post for your viewing pleasure…

His other videos are at –

His show page

“Welcome to my kitchen!”

The Nanny Bumpkin

Pathos, Punchlines & Painkillers

Come see one of Canada’s top spoken word artists at work; Long distance relationships, juggling; hospital visits, phone sex, and nursery rhymes- Chris Masson delivers the goods on all of these complex and riveting issues with his rowdy, dynamic, hilarious blend of performance poetry and storytelling. This play has all the meat, drama and comedy of a well written Oscar winning movie without all the For Your Consideration propaganda.

Another out-of-towner – actually out-of-country – video clip. This one, however, got the colored lights treatment, because it ran long. When the red light appeared, the audience dutifully clapped, and the video was stopped, just like any other performer running overtime having to be escorted offstage.

It was hard to track what exactly was going on here, because the picture was slightly out of focus and the sound was muffled, like the microphone was bundled up in a blanket halfway across the room. Since the previous video clip was clear as a bell, I’m assuming it was quality of the product, rather than issues with projection.

From what I could make out, the guy (very energetic, bordering on spastic; and cute, even out of focus) was lying in his bed, surrounded by containers of food and kitchen utensils and appliances. He used these things, and his voice, to make music. His monologue was something having to do with different styles of music, which he demonstrated, ably enough, I thought.

It’s hard to know. The guy could be brilliant. The guy could be annoying as hell. From this preview, it was hard to get a clear fix on which way the artistic wind was blowing in that regard. Perhaps a live preview at the out-of-towner showcase just before the Fringe begins will clear everything up.

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, we have…

His show page

“Finally, into the depths of this rather diabolical contraption, we place a cat.”

The Pauper’s Theater

Schrödinger’s Cat Must Die!

Having been booted disgracefully out of the Mad Scientist’s Union and having failed thirty-seven times to take over the world, Dr. Ernest Volt has turned his attention to the theory of world domination. Through his Mad Scientist Training Academy he plans to train in a new generation of evil geniuses to succeed where he has failed. However, Dr. Volt’s work is constantly hindered by his hapless assistant who wrecks his experiments, derails his inventions, and keeps harassing his cat! From basic motion to quantum mechanics Dr. Volt lays the groundwork for a successful career in the mad sciences. But when his assistant performs a terrible and forbidden experiment on his beloved cat, Dr. Volt decides to end his assistant’s interference once and for all. Meanwhile the assistant seeks to destroy his own ultimate nemesis: Schrödinger’s Cat.

Physics meets physical theater in this (literally) experimental one-man show where equations become exciting, science becomes simple, and world domination is for everyone. Join Dr. Volt’s Mad Scientist Training Academy and unleash your inner evil genius, mayhem guaranteed!

Not sure if he got out still in the green zone, or just tipped over into yellow, but in any case, he had his mad scientist experiment timed out pretty precisely. Problem was, when it concluded, because of the vastness of the Ritz Theater space, and the distance of most of the audience from the stage, it wasn’t entirely clear what the guy had succeeded in doing.

Boiling water in a kettle, a soda can, a container of cold water – these were the elements. And it actually may be clearer what was going on if you watch the show’s promotional trailer (at the end of this post). It has the advantage of being close up on the action.

In the show’s more intimate classroom setting, I think it’ll be just fine. And the concept of just what Schrodinger’s Cat is, laid out while waiting for the water to boil, was fascinating, and well-explained. So if you’re in the mood for a little real science trickery with your entertainment, this may be the show for you.

The Fringe’s YouTube page should have the Fringe-For-All clip up in the coming days, so check back there, too.

His website –

His show page

His video trailer

“My kind of crowd. Locked in.”

The Pizpor Show

The Pizpor Show

Street theater brought indoors. The good news is you won’t have to tip these guys after the show.

A vagabond street magician, and his sidekick, The Pizpor Orchestra, travel the countryside seeking out gigs that won’t check references.

Yes, there are other uses for animal balloons, bananas and squeaky rubber dog toys! Lowbrow theater for the rest of us. It isn’t really that bad…It’s just Pizpor. Come see what everyone is complaining about.

Every show – somebody in the audience wins a small cheap pizpor prize, so get really excited about that.

Hecklers beware. You may get wet. But for the rest of you, feel free to shout out “Pizpor!” when asked “What kind of show are you at?” (that’s the ‘interactive’ part that we mentioned somewhere else. Get over it Minnesotans – let it out – you can do it!!)

Oh, one last thing – that thing where it says ‘improv,’ that’s just because we never know if any of the tricks will actually work.

It’s a Pizpor show. What more do you need to know?

A friend, afterward, picking up the show postcard from the table in the lobby, stated, “I was expecting to hate this, but I actually didn’t.”

Damning with faint praise?

The Fringe’s YouTube page should have the Fringe-For-All clip up in the coming days, so check back there and decide for yourself.

Meantime, I can’t say I had a strong feeling about this one, one way or the other. The performer had his schtick down, but he also seemed used to being a bit more free-form and not wedging part of his act into a three minute window. (He does, if the website is to be believed, quite literally perform on street corners and dodge the attention of suspicious police cars.) To his credit, he saw the yellow light and immediately wound down, not wanting to push his luck into the red light zone.

Laid back vaudeville parlor tricks, dressed up in homeless person fashion (will perform magic for food). Only you can know if such a thing would appeal to you. There’s plenty of online resources to help you decide…

His website –

His show page

“From the looks of you, all slick and shiny, you like you’ve had a fine time somewhere.”

Jane McGough

Alliteral Selection: The True Tale of a Wayward Wallaby

The true tale of an accidental caper that involved a county fair, a marsupial, a covered bridge, a clever country lady and benevolent citizens who found themselves caught up in well-meaning yet comical events. Zumbrota, Minnesota showed pride and determination – with a wacky twist!

Well-meaning certainly applies here. I’m not sure about comical or wacky.

They’ve got their arts and crafts skills down, though. Three enormous tri-fold displays of vintage newspaper coverage of the wallaby incident were brought onstage by the three readers and unfolded to provide a little context to the action.

Well, not really action so much as a lot of reading.

A *lot* of reading.

It was less than three minutes (they got out on the yellow light), but it still felt like a *lot* of reading.

Of some, at times, not-so-great poetry. I don’t mean to be mean, but some of this was really just, not good.

To be fair, the bulk of it was being read from pages of text tucked inside large book props. They’re still in rehearsal mode (as many a Fringe show is), and pulling something out of context.

And the opening salvo, with the alliterative use of the letter W starting off nearly every other word, was very pleasant and engaging.

There also seemed to be some wallaby role-playing going on – Mrs. Wallaby none too pleased about Mr. Wallaby’s return after a suspiciously long absence.

The combination of elements, and the subject matter, might make for an interesting, family-friendly outing at Fringe time.

But if I’m honest, it didn’t grab me.

The Fringe’s YouTube page has the clip up, so I’ll apend it to the end of this post. Decide for yourself…

Also, some other online resources…

Another related post

And another

Her show page

Fringe-For-All preview…

Their show page

Matthew A. Everett is a local playwright and three-time recipient of grant support from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Information on Matthew and his plays can be found at

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