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


by Matthew A. Everett | 7/14/09 • “I love you.”

First on the Fringe-For-All 1 (FFA 1) hit parade,

Youth Performance Company‘s

The Mutant Squad!

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.

Get your chainsaw and fight along side Axl, Walter, Winona, and Po as they crush mutant skulls with more style than Macaulay Culkin. Who knew the summer of ’93 was so rad?!

This preview mostly consisted of a kind of adorably awkward rap about monsters and puberty. Lots of bravado from characters that folded like a house of cards at the slightest pushback. A last minute cameo by an brigt orange-skinned mutant. I’m a big fan of Youth Performance Company’s work in general, so I’m willing to sit back and watch them be this weird. Among the Teen Fringe crowd, they’re always a safe bet for quality product.

And they got it all done during the green light period of the first 2-1/2 minutes of their allotted three. Nice way to kick off the evening.

Their show page

Their website –

Favorite moment – Noah Bremer as the gym teacher dealing with the fact that his fake moustache is not adhering to his face during the climactic apple eating sequence.

Four Humors Theater

Sideways Stories from Wayside School

There is something you ought to know about Wayside School. It was accidentally built sideways. It was supposed to be only one story high, with thirty classrooms all in a row. Instead, it is thirty stories high, with one classroom in each story. The builder said he was very sorry. It has been said that the children at Wayside School are strange and silly. That is probably true. However, when I told stories about you to the children at Wayside, they thought you were strange and silly. That is probably also true.”

The creators of hit shows “Mortem Capiendum”, “Bards” and “Deviled Eggs” play in the sideways world of Louis Sachar’s Wayside School Novels.

Adapted by John Olive from the Louis Sachar’s Wayside School Novels.

So the Four Humors crowd is also going the teen/kids Fringe route this time out. Unexpected choice. But everyone’s having fun up there onstage, and that travels out to the audience. The source stories are suitably odd, and they’ve been translated to the stage well. A teacher gets zapped by her own magic spell and ends up turning into an apple – just one of many subplots from the sound of it. As they say, hilarity and awkwardness will no doubt ensue. The preview took their full allotted time into red light/three-minute territory, but it timed out pretty much right on the money. Well-played.

Their show page

Their website –

The actress entered wearing what appeared to be a large orange knitted tea cozy on her head.

Someone in the audience behind me muttered, “I think my mother made that hat.”

It’s a slippery slope when the audience response to a piece starts to be more entertaining that the piece itself.

Mindless Mirth Productions

The Twisted Grin-Assorted Tales to Amuse and Alarm

An elegant garden party/hanging, a toxic grammar school & a street run by rats; Adapted from works of the late writer Donald Barthelme, these tales and more will take you to interesting and unexpected places.

The Tales to be told are:

A City of Churches
I Bought A Little City
The New Owner
Wrote a Letter
Some Of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby
The School

After an actor’s introduction which covered a lot of the same ground as the introduction just given them by the Fringe-For-All host just seconds before, the actress in the previously mentioned hat sat down and broke bread to toss at some imaginary pigeons at her feet, and talked about her correspondence with the President of the Moon (where prices are outrageously low). The actress was likely cursing that secondary introduction because the applause kicked in with the red light at the three minute mark, and she cried out “No, I’m not done yet.”

To which another audience member and I replied at the same time (spooky), “Yes. Yes, you are done. Goodbye.”

It was pleasant and quirky enough. Adaptations of good prose are always a solid foundation. I wish them well.

Plus, Tom Cassidy’s doing their art work and I’m all for any project he’s involved in, even tangentially. The source material does have his sensibility about it, so it’s a good fit.

Their show page

“I come to America to make with the professional doost doost.”

Sara Stevenson Scrimshaw

Mansion of Dust

European master cleaners clash in a creaking mansion full of filth and secrets. Who will live? Who will dance? Who is the best duster? Oui! Ja!

The husband and wife comedy/dance team of last year’s popular Dance of the Whisky Faerie are back at it again, this time as two professional cleaners with dueling accents (French and Swedish) and dueling feather dusters. Verbal comedy, physical comedy (she’s graceful, he’s… less graceful – albeit often deliberately), prop comedy, what’s not to like? Though a voice in the back of my head did perk up and ask, “50 minutes of dusting? Really?”

But these two dancer-comedians have a proven track record. They know what they’re doing. This was funny. I trust the funny will continue.

And they got it all done inside the yellow light’s 2-1/2 minute warning. Well done.

(I also enjoyed that host Robin Gillette came onstage after they wrapped up and said, “That was an example, to an extent, that there is dance in the Fringe.” The audience chuckled and she responded, “Oh, you know how I meant that.”)

Her show page

Their website –

“You will find this hilarious.”

(“It was much better than CATS. I’ll see it again and again.”)

Katie Knutson

The Comedy Hypnosis Show

Go beyond “Look into my eyes.” No barking or clucking here! Audience volunteers improvise each unique show, which could include a talent contest, knock-out kisses, or even missing body parts. And SLEEP!

The Comedy Hypnosis Show is a unique Fringe experience with the ultimate in audience participation – the stars of the show are actually audience volunteers!

Man, this is a hard one to preview. Because of course you can’t hypnotize anyone inside of three minutes and also give a sample of the show, even if you go all the way to that red light. So Katie was at a huge disadvantage. Her pre-selected hypnosis volunteer was Laura Bidgood – a very smart choice – and they riffed off one another well, getting a few nice rounds of laughter off in their time of fake hypnosis together.

CORRECTION – This was, I learned after posting, not fake at all! Where is my generous suspension of disbelief, I ask you?

From Katie herself – For the record, Laura was actually in hypnosis, but I did a lot of work with her before and after the 3-min preview to bring her in and out of hypnosis. Because, you’re right, no one could bring someone completely in and out of hypnosis in three mins and do anything worth seeing.

From Matthew Foster – Communications Director for the Fringe – I was just reading your reviews on the Planet and noticed you wrote Katie Knutson’s hypnosis was fake last night and, uh, I don’t think it was.

I do think when Katie said “sleep” and Laura went out like a light, that was 100% real. I don’t know for sure – I didn’t get a chance to talk to Katie last night – but I know that was the plan. Katie said that she was going to use Laura for previews because they’ve done hypnosis together (so Laura would trust Katie) and that Laura’s very good at getting hypnotized.

Anyhow, you might just wanna check that out. Since it’s published and everything.

Me, the disbelieving blogger – So, wow! Laura really did forget the number six existed. And then when counting her fingers, kept going to 11 and becoming increasingly perplexed by it. And Katie’s instructions while Laura was under, that laughter and applause were wonderful supportive things all directed at Laura – and not laughing *at* her. How really cool and caring that was, since this person was under her sway, and could easily have been upset. Man, I’m super-impressed with this preview retroactively now. Kudos.

Katie even got in a quick plug for Laura’s Fringe show, and I like that Fringey spirit of generosity.

In that spirit, I’m gonna kick this entry over to Katie’s Fringe website show page, which provides a more accurate preview, and answers all the questions about hypnosis which would make me nervous in the audience of such a show, and just general things about hypnosis I didn’t know. It all made me lean more toward her show as a possibility, and a source of comedy, so that’s a good place to answer your own questions about whether it should be on your short list.

“No more leather in our pulpit, ladies.”

(Which sounds completely naughty out of context, and only slightly less naughty in context.)

Doolin & Dingle

(I have an inexplicable fondness for a company with the word Dingle in its name. The person next to me, an inexplicable aversion. So it’s a wash.)

The Red Tureen

In 1847, Father Padraig Bones returns to Kilkieran Valley, Ireland, to find that truth starves and food is a political weapon. Can he solve the mystery of the Night of the Burning House before time runs out?

Father Bones? There’s also a character listed as Lieutenant Wiggins. Are they trying to make me chuckle? (Not that that’s a bad thing.)

This was our first full-on musical preview of the evening. Backing track (nice music, which sometimes drowned out the soloists – Sing out, Louise!), nine cast members (and that’s not all of them), some lovely voices. The lead, Father Bones, seemed to be singing mighty high up in his range, but he managed to pull it off.

You know the template – hard working Irish farming town, a young man returns to his old home town as the new priest, tries to better their way of life, runs into opposition, etc., etc. But I find this kind of familiarity comforting sometimes.

Plus, one of the actors not on display tonight is Alex Carlson, who invited me to the show because he was in my first post-Fringe production last year as the ill-fated Marine Jonas in Leave. I’m showing up to anything he’s in – he’s a good actor who does good work. It was nice to see it’s going to be fun (and not a chore at all) supporting the show he’s in.

Bonus points for the final sung “Amen” coming in right on the red light. I was worried they weren’t gonna make it.

Their show page

Their website –

“Big boobs like exercise, too”

Kari Kelly and Molly Dimba


Triumphant, terrifying, touching (yes, we might touch ourselves) tales of boobs. Our boobs. Our big boobs.

I heard the word “boobs” uttered, and saw more ample bosom in a scant 2-1/2 minutes (they finished in the yellow) than I’ve heard and seen in quite a long time. These ladies embrace their physical gifts, even when they aren’t always easy to carry through life. They approach the subject with good humor, rather than a “pity poor me” tack, which is smart. (“Oh, you have big breasts, how awful for you.”) They’re banking on the title, and the subject matter, and their, shall we say, “cast of characters” to get butts in the seats and sell that show. They’re not shy about it. They’re only as prurient as they need to be for publicity purposes. They may be shameless promoters, but they deliver the comedy.

If you enjoy the idea of an hour of laughs from attractive talented young ladies singing the praises (not literally, I don’t think, but who knows, there might also be a song) of their boobs, then this is the show for you.

If not, well, then you’re probably me (and you’re looking for another show with cute guys in it). No offense intended, just my own particular weaknesses on display.

Their show page

Their website –

“There’s always one smart twin, and one not so smart twin.”

Good Evening Productions

Screams In The Dark

A family with issues is forced to spend an evening together during a power outage. Secrets are revealed, emotions are confronted and everyone is forced to realize the faults within themselves.

Oh wow. Where to begin? This is one of those things I might end up going to see anyway, but probably for the wrong reasons. The excerpt of the script teeters on the edge of exposition so blatant that the actors were almost saying things like, “You are my brother, and we are in conflict.” When the two brunette actors walked out and started verbally going at one another, my first thought was, “Wow, they’re dressed in identical blue shirts and white pants, and have almost exactly the same hair color.” Then they mentioned they were supposed to be twins and I thought, “Oh! OK. Wow, they’re still allowing themselves to be dressed the same. At that age. No wonder this family has issues.”

The warnings say there will be violence, adult language, and loud noises/gunshots.

There may also be unintentional laughter. But that’s not always a bad thing. It may even be an enticement.

And hey, they got out on the green light, so they’ve got their act more together than a lot of Fringe newbies.

Their show page

“If the cancer doesn’t kill you, I will.”

Pont Media (aka, Cole T. Walsh)

Visions of Johanna

Two strangers have a romantic encounter. A cancerous lump is discovered. What happens next? Explore the complexities of unexpected relationships and the challenges of a disease with drama, humor and innovation.

Someone laughed at the mention of “cancerous lump” in the introduction. The hell?

Oh my. I fear for this show. And it’s because I actually love this script. I’ve seen it in various stages of development and it’s probably one of the best scripts written for the Fringe this year. It’s understated, tender, romantic, and sad – all in none of the ways you’d expect from a script dealing with a subject matter like this.

The challenge? The playwright Cole T. Walsh came shyly out on stage and proclaimed that he would be playing Johanna, as well as the male character in this two person drama, himself. As a one man show. At first I thought he was joking. Then I prayed he was joking. Then I realized he wasn’t joking.

Oh my.

It’s not that Cole isn’t a good actor. He seemed a little nervous, but he pulled off a monologue from each character just fine. He even got done early enough, by the yellow light, that he thought he’d do an audience poll (“Should I shave one half of my face – you know, shaven Johanna, unshaven the guy?”)

For the record, no. No you shouldn’t.

Any improv comedian can tell you if you’re convincing enough emotionally, the audience’ll go with you and buy you as a woman, even if you look like a lumberjack or Rip Van Winkle. Facial hair isn’t your hurdle here. He got some laughs, mostly pop-culture references (Skittles, the Bionic Woman, swine flu). It’s the subtleties I’m concerned about getting through.

The thing I love about this script is the interaction between the two characters. The things that transpire between them that are unspoken. The things not even fully revealed in the words of the dialogue or stage directions.

And I’m not sure one person, no matter how good they are, can do that on their own.

I assumed Cole and his counterparts were going to go out, find an actor and actress, maybe even a director, and just let them dig into this rich little script. And it would be a real gem in this year’s festival.

Now? I’m still going. And I’d still recommend you go.

The nervousness of Fringe-For-All is its own peculiar beast. In performance, Cole could knock it right out of the park.

That’s what I’m hoping for. Because his script deserves it.

But I fear for this show.

His show page

“Like many others, my show is not yet written.”

Howard Lieberman

Death Camp Diaries

If there had been no Holocaust, would Israel exist today? If not, how, if at all, would the world be different today? In search of answers, this anti-religious, devoutly agnostic secular Jew visits some of Europe’s most notorious former death camps. What I bring home (on July 28th, a mere two days before the show opens) is whatever I find buried beneath the ashes of hate. This raw piece will be interactive, and demand a level of honesty from both performer and audience seldom seen on stage, even in a Fringe show.

You know what? I’m going.

I’d pretty much decided that before, but after Howard’s non-preview, I’m sold. He admitted that he struggled, as any good agnostic secular Jew would, against his friend the rabbi who wanted Howard to accompany him on a tour of the concentration camps of Europe. “It’ll turn into my Fringe show. And I’ve *finally* got a good venue this year!”

But he couldn’t resist. And I think I’ll be glad that he gave in.

If anyone can make the well-trod artistic soil of the Holocaust as subject matter into something fresh, and compelling, and even funny – after everything we’ve seen over the last 60-plus years since that nightmare happened, then it’s Howard.

He just dropped me a message saying he’d love to spend a few minutes chatting about his show.

I think I’d love that, too, Howard. (Note to self to make it happen)

He went out on the red light, but Howard was always going to take the full time allotted to plug his show, and good for him.

His show page

His blog –

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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