Fringe 2009: Out-of-Towner Showcase reviews (Part 2 of 2)

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by Matthew A. Everett | 7/31/09 • “We have a habit of seamlessly transitioning from witty banter to great musical numbers.”

Zoe Schwartz

Auntie Dorris’ You May Not Wanna Know but I’m Gonna Tell You Anyway A-thon

from Chicago, IL

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

Dorris is turning 80 and sharing her birthday with you through a night of nostalgia, whiskey and song. Part vaudeville, part your drunk aunt at Shabbat dinner, Dorris is sure to charm anyone with a heart.

Apparently, according to the above, I don’t have a heart.

Well, you gotta hand it to her. She certainly wasn’t shy.

I knew from the title and show description this wasn’t my thing, and the preview didn’t prove me wrong, so I’m not gonna belabor it.

There is an audience for this show. It’s essentially character-based sketch comedy. Drunk, horny old Auntie Dorris (another former cheerleader, like the nuns in the first half of the out of towner showcase) and her Russian keyboardist friend alternate between their own personal version of a vaudeville comedy act, and old song standards with their own particular spin on them. At one point Doris bounded into the crowd and demanded random words from bewildered audience members to incorporate into a bizarre extra chorus of “Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off.”

Not for me, but perhaps for you. Check out the following…

Her website – http://yourauntiedorris.tumblr.com/

Her show page


“And the band played ‘Waltzing Matilda’…”

Stephen Swanson & David Gompper

Was my brother in the battle? – Songs of War

from Iowa City, IA

A concert of songs about the individuals involved in America’s historic military conflicts, their friends, and their families – harsh, ironic, funny, patriotic, poignant, disturbing – images of America at war.

This was a classic example of why these guys are on my Top 20 List for this Fringe. After seeing this, maybe I should have ranked them up in the Top 10 instead.

This was a beautiful moment of theater. One guy on keyboard. One guy singing, amazing voice.

It was the only time all night, that the entire rowdy Bedlam Theater building got completely quiet. As the song progressed, a calm settled over the place. Everyone was rapt in their attention. It was gorgeous. We were all right in the palm of their hand.

Damn.

This was just one song. Can you imagine what the full show’s gonna be like?

Do not miss this one.

The kind of spell they cast over that boisterous ramshackle scrappy little theater palace – that doesn’t happen too often.

I get chills just thinking about it.

Their websites – www.stephenswansonbaritone.com and www.davidgompper.com

Their show page


“I don’t gamble.”
“Why?”
“Because… I know… I won’t win money?”

Maythinee Washington

The Vegas Project (#1)

Sin City native, Maythinee Washington, thinks Las Vegas is the most American city in the U.S. Her new show contrasts the bizarre and the surprisingly conventional to examine this unique metropolis.

She. was. fantastic.

This is an example of how the showcases really can work in a performer’s favor.

Because I came into this rooting for her in the general, vague “out-of-towner” sense, but not really thinking I’d go to her show. From the little bit of info available, it didn’t strike me.

But she nailed this preview. Big time.

She was basically just up on that stage, fielding questions from the audience about her subject – Las Vegas – where she was born, where she still lives and works.

The worst solo shows ignore the sage wisdom, “Just because it happened to you, doesn’t mean it’s interesting.”

The best solo shows know how to cull from a person’s specific experiences and create something specific, yet universal.

I get the sense this is one of the good solo shows out there this year.

The first couple of questions, I thought, “She must have set some of these up ahead of time with friendly audience members.”

But the longer the question and answer style preview went on, the more convinced I became that she really was just winging it, depending on the questions she got. Some questions were dumb, some were clever, some were great. Her answers to all of them were, as I noted above, fantastic.

What’s the best night of the year to be in Las Vegas? Do you recommend hookers in Vegas proper or the outlying areas? What happens to all the stuff that stays in Vegas? What’s the best way to get a room comped? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen in Vegas? Do you gamble? (answer above)

She has a very winning personality, a great sense of comic timing, and she thinks on her feet in a way that would completely elude me.

I still don’t know much about the show. I’m assuming it’s scripted but who knows? After seeing Maythinee Washington, I honestly don’t think it matters.

This young woman knows how to put on a show, no matter what way she chooses to do it.

I now have her on my short list of shows I really want to find a way to see this year. From nowhere to on my radar in less than five minutes.

*That’s* a great preview.

Her website – maythinee.com

Her show page


“For all you bitches out there doing the math, I’m 43 years old.”

The Adventures of Les Kurkendaal and Dan Bernitt

The Gayer Show

from Los Angeles, CA & New York, NY

Coming out is never easy. Come join Les and Dan in the journey that all gay men have to take: the path to acceptance of being gay. You will laugh, you will cry and, in the end, you will love this show.

It’s Les and Dan. It’s Dan and Les. I’m going. So is Mom. We love these guys.

Two different generations of gay men, culling their respective pasts for humorous anecdotes around the subject of coming out. Sure, you’ve probably seen it before. But not by these guys. Which is why we’re going, Mom and I.

Dan and Les both landed on my radar in 2006. Dan was part of my Top 10 that year for his solo show, Thanks for the Scabies, Jerkface!. Though Les was a regular visiting Fringer in the past, I finally got a chance to see his work, with his solo show that year, Christmas In Bakersfield.

That landed Les on my Top 10 list for 2007, when I took Mom to the remount of Christmas In Bakersfield. Dan took that year off from Minnesota.

Last year, they both were back for Fringe 2008, Les with the charming solo show The Attack of the Big Angry Booty, Dan with a non-autobiographical turn this time, with the powerful solo outing, Phi Alpha Gamma (which he’s brought back again this year).

These guys are great storytellers on their own. In tandem, it should be a hell of a lot of fun. A great way to spend a relaxing hour of Fringing. Can’t wait.

Their websites – www.facebook.com/pages/LES-KURKENDAAL/38991573192 and www.danbernitt.com

Their show page

And don’t forget Dan’s solo show, the return of the really great

Phi Alpha Gamma (I saw it twice last year, but I’m tempted to go back again, just to see how it’s grown. It’s that good.)


“I’m clumsy, but I’ve never dropped acid.”

Scream Blue Murmur

The Morning After The Summer of Love

from Northern Ireland

Back to rock the Festival for a second time, the artists previously known as the Belfastpoets touring group, bring you a new show, a new name and a drummer! These international poets stunned audiences into all (and only) five star reviews at the fringe in 2007 with “Pack Up Yer Troubles”. Now Scream Blue Murmur presents their new show tackling the legacy of 1968 with hard-hitting and humorous words, chants and beats. From civil rights, riots and revolution to sexual freedom and liberation, the group promises a show to rock you from your seat. Not quite poetry but not quite anything else!

Here’s another entry on this year’s Top 20 List that didn’t disappoint in preview.

In fact, the whole audience liked them and wished to applaud them so much that we jumped the gun before they were finished a couple of times. (“We love you. Oh, you’re not done. Keep going!”)

There was just a whole bongo, flower child, hippie vibe going on. Song, and poetry, clever toying with words and audience expectation.

A green acoustic guitar.

Irish accents.

I don’t know these people but they feel like people I want to turn into old friends as soon as possible.

Lovely, funny, good good stuff.

Can’t wait to spend a whole hour listening to them.

Their website – www.myspace.com/screambluemurmur – complete with poetry/song snippets – give a listen

Their show page


“Rock & roll has got to go, and go it does. That’s the best way I know to get rid of it.”

Back & to the Left Productions

Passage

from Galesburg, IL

Pas’sage
a. A movement from one place to another
b. The process of elapsing: the passage of time
c. The process of passing from one condition or stage to another;
(transition: the passage from childhood to adulthood)
d. A section of text; particularly a section of medium length

The multifaceted performing artists of Back & to the Left Productions bring you Pas’sage, a collection of six different movement-based performance pieces, each with its own essence and energy. Using text, movement, improvisation and audience participation, Pas’sage is provocative and challenging, moving from a visceral understanding of what it means to be human today.

Back & the the Left productions, founded in 2000 believes in fostering creative collaborations between artists with an eye towards reaching out to non-dancers and incorporating them into the performance experience. The work created by the company is generated through collaboration, with each performer playing a vital role in the development of core ideas. The goal of Artistic Director, Jennifer Smith, is to provide a supportive environment in which these ideas can be explored and later, defined. The outcome of this process is the creation of performance pieces based in personal exploration, that touch audience members on a deeper level.

First off, I just have to give a shout-out to anyone with the peculiar sense of humor to call themselves back and to the left (warning, that link is to the Oliver Stone film “JFK” so… it’s a little gross – think Zapruder film, enhanced, and you can just skip on by). On to the preview…

Mom and I refer to this one as “the drunken bridesmaids” – mostly because many of the ladies dancing in this preview were in hideously colored dresses of a matching style. They stumbled in, and stumbled out at the end, from various directions. Their sound mix was an elaborate conglomeration of classic 1950s-era rock & roll music clips, plus sound bites from news and those much-maligned social behavior films of the same time period (“if you find yourself outside during a nuclear explosion…”) The audience and the dancers didn’t get any one piece of music to latch onto for very long – just recognizable blips in a tossed salad of sound. When the music became slow and distorted, the dance moves did the same. It was a really interesting way of approaching the notion of context. The visuals, the movement, could have meant any number of things. But because we had that aural commentary going on underneath it all, it guided the audience into certain areas of contemplation. I’d be interested to see how this mode of performance plays out over an hour long Fringe slot. If you’re looking for dance, they’re definitely worth considering. These folks know what they’re up to.

Their show page


“I don’t mind intimacy either. There are worse things out there in the dark.”

Shelby Company

Winnemucca (three days in the belly)

Jonah wakes up bruised, bloody and trapped in a seedy motel room on the outskirts of Winnemucca, Nevada. Big Chet’s extreme motivational tactics and a powerful encounter with a dancer named Suede Lucy compel Jonah to complete a task he cannot fathom. This darkly funny re-imagining asks, “How do three days in the belly make a man a prophet?”

This was another kind of weird “non-preview preview,” though a little more germane to the show to which it was related. One of the characters, Big Chet, drunk but friendly (to us), armed with an aluminum baseball bat, badgered (not so friendly) a “stranger” (actually fellow cast member Grayson) up onto the stage to entertain the crowd. Big Chet was of the opinion that the audience couldn’t really get into the show until they learned a little bit about the performers first. So Grayson stumbled into a story of when a bug flew into his ear when he was a child, and how his sister lured it out with a flashlight. He couldn’t actually finding meaning in it, or an end that was satisfactory to Big Chet. Grayson would keep thinking he was done. Big Chet and his baseball bat lurked nearby to assure him he wasn’t. (“Don’t stop the magic.”) When the task was considered complete, Grayson asked, “Now what?”

“Now the show can begin,” Big Chet replied

And we got our only blackout cue of the night.

Like I said, weird, but in keeping with the character dynamics of the show itself, as I know it from the script. I’m just wondering what other people who had no information about the show thought. It was intriguing enough to get someone’s attention, certainly. But was it enough to get them in the seats? I hope so. The production’s in my Top 10 list this year, so I’m really rooting for it to succeed and be seen by a lot of people. (And that’s before I’ve even seen the actual production myself. Strong hunch.)

There is a bit a sampler of the actual show in their video trailer (at the end of the post), plus their travel mini-videos on the road to Minneapolis, which are pretty funny even if they have nothing to do with the story.

After the showcase, I finally got a chance to meet the whole crew and they seem like great people (Mom was particularly fond of Jenni’s Yoda backpack). I told the playwright Dan that I really should hate him because he’s so damn talented he’s giving me a playwright inferiority complex. I’m hoping Fringe is good to them. I can’t wait to see the production myself. Friday night (tonight).

Meantime, as we waited for our very first Fringe show to start yesterday, a friend in a Fringe show of his own asked, “I’ve been so in rehearsal/tech mode that I haven’t really had a chance to get any of the buzz about what’s good. What do you recommend?”

“Winnemucca (three days in the belly),” I said, without hesitation. “Amazing script. Probably one of the best in the festival this year.”

So he headed off there for their opening performance that night. I was with them by proxy, at least, for their opening. I hope a lot of other people were, too.

Their website – www.shelbycompany.org

Their show page

Their video trailer

Travel video #1

Travel video #2

Travel video #3


“A stick, a skull, a hat, a jar, and a rope…”

Sigal Shoham

Sure to Cure, Dr. Amelia’s Medicine Show

Pay Attention! This is crucial for your health, love and success. I am not a doctor, but I do claim to be one. Losing memory, hearing or underwear? Need money, love or weight-loss? Guaranteed Transformation!

Old-time snake-oil huckster meets new-age self help guru–all in one doctor! She offers salves for all of life’s ailments–including her own. Her healer’s pitch is punctuated by banjo tunes with sweet melodies and biting lyrics. Forcefully and ironically honest, charming Amelia has something for anyone who’s ever wanted things to be different or better.

from Berkely, CA

Now this lady is a hardcore Fringer. She was almost the last show in the door this year (absolute last show in the door honors I believe go to Livelihood, but Sigal I think is indeed the last out-of-town artist in the door). Called up off the wait list out in California with just a couple of weeks to spare, she said yes, and proceeded to get her act ready to take on the road.

I really enjoyed her preview. Her banjo ditty, with lyrics composed of diseases both physical and spiritual, was kind of hilarious. The litany of ailments set to her bouncy melody was as much fun as things like syphilis or sexual dysfunction are likely to get – in song anyway.

Her sales pitch after the song blended together business plans and tantric yoga, and all sorts of other mismatched duets of healing methods and get-rich-quick schemes. Her character is most definitely a modern day snake oil salesperson, but a beguiling one.

Plus, there seems to be a personal backstory lurking around the edges. The stick, skull, hat, jar and rope she kept invoking each seem to have their own special significance to her life. I don’t think there’s another Mortem Capiendum-style plot brewing – she’s up on that stage all alone, after all – but I get the feeling around the sales pitch that more will be revealed.

Between the comedy and the music, this looks like a most pleasant way to spend an hour of Fringing. Definitely consider an appointment with this doctor (just be careful of your wallet.)

(Side note, this is Banjo Show #2 – Fearsome Critter being Banjo Show #1 in this year’s Fringey calvacade of banjos. Robin Gillette says there are four shows in the Fringe featuring banjos. If you can name all four, she’ll buy you a beer. [No, I can’t think what the other two are at the moment. But if you can help me out, I may need that beer later.] Personally, I think the banjo shows should band together out of solidarity and form their own Fringe posse. The banjo, after all, will not be denied.)

Her show page


Peter Neofotis

Concord, Virginia – A Southern Town in Stories

from New York, NY

Neofotis performs his prize-winning stories, published by St. Martin’s Press. With tales of interracial lovers, moonshining old ladies and gay trials-it’s kinda like Garrison Keillor, except Southern.

I tagged this performer earlier in a post on that other Fotis we know so well. So I was looking forward to hearing what he had in store for us. His website and coverage of his previous outings there indicate it could be pretty captivating.

Unfortunately, this was kind of an aborted preview. He got up on stage, told us he wanted to share two short previews with us from the stories he’ll be telling. The background noise at that point in the evening at Bedlam (near the end of the showcase) was becoming its usual Bedlam brand of boisterous, but not too overwhelming. In that big space, though, it was a little hard to hear Mr. Neofotis.

So Robin, our host for the evening, suggested using her microphone. This seemed to throw the guy just a little. But he seemed to recover, and though using a mic in his act doesn’t seem to be standard for him, he seemed to be adapting pretty well. We were plunked down in the middle of a Southern courtroom drama in progress. It was interesting stuff.

But then he just kind of stopped. Said that was all he wanted to do this evening, and quickly exited the stage.

I felt kind of bad for him. I guess the mic was restricting what he’d planned to do more than I realized. That’s a shame.

Thankfully, he’s at the Gremlin stage, which is a more intimate black box space (and there’s no bar right next to the stage area). So, no sound troubles there.

I’m still curious. Wish we got just a little more to go on, but given the background I can glean from his website, he’s definitely worth a look. (He’s got one more book published by a major press than I do, after all.)

His website – neofotis.com

His show page


“They’re in the front.”

Casebolt & Smith

Casebolt & Smith – Speaking Out

Table dancing, ball and boob grabbing, potty mouthed dynamic duo casebolt and smith deliver complicated, unexpected, quirky and humorous dance theater. “The Nichols and May of Dance.” (LA Times)

These two are extremely funny. Another one I’m going to have to try and get on my schedule somehow. They danced silently for a few moments, and then stepped back to start deconstructing how the routine could be improved. Starting with the boob grab. Placement, angle of attack, etc. Each succeeding move, also with sexual overtones was picked apart clinically, with conversation continuing through a suspended crotch grab, one person squatting about another’s face, and so on. Neither of them phased at all. One, two, three, it’s just blocking notes. The more awkward and ridiculous the positioning, the funnier their calm detachment became. Another smart, graceful, goofy set of dancers. Judging from the video clips below, there’s more where that came from. Sample them, and then get out and see them. The beauty of dance, and the welcome release of comedy, all in one show. Can’t ask for better than that.

(In the “It’s A Small World After All” category, Liz Casebolt dropped me a note and it turns out that her husband is Troy Conrad, who brought us The Comedy Jesus Show a couple of Fringes back. That’s a whole lot of oddball comedy in one marriage.)

Their website – www.caseboltandsmith.com

Their show page

Their video trailer

And just ’cause they’re funny, how about some more…

After Words (the full routine from which the preview came – hee hee)

In Other Words

Having Words


“Porn is one of the few things you can actually unfurl.”

Jimmy Hogg

Like A Virgin

The cheeky Englishman returns with his comedy about the trials of youth, love and loss (of virginity). Physical, fast-paced, hilarious storytelling with at least one dance routine and tangents within tangents.

Another returning favorite, relentless yet damn friendly self-promoter and comedic storyteller Jimmy Hogg is back again. And since he’s regaled us with stories of his day jobs and life of crime (which landed him on my 2007 Top 20 list), it’s only natural that his sex life should be next.

His preview snippet recounted the incident where he accidentally stumbled upon a stash of porn in the family garage as a young boy and immediately nipped off the woods to spend a little quality time alone with it.

If you saw it, or are familiar with Jimmy’s work, you know it was damn funny. If not, well, it’s high time you discovered what all the chuckling is about. And he’s not just going it alone this Fringe. In addition to his solo show…

Solo show page

He’s also teaming up with some local comedians of note…

His other show page – for “Hogg and the Humors” – sketch comedy blending Mr. Hogg, and his friends at Four Humors Theatre (aka, Artists Without Borders)

Go to one, better yet go to both, and you can kick back and have a lot of laughs on your Fringe journey this week.


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 matthewaeverett.com.

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