Fringe 2009: Out-of-Towner Showcase reviews (Part 1 of 2)


by Matthew A. Everett | 7/30/09 • “If you’re calling in a favor, press 4 now. If you suspect foul play, dial M for Murder.”

Boll & Hertel Productions

Tech Support – The Musical

from Eau Claire, WI

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.

A deceptive company, clueless customer service representatives, and one angry caller make for a roaring good time in this original musical comedy written by UW-Eau Claire alumni Adam Boll and Josh Hertel.

When Carl Rogers’ high-tech refrigerator malfunctions, he calls the manufacturer for help and is plunged into a world of frustration as he is transferred from one phone operator to another. He endures endless hold music and butchered variations of the English language – not to mention the pointed sarcasm of his unsympathetic wife – until the inevitable explosion occurs.

Tech Support: The Musical will strike a chord with anyone who has ever called for help and wished they hadn’t. It’s fast, it’s funny, and it’s much shorter than your average tech support call!

This was a decent way to kick off the Out of Towner Showcase (OOTS), but honestly, I’m not the audience for this one. You can check the video trailer below and their website and know pretty quickly if it’s for you. I answer the phone in both my day jobs, so I have less than no desire to sit in the theater watching someone else’s frustrating phone calls, or misadventures in customer service. Ninety percent of the reason I don’t answer the phone at home is that if I just pick up when it rings, I’m going to answer it as if I was at work, and that just confuses the hell out of me and everyone else. Both performers in this were fine, the script was clever. Just not for me.

Their website –

Their show page

Their video trailer

“She decided if the students wouldn’t be cheerleaders, the nuns would have to do it.”

Elisa Korenne

The Tenth Muse

Did you know that the first female presidential candidate was a former fake psychic who bedded Cornelius Vanderbilt? How about that Dr. Bronner (the verbose natural soap king) began his career in an insane asylum? Did you ever meet the Root Beer Lady, a wilderness woman who served rootbeer to tourists from her cabin in the Boundary Waters? Featuring biographical songs penned by nationally-acclaimed songwriter Elisa Korenne, the Tenth Muse explores the question: “How fringe can a person get?”

This was very pleasant. We didn’t really get a song with a melody per se from the artist. This was her number about the cheerleading nun, which was a rap along to her tiny keyboard’s beatbox function. There are clips from some of her other songs on her Fringe show page and her website (links below). It was an amusing story about a squad of cheerleading nuns (no, really). She got the audience to cheer along at the end. I tend to like the whole singer-songwriter vibe, so I’ll give this one a second look.

Her website –

Her show page

“Where was my lost time? I didn’t have time to go back to find it.”

Mary Helena

Stroke Is No Joke

from Racine, WI

An entertaining,informative,inspiring journey into the world of one woman’s stroke and the reactions of others to it. A dramatic testament to the resiliency of the human spirit. Engaging, Comedic, Touching. Real!

This was one of those previews where I was afraid the artist was so much on a roll in her own performing world that she was just gonna keep going until someone physically stepped up to cut her off. She burned through a lot of time at the start pretending to put on makeup, and then there was a sequence where she was setting up the convention of the audience serving as her mirror. Then she actually got to the beginning of her story – the day of her stroke, the trip to the hospital, the struggles with insurance. This may be a case where the person is still too close to the subject matter to be able to edit it into the streamlined, effective story they want it to be. If the content interests you, it might be a show to check out. Probably not going to make the cut for my schedule, I’m afraid.

Her show page

His sign – “I’m a great lover”
Her sign – “I’m sexually frustrated.”
His sign – “I’m a liar. I’m OK.”

Monica Rodero & Daniel Schuchart

Holding Patterns

from Milwaukee, WI

The charmingly clever Milwaukee-based powerhouse, Monica Rodero and Dan Schuchart, are coming back to the Minnesota Fringe Festival for the third year in a row with new work. After five years of collaborative creation, this innovative and unpredictable pair is at it again and pleased to bring their lively dance show to the Southern Theater.

Holding Patterns waltzes through stories interrupted by puzzles, predicaments and physical drives. Wit and humor prevail in this dance show featuring an original music score by Seth Warren-Crow, music by NY-based Love Like Deloreans, guest choreography by Debra Loewen of Wild Space Dance Company and dancer Kim Lesik, former Milwaukeean turned Twin City transplant. Mike Mathieu of The Cody Rivers Show lent text for a solo entitled, “Prelude to the Maestro,” which the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel aptly judged “insane and hilarious.”

I really enjoyed their dance show Gone, Gone, Gone in last year’s Fringe. Judging by the preview, they’ve got the same quirky sensibility going on. And it’s not strictly dance. They began, in matching red T-shirts, with a series of dialogue cards. One particularly amusing sequence were the quotes on their cards noted at the top of the post. Then they took turns setting each other’s bodies in motion to the music that was going through a set of false starts. She’d bounce him up and down by the shoulders. He’d set her hips gyrating. Eventually, because they’re both so damn graceful as well as goofy, they got going in fluid motions based on the initial bits and pieces. It was a lot of fun to watch. I hope I can squeeze their show onto my schedule again this year because I really like the comic sensibility running underneath their beautiful series of movements. This one’s definitely high on the recommendation list.

Plus, collaborating with Cody Rivers, bonus points!

Their show page

Their video trailer is whimsical (just as expected)…

“I just don’t think I can fit in this life anymore.”

SunsetGun Productions


from Brooklyn, NY

AfterLife is a dramatic, yet darkly funny take on the evolution of women in modern society told through a ‘karmic lens’. Drop in on a significant day in the life of three different women in three very different eras of time. Ruth, a 1928 Appalachian midwife, would kill for a family. Marion, a 1950’s homemaker, needs to discover her true yogic nature. And Karma, a slowly unraveling film producer, would settle for a bit of sanity. What do these three seemingly disconnected women have in common? Nothing…and everything. Do you know where your karma’s been?

This one was a big hit on the Canadian Fringe circuit and I can see why. The actress is very effective. The character she chose to share with us was the perfect housewife of all the publicity images – bright pink apron, pearls, not a hair out of place, the works. Her vague sense of unease fought with the cheerful exterior of her life. Just got to see through the cracks beginning to form. Nice work. I’m not sure the show itself cries out to me personally as something I have to see, but there’s plenty to like here. If you want to see a Fringe show examining the multiple sides of three very different women, well-written, well-acted, this might be your ticket.

Their website –

Their show page

Their video trailer

“So, what comes to your mind when you think of home?”

Rachel Anne Johnson

Habitat – A Documentary Theater Project

from Duluth, MN

Stories composed by those living in the shelters and on the streets and shores of Duluth, examining the meaning of home. Desires and hopes are revealed when one answers the question, “Where do you live?”

When Rachel Anne Johnson moved to Duluth she immediately noticed the prevalence of poverty and homelessness. only 19 years-old, Rachel decided to document the stories of those living in the shelters, on the streets, along the shore – even in a bar – in Duluth. Through in-depth interviews that illustrated where people live, how people live and why people live she revealed their hopes and desires.

This was kind of an odd preview because it started with someone telling us what the show was about, and then she and three other actors performed the first scene from the script which – well, told us what the show was about. I almost wish they’d dumped the introduction to the introduction and allowed themselves a little more time to give us a bit more of the script. But what we got was pretty straightforward. As it says above, and even in the title, it’s documentary theater – culled from the transcripts of interviews with homeless people about the nature of homelessness and home. Big cast, about a dozen in all, worthy subject, good intentions. Nothing fundamentally wrong in the execution. Didn’t thrill me, but my interests tend to lie elsewhere so that’s probably a big part of it. There’s an audience for this play. I hope they find their way to it.

Their website –

Their show page

“Uh uh. All kinds of no.”

Keira McDonald

Cherry Cherry Lemon

from Seattle, WA

A twist of fate brings together an awkward woman and a party girl. Their friendship develops through erotic stories about love, sex and how one doesn’t always mean the other. Accompanied by live solo guitar.

This was great. Funny and sexy and naughty and just a little bit sad. Wonderful comedic performances. The preview makes you long to see the scenes these two characters share together. Alone, they’re enormously entertaining. Together, the chemistry is sure to be combustible in the best way. Megan Hill recounted how her mousy administrative assistant character set herself free in the supply closet at work, while Keira McDonald demonstrated how easily someone can undo the good work of foreplay with a more aggressive agenda. All this, plus a hilarious soundtrack of live guitar reinforcing the solid script and performances – not at all intrusive, almost more like a third member of the ensemble. Well done all the way around.

This should count as a returning favorite from Top 10 lists of the past (2003, to be exact, my very first), because the playwright Keri Healey, is the woman who directed
Gilgamesh, Iowa – one of my all-time favorite Fringe plays, and one I couldn’t seem to stay away from. Invoking the spirit of that play has a powerful pull for me.

In addition, Megan Hill, one of the two actors in this show, was in the 2004 Fringe follow-up by Gilgamesh’s playwright Scot Augustson, Plants and Animals – yet another comedic two-hander of which I went back for seconds.

This play was a big hit with the Seattle theater critics in its first run and it’s easy to see why. The pedigree plus the preview really pushes this one toward the top of the list of things I need to find a way to wedge into my schedule. Good stuff. Well worth putting on a schedule of your own.

Their show page

“We normally have a DJ with us, but he’s in Berlin.”

Like You Mean It Trio

Like You Mean It

from Ohio, Massachusetts, Hawaii

Like you mean it will keep you on your toes. We dance we talk. We have a cool DJ. Sometimes we stand on our toes. Sometimes we make jokes. It’s different every night. You’ll probably want to come back twice. You get to mess with us. –you’ll make an installation for us. We’ll navigate it. You won’t have to do anything embarrassing. We might embarrass ourselves. Apparently we’re like an acid trip–a guy in the audience said that once. We make sense. We make no sense. We mean it.

This was fascinating. It’s improv. But instead of comedy, it’s dance. The three performers have a shared vocabulary of moves to mix and match. They also work with a live DJ/sound mixer who takes sound effects (the horns of a charging cavalry, the busy signal of a phone) and layers them together with music (here with a latin flavor). The resulting pastiche of sound triggers movement, as do the interactions of the movements, and the personas of the dancers moving. They all feed off each other, in ways very similar to improv comedians building off a shared riff. Plus, they had to deal with a stage of multiple layers they’d never seen prior to the day of the preview. Intriguing concept, both funny and lovely in the execution. I’d really like to see more of this. And I’d love to be a fly on the wall if some improv comedians got together with these dancers and talked shop. That’d be kind of mind-blowing. And fun. This one’s also highly recommended, particularly if you’re looking for some dance in your schedule mix.

Their website –

Their show page

Their video trailer

and another video sample

and another

and another

“The prosecution doth protest too much.”

The Nonsense Company

Storm Still

Outside an abandoned school a war rages.

Inside, three kids have been performing an unsupervised rendition of King Lear for years.

Further inside, the mad King debates the purpose of theater with his Fool, a licensed therapist.

Another returning favorite and thank God they’re back. These guys are amazing – and more than a little intimidating to me, personally, as a playwright. Nicest guys in the world. It’s not a personality thing. But they are so smart, talented, informed, politically savvy and artistically versatile that… well, for instance, their first Minnesota Fringe outing in 2006 – Great Hymn of Thanksgiving/Conversation Storm – was so good it made me feel like a hack for a good 24 hours. Took me a while to bounce back from that one. It was mind-bogglingly good. Their follow-up in 2007, due to a technical disaster, ended up being The Prince Myshkins – comic and dramatic songs of politics colliding with humanity that were hilarious and gave your brain and heart a workout at the same time.

And now they’re tackling King Lear.

If anyone can wrestle the old dog to the ground, it’s these guys. A pantsless singing lunatic, a jester turned lawyer, and a mad king. Shakespeare makes a cameo appearance in the form of a nutcracker. (No, really.) As always, funny, smart, enormously entertaining. They’re a must see. As they always are. (They’re probably the only out of towners we should ban for making us locals look bad. But then, if we did, we’d miss such great theater. Aw, let them in, and keep challenging us to up our game, I say.)

Fair warning – this is one of the only exceptions to the Fringe’s 60 minutes or less rule this season. It’s one of the reasons they’re performing in the last slot on the schedule at their bring-your-own-venue each night (well, that, and it’s spookier at 10pm. For Lear, you need the spooky). 95 minutes. No intermission.

You have to see this. Trust me.

Their website –

Their show page

“And brick by brick, the fruits of their labor were dismantled at their feet.”


Bedroom Stories

from London, UK

From the intimacy of the bedroom emerge these three darkly humorous stories, innovatively told in a physical and vividly imaginative way that interweaves music, movement and text.

Bedroom Stories is a trilogy of three pieces set within a bedroom, where movement is given equal billing to text and a contemporary soundtrack as part of these strange and beautiful stories. The pieces are a mixture of dramatic storytelling with dream sequences and thoughts made visible, embodied through stylised movement that draws its inspiration from modern dance, mime and clowning. Bedroom Stories is a piece of ‘theatre that dances’.

This was an odd, kind of ballsy choice for a preview opportunity. The performer chose to do nothing from the show. Instead, clad in black, and a tiny top hat strapped to his head, he regaled us with a tune on his accordion. A father and son build a magnificent sand castle together, and then watch the tide take it away. He asked the ever-gracious tech for a little soft mood lighting, and away he went.

His show, from the look of the video preview below, is based as much on movement as it is music or the sheer force of his personality. The preview was designed to… maybe charm us into seeing his show? He was certainly charming. I would have enjoyed seeing a little more of what he had in his bag of tricks for the performance, but maybe the thing is hard to excerpt.

I lean toward the out-of-towners a lot anyway, particularly the way-out-of-towners, out-of-the-country even, just because they’ve come such a long way to share their art with us. Of all the friggin’ places they could have come, they came to Minnesota. Seriously, think about that for a second. It isn’t Charley from down the block. They had to coordinate a hell of a lot of logistics to get here, and then when they arrive, they have the uphill battle of not being familiar to local audiences. So crowds and word of mouth are much harder to come by. I’ve got a soft spot for these folks, I really do.

The kind of work he does, from what I can learn from his website and the video, linked below, is the kind of thing I like. So I’ll be looking to see if I can work him into my viewing schedule. Check out some of the online content, and see if you agree.

Their video –

Their show page

Their video trailer

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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