Fringe 2009: Review—”Fearsome Critter,” Four stars

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by Matthew A. Everett, mnartists.org | 8/3/09 • “You know, Jack, I’ve been holding on to some really fond memories of you. Up to now.”

Mother/Destroyer’s Fearsome Critter is a simple show, but a very creepy one.

This one was on my Top 20 list because after seeing his earlier work, I figured this playwright had another interesting script up his sleeve. The artists’ Fringe-For-All preview and video trailer (see both below) reinforced that expectation. The production delivered.

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.

It’s not a monster story, unless you think of humans as monsters. These two old friends aren’t even particularly monstrous, as people go. They’re more sad and lonely, though they use a lot of words to ward off that assumption in others, and to avoid that same realization in their own minds. They’re also strangely funny guys, even if the humor is a little dark.

Jack (Derek Dirlam) has gone in search of his old friend Henry (Kevin Chick) and finds him in a cabin out in the woods. Henry’s not particularly interested in the company of humans anymore. It’s why he disappeared for a few years. And why has Henry come back? Well…

Jack lost a finger in an accident at work (though not entirely lost, as it turns out). This prompts Jack to want to change his life, before the job eats up his soul along with the rest of his hand. But the guy has no idea how to do it. He seeks out Henry because Henry knows how to disappear. He wants Henry to take his place. Henry, naturally, is resistant to the idea. But, then, Henry is resistant to a lot of things.

Henry finds human connection disappointing. If you ask him, people are fine, until you get to know them. And objects of fantasy are best kept at a distance, in Henry’s experience.

I won’t spoil the surprise the production has in store regarding the shared focus of Jack and Henry’s desire — Evie. It takes a lot to fake me out, but this show did it, so hats off to them.

These men have their limits: lines are crossed, things happen that can’t be undone. The ominous hard-drinking banjo player off to the side of the stage (playwright/director Greg Carlson), provides transition between scenes and the occasional melodic snippet of warning within them. His character also turns out to be more directly connected to the action than it first seems.

The mysteries of these simple men stay locked up tight. The details that slip out are telling, but it’s a tricky balance for the play to maintain. While I didn’t feel cheated or completely shut out, I also found myself wanting just a little more. As it was, I felt for these guys. But like Henry, these characters kept me at arm’s length. Perhaps that’s deliberate. It’s nice to want to know more about a pair of characters, rather than to feel you know too much. It’s also nice to feel a play could go on, rather than to feel it’s stayed too long. So maybe the balance is just right after all. Fearsome Critter is certainly a play that keeps you thinking. For all those reasons, this creepy little play is…highly recommended.

(Watch video taken from the Fearsome Critter Fringe-for-All show below)

Fringe performance details for this show:

Mother/Destroyer’s Fearsome Critter is on stage at the Bryant Lake Bowl August 5 at 7 pm, August 6 at 5:30 pm, and August 9 at 5:30 pm.

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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