Fringe 2009: Review—”Food Shelf Follies,” Five stars

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by Matthew A. Everett | 8/3/09 • For Some People, There Is No Safety Net

“Standing there, my hands full of fake money…”

Lane McKiernan

Food Shelf Follies

I didn’t realize just how much I took the simple act of eating for granted. The past year and a half I’ve been focused on things like losing weight and some changes in my diet. The concept of there just not being any food to eat, or worse yet, food available, but none that my body could tolerate ingesting, just never crossed my mind.

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.

Food Shelf Follies is the best kind of window into another world. Lane McKiernan’s Fringe show is a clear-eyed view of a life lived close to the edge. It is unsparing, but also unsentimental. There is a remarkable lack of self-pity in this true tale of food stamps, lost shelter, lost health care, lost jobs, and a lost way of life. There is also humor, and anger, but both are earned, and directed at the right targets.

This isn’t just a rant against the lack of feeling society has for its most needy. It is a travelogue through the backstreets of a world we’d rather pretend didn’t exist, of a problem we’d like to pretend we’ve solved, or at least found the resources with which to begin to cope. I’d say it was a wake-up call, but I think we’re all awake. It’s more like a hand reaching out, taking our chin, and turning our head to look squarely at something that’s already there. The hand is gentle. The hand doesn’t yank on us. But the hand is insistent. As it should be.

Between Lane’s tales of being berated at the checkout line at the grocery store, being fed and shepherded through a time of poverty by a friend who’d been there themselves, and miles of red tape that boggle the mind, we have interludes of Katie Burgess juggling food, as Walken Schweigert playing a busker’s violin, empty instrument case open at his feet.

I’d like to think I could keep getting up after being knocked down the way Lane has, over and over and over again. I’d like to think I could make such a smart, entertaining document of the places all those troubles took me. I’m not sure I’d be able to.

But Lane certainly has. And it’s a journey worth taking. Let him guide you.

(There are snacks at the end. And snacks just don’t look quite the same after he weaves his tale.)

Very Highly Recommended

His show page

Fringe 2009 – 10:00 Friday – show #8

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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