Fringe 2009: Review—”The Harty Boys in the Case of the Limping Platypus,” Five stars

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by Matthew A. Everett | 8/4/09 • Hilarious Comedy with that Faint Odor of Nostalgia

“The Minneapolis Institute of Art. It’s just like the Walker Art Center, only free, and not so ugly.”

Joshua English Scrimshaw & Levi Weinhagen

The Harty Boys in The Case of the Limping Platypus

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.

How can you not love a show with fake chapter titles like…

“Family Reunion… Of Death!”

The Harty Boys in The Case of the Limping Platypus was another show on Mom’s “List of Demands” for things she had to see this Fringe, and it was such a relentlessly high energy good time that it tied with The Gayer Show for the Best Thing We Saw On Saturday.

I was laughing at this show long before I walked into the theater because their website for it is a hoot (sample book chapters, blogs, etc.). Anyone who grew up reading the books on which this show is based, with their creeky narrative style and bland prose, will enjoy the parodies online as well as onstage. Once you grow up, and read some good fiction, you realize with embarrassment that those books you were addicted to as a kid were, well, clunkers. Good for entry level into the reading world, but not the be all and end all of suspense and mystery you once imagined them to be. The labored exposition alone is punishing to an adult reader’s eyes.

The Harty Boys in The Case of the Limping Platypus has all the recognizable touchstones of the originals, alongside a modern-day sensibility. The friction between the two is the place from where a lot of the comedy springs.

Fred and Jack Harty (writer/director/actor/producers [phew] Joshua English Scrimshaw and Levin Weinhagen) are just as earnest and flat as their hilarious publicity shots, perfectly mimicking the book covers of old. They worship their freelance detective father Philmore (Ari Hoptman). Their mother Lana (Leslie Ball) actually works for the police as a noted forensics expert, but she keeps insisting on boring things like evidence and logic. Their childhood chum Becca (Sulia Altenberg) is smart “for a girl” and frequently goes off to do her own investigating, since she can’t get any respect. That, or she reads “The Bell Jar” or “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Their new pal Clint (Spencer Harrison Levin) may have more to do with their father’s old nemesis, the notorious art thief known as The Platypus (Anrie Roos), than anyone at first suspects. Meanwhile, the narrator (Andy Kraft), keeps popping in and out of the story as various henchmen and police lackeys.

There are lame cliff-hangers, maniacal laughter, rampant sexism, silly costumes, and strange leaps of detective logic aplenty. The pace never lets up, and neither do the laughs. Everyone gets into the spirit of the thing and the story lurches along like a cross-eyed race horse, always zigging when you think it’s gonna zag. You’ll probably groan as much as you laugh but it’s all in good fun. When it’s done, you feel like you have to catch your breath in sympathy with the actors, particularly the Harty Boys who keep chasing the narrator down every aisle in the house during curtain call, and strike.

The Harty Boys in The Case of the Limping Platypus is goofy, but never stupid. These people know how to craft a good comedy show, and it shines through in everything they do.

Very Highly Recommended

Their website (visit it for a chuckle) – www.scrimshawbrothers.com/hartyboys.html

Their show page

Their video trailer

Fringe 2009 – 4:00 Saturday – show #11

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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