Fringe 2009: Review—”Slow Jobs,” Four and a half stars

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by Matthew A. Everett | 8/5/09 • Work As A (Comic) Reality, Not Just A Nuisance

“She looks mean. Or maybe just dead inside.”

What Happened Productions

Slow Jobs – Servicing America on $12 an hour

Slow Jobs – Servicing America on $12 an hour is a perfect example of what makes the storytelling duo of Laura Bidgood and Curt Lund always such a returning favorite for both me and Mom. Curt and Laura are savvy observers of everyday life. They don’t let the days just brush by them. They’re always taking mental notes, or literal ones. They can scour their memories and quickly find those telling details that make for good relatable comedic anecdotes. They’re not bemoaning the fact that as artists they need full-time jobs to support themselves and continue creating their work. They accept work as a reality, perhaps even a noble one, and they use it like they use the rest of their lives – as fodder for another fine Fringe production.

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.

The experiments hinted at in their Fringe-For-All preview were expanded upon here. I have to say, I’m really enjoying the trend with storytellers this year where they make the leap and step away from the music stand and their pages of words now and again. Don’t get me wrong, I like the music stand as home base. I like the reminder that the words are the point of the exercise. But I’m also enjoying the variety that can result when the storyteller steps out and tries something just a little bit different.

There were moments when Curt would take on the role of a character in a couple of Laura’s stories. There were moments when Curt also stepped out of his own story and took on the persona of one of his characters, who in turn was channeling Sally Field in “Norma Rae.” Both Laura and Curt are getting more adept at creating a cast of characters vocally within their stories. They are also getting better at working the crowd and more and more of the physical theater space they have at their disposal – here, the Rarig Arena they know so well from Fringe outings past. It’s great to see them growing in confidence and skill with each new Fringe show. The stories themselves, too, seem even richer this year – favorites, among many great tales, for me would be Curt’s boyhood magic career (growing on the sidelines of the reality of family hospital visits), and Laura’s brief unexpected foray into the cast of a senior citizens’ variety show, The Silver Follies.

The smart thing about the collection of stories they share here is that it’s not just confined to the vein of “this was a crappy, or silly, job I had once.” Work was often the backdrop – as in Laura’s learning the rules of office romance; or Curt’s brush with sperm donation (something you do for money isn’t always a daily calling). There were jobs killed in their infant stage – Laura’s brief sojourn at Taco John’s. There were jobs that had their own politics and a fully formed cast of characters – such as Curt’s laboring in the grocery deli section.

Curt and Laura even had a great opening sequence which segued from the agony and the ecstasy of job interviews (“Let’s face it, I love talking about myself!”), into a childhood sleepover where the idea of working for a living first loomed into view. Both these elements took place before they allowed themselves to touch down by the old familiar music stands, so it was a stretch for them, but a successful experiment in form that paid off.

They’re still looking for that ending sequence, one that doesn’t telegraph quite so far ahead “Well, looks like we’re heading into the home stretch, folks.” But that’s a minor quibble. If anything, it just makes me sadly aware that our time together would be ending soon. And with Laura and Curt, I long for the illusion of them keeping me in the palm of their hand, telling me stories, to continue as long as possible. You know a show is good when, even though they’ve had you for almost an hour, you still feel like your time spent in their company is ending too soon.

Very Highly Recommended

Their website – www.curtandlaura.com

Their show page

Their Fringe-For-All preview

Fringe 2009 – 4:00 Sunday – show #18

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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