by Matthew A. Everett • August 5, 2008 •
5 Stars – Very Highly Recommended
This one was unanimous. Mom was pronouncing it a 5-star show before we’d even made it down the front steps of the venue after the performance. A powerful, funny, and tender script, well-directed, involving two all-too-distant relatives – two young men bonded by blood and friendship, separated by family politics and very different personal fortunes, brought together by the funeral of a parent. The two actors (Grant Henderson and Nicholas Leeman) turn in extremely compelling performances, playing off one another in a great piece of onstage teamwork. Dance, remarkably, is the thing that breaks down the walls between them. It’s a wonderful show that might be flying under most people’s radar because of flashier (and equally good) items on this year’s festival schedule. Make the time for this one, you really shouldn’t miss it.
Next Performance – Friday, August 8th, 7pm (last one on Saturday, August 9th at 2:30pm)
The Girl On The Levee
5 Stars – Very Highly Recommended
Strangely, I found myself resisting 5 stars at first. Knee-jerk reaction to musicals as a genre? Quite possibly. But Mom and I talked it through, with the ultimate question being, “Is there anything wrong with it? Is there anything that could have been better?” The answer – No. Patty Nieman’s voice and performance, just as skilled and beautiful as expected. The material – the diary she wrote when she was 12. 1977 was a landmark year in her life – her family moved, she fell in love with a boy (as much as any 12-year-old can do), and she really fell in love with theater and performing for the first time. It’s a perfect time capsule of a young girl’s desires, insecurities, and unintentional humor (the audience watching with adult eyes). Set to lovely and energetic melodies by composer and co-writer Rob Hartmann, played by Music Director Drew Jansen, and directed at just the right pace by Rob Goudy. Even the set, props and lighting were right on the money. Resistance, as they say, is futile. One of the real class acts of the Fringe this year. Delightful.
Next Performance – Wednesday, August 6th, 7pm (last one on Sunday, August 10th at 5:30pm)
Ask The Axe Man
4-1/2 Stars – Very Highly Recommended
It is always a pleasure to sit and drink in a well-written script, and Jonathan Wemette never fails to deliver one. Frequent Wemette collaborator Kevin Albertson plays the giant lumberjack of the title with enormous good humor and heart. Ned Hurley is also great as the nebbishy accountant Johnny Inkslinger who convinces Bunyan to go into politics, and then realizes he’s created a monster. The production cleverly deals with the size difference between the two, and even more cleverly skewers the issues of style over substance in modern day political campaigns. Political ads, stump speeches, question and answer sessions, and the notion of whether charisma and good leadership are mutually exclusive – there’s a lot of smart musings under the surface of this good-natured comedy. It keeps you on your toes the whole time it’s entertaining you – and unlike a lot of scripts, I had no idea where it was headed next, and I didn’t mind. I was just enjoying the ride.
Next Performance – Friday, August 8th, 8pm (last one on Sunday, August 10th at 2pm)
4 Stars – Highly Recommended
Almost everyone in the cast does hilarious double duty in this tale of a job interview gone horribly awry – raising the country’s threat level alert up the ridiculous color-coded scale with possible nuclear and cyber-terrorism suddenly looming close. Throw in a mad scientist (Naysan Mojgani) , a forlorn Unabomber (Alex Higgin-Houser) working in the mailroom, some reluctant cannibalism, and a job applicant (Quentin Kennedy) no one can seem to keep their lips off of, and you’ve got one peculiar, over-sexed comedy. Things got so out of control so fast in Ben Egerman and Rachel Teagle’s script, it was sometimes just a little hard to keep up. I ended up wanting to spend more time with these characters, and get to know them and the stakes involved in their situation a bit better. That’s a good kind of problem to have, though. And the actors all delineated their different characters exceptionally well. (I had to keep reminding myself that Sarah Duane was both the nympho receptionist, and the nerdy tech girl – they were that different, and she was that good.) As it stands now, Orange feels like it’s over a little too soon, but while it lasts it’s still a heck of a good time. (And hey, isn’t there still a guy waiting in the broom closet for some man-on-man action after the stage lights fade to black?)
Next Performance – Wednesday, August 6th, 7pm (final two performances at Friday, August 8th at 10pm, and Saturday, August 9th at 5:30pm)
Mom has now reached a personal best of 26 performances, 25 shows (like a good mother, she saw my little double feature “The Bronze Bitch Flies At Noon” and “Dog Tag” twice).
And she’s still got two more days to go on this year’s Fringe visit.
Entering his sixth year of blogging about the Minnesota Fringe Festival (and bringing Mom along for the ride as a guest reviewer), Matthew A. Everett is also 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.